Collaborative tools such as enterprise wikis or more proprietary solutions like MS SharePoint and SamePage have generally focussed on improving internal communication. In the field of new product development poor communication is a major barrier to effective performance and great benefit can be gained by intelligently deploying such tools.
There is an increasing emphasis from the vendors of these solutions to extend the scope of the tools to include communication with customers. In the context of flexible product development or Lean Product Development the advantages of gaining continuous rapid feedback are of genuine benefit.
Of course the more customer facing parts of an organisation might (quite rightly) express concern at such close communication with the internal workings of the product development process (and in particular the individuals involved). Coupled with that, there is the risk that the product development path may become too flexible and result in an unacceptable increase in time to market.
However with careful management the use of collaborative tools to increase customer involvement and feedback can only bring an improvement to the success of new products…