Collaboration. Everyone now collaborates. Really. Or so the PowerPoint slides tell us. Did you not know that every organisation is now a collaborative organisation? Show me a CEO who does not have a slide in their deck talking about collaboration.
But what is the true value of collaboration?
Frost & Sullivan, supported by Verizon and Cisco, have published a paper Meetings Around the World II: Charting the Course of Advanced Collaboration. Frost & Sullivan surveyed almost 3,700 professionals in 10 countries on four continents, to determine a model for measuring a Return on Collaboration and the impact of IP-enabled advanced collaboration on business performance.
The study found that there is a continuum of performance and return at the intersection of communications technology and business processes. Performance increases as organizations employ progressively more advanced IP-enabled UC&C tools. Not only do these organizations perform better, but they also have a higher return on their collaboration investment.
The adoption of collaboration tools tools can help organizations achieve performance gains and returns because they can enhance the value that an increasing number of individuals, collaborating across a network, bring to business-critical processes. In those that involve many-to-many interactions, such as innovation and new product development, sales, and customer acquisition, the return on collaboration is highest, as the greatest numbers of people are working toward a common goal (e.g., creating a new product). In processes involving few- to- many interactions, such as corporate reputation and shareholder value maintenance, advanced collaboration tools tend to have a more muted impact, due to a correspondingly lower number of connected individuals involved in these areas. At a basic, functional level, line-of-business managers believe that advanced collaboration tools help them to do critical tasks faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost than when these tools are not used.
Of most interest is the finding that an organization’s Culture and Structure for collaboration is a strong determinant of collaboration quality, leading to high performance. The presence and use of collaboration technology is still important, but it clearly needs to be deployed in an organization that is open, with a decentralized decision making structure. All of this means that today collaboration-enabled performance is heavily based on the organizational structure and environment in which advanced collaboration tools are deployed.
It’s not just about the technology – if the structures for collaboration are not in place, no amount of technology will make the organisation able to be truly collaborative.