Collaboration: Making the shift to the next frontier of innovation & productivity

Collaboration

The way we work has seen a rapid transformation in the last decade. The work environment has become increasingly collaborative in nature with successful business outcomes being increasingly dependent on intra-team or inter-team efforts. In fact, here is what Andrew Horne, U.K. based MD at business advisory firm CEB (formerly known as Corporate Executive Board) had to say “One of the biggest surprises in our latest research is the growing impact of collaboration on productivity. People know that work is becoming more collaborative, but the surprise is that 50% of successful performance now depends on this — where 10 years ago 80% of the outcome of any task would have been down to the individual. It is the magnitude of the shift that we didn’t expect.”

Companies are slowly, but surely becoming cognizant of this new wave in the workplace. The Harvey Nash USA 2013 CIO Survey report threw up an interesting fact – only 3 percent of CIOs believe their organization’s innovation potential has been fully realized! More often than not, innovation comes out as a result of planned or unplanned brainstorming sessions – either face-to-face or over a virtual network. It comes as no surprise that the same research states that Collaboration features among the top 3 areas of investment for the CIO today.

However, achieving true collaboration is easier said than done. Here are 3 areas that I think are extremely important towards attaining a collaborative environment:

  1. Focus on high visibility areas: - Collaboration is a means to an end with the end being better business outcomes. Collaboration efforts should concentrate on where they can have maximum positive impact on business results. The usual focal points are those areas of business that suffer from difficult decision making, have a lot of dynamically generated information and where discussions are required to reach a consensus.
  2. Prepare the organization for change: – There are some excellent tools, such as SharePoint and Sitecore, available for setting up a Collaboration platform. However, more than the technology, a mindset shift is required before employees are willing to come onboard. Define clear reasons why the change is required and how employees will benefit from such a radical –and sometimes uneasy–change.
  3. Set the right parameters for ROI: – As with every IT project, an enterprise social network project too needs to be measured for ROI. However, a collaboration project will need to be considered differently. Sure, you can focus on things that are readily measurable as with other IT projects. But, some of the more difficult-to-measure metrics may include things like efficiency – taking up more work with fewer resources, streamlining processes and time saved on searching for relevant information. In fact, it may so happen that you may not be able to anticipate some of the most important benefits upfront. With one of our clients, a communications giant, one of the most significant ROI was the drastic reduction in emails.

The CEB research also indicates that CIOs are still focusing majorly on Enterprise initiatives like ERP, CRM and a major chunk of the IT budget is allotted to these. However if transformational projects are to be a success then there is a definite need for CIOs to employ more time & resources to dynamic collaboration, BI and mobility products which will bring about a fundamental shift in the way employees work and become more productive.

In conclusion, the Collaborative Portals & Enterprise Social Networks may be a great way for an organization to have an improved connection between various processes and people while streamlining the information flow, but there needs to be a lot more attention given to it for sowing the seeds of a truly collaborative environment.

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