Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – Part 3: Setting the Direction for Companywide Collaboration


Part 1 of this series looked at the changing workforce and why collaboration plays such a critical role in making your most important employees more productive.  Part 2 of the series explored how collaboration can add value to your company.  In this article we will examine how to set the direction for companywide collaboration to support an important business driver for your company.

In part 1 of this series, I quoted an article from McKinsey and Company

Capabilities founded on talented people who make smarter decisions about how to deploy tangible and intangible assets can’t be coded in software and process diagrams and then disseminated throughout a sector.

A blog post by Evan Rosen had an excellent quote concerning the value of collaboration…

What paralyzes an organization is when management compromises value by failing to tap ideas, expertise, and assets. What also paralyzes an organization is when requests for decisions languish in in-boxes rather than hashing out issues spontaneously. Paying a few people to think and paying everybody else to carry out orders creates far less value than breaking down barriers among silos and enabling people to engage each other spontaneously.

The reason to pick an important companywide initiative to focus on improving collaboration is to take better advantage of your most important asset – your employees.  You want to figure out a better way to tap into all the tacit knowledge they have accumulated to improve the performance of the business. 

Improved collaboration enables your employees to move in the same direction, to create alignment in activities – which is the number one purpose of strategy.  The output of creating a strategy is getting all the people in the organization to make good choices, to reinforce the choices to pursue the common value proposition of the company.  A high-level summary of strategy provides a very good perspective for setting alignment for companywide collaboration.

What is Strategy?

The following content provides a cliff notes version of Michael Porter’s article entitled, “What is Strategy?“:

Strategy is answering:

  • How are we going to be unique?
  • How are we going to have an advantage?
  • How are we going to sustain that advantage?

Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.  If there were only one ideal position, there would be no need for strategy.  The essence of strategic positioning is to choose activities that are different from rivals’.

Strategy is making trade-offs in competing.  The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.  Without trade-offs, there would be no need for choice and thus no need for strategy.  Any good idea could and would be quickly imitated.

Strategy is creating fit among a company’s activities.  The success of a strategy depends on doing many things well – not just a few – and integrating among them.  If there is no fit among activities; there is no distinctive strategy and little sustainability.  Management reverts to the simpler task of overseeing independent functions, and operational effectiveness determines an organization’s relative performance.

The ability to create fit among a company’s activities is at the heart of how collaboration adds value to a company, and why companywide collaboration can make a great impact on delivering unique business benefits.

Setting the Direction for Companywide Collaboration Step 1: Create the Collaboration Vision & Strategy

Your collaboration vision & strategy must align with your company’s business strategy.  Here are two resources that can help you create a collaboration vision at your company:

Once you have the vision & strategy documented, you can begin to focus on the specific areas where collaboration can provide the biggest ROI.  The main benefit to this exercise is you get a shared understanding of the most important areas where collaboration can help the company. 

Setting the Direction for Companywide Collaboration Step 2: Run Workshops to Identify where to Start

I highly recommend becoming more familiar with the process of Dialogue Mapping.  Paul Culmsee has two blog series on dialogue mapping and how it dramatically improves decision making.

Running your workshops via dialogue mapping will help you attain a shared commitment of what it will take to improve the necessary solutions to support the business vision & strategy from step 1 (creating alignment).  The workshops focus on identifying the ways collaboration can help your company reach your strategic goals.  You can focus on initiatives within specific product groups, business processes, or cross-functional interactions.

The deliverables of the workshops should be:

  • Identify your most important collaboration impact zones (where you should see the greatest return)
  • Prioritize the collaboration projects you will implement
  • Define the technologies to be utilized for your proof of concept

From Cisco’s Creating A Collaborative Enterprise Guide

Prepare for the workshops by assessing business priorities, primary business processes that relate to those priorities, and examples of ways in which employees, experts, and information interact to facilitate these processes.  The workshops must be attended by the people who are responsible for the problem areas.  You will discuss ways collaboration might improve their processes. Workshop participants should look at collaboration in terms of the extent to which reach, richness, openness, and speed can be influenced.

  • Reach – Reach is the capability to identify, access, and employ internal and external resources at the right time to influence better business results.
  • Richness – Richness refers to the capability to effectively and efficiently foster the development and communication of new ideas, concepts, and strategies to make decisions and take actions.
  • Openness – An open environment enables individuals, teams, and organizations to have visibility into and the capability to easily contribute to the results of a work effort.
  • Speed – The speed dimension looks at how new collaboration processes can increase the speed at which organizations can get things done and respond to changes.

Before beginning the work activities within the workshop, set the stage of what is to be accomplished with an introduction that:

  • Clearly states the results of the initial workshop where executives defined the collaboration vision & strategy (provide the dialogue map if you used this technique).
  • Provides an overview of the Three Phases of Collaboration so everyone is aware of where your company currently stands, and where you want to get to.

Throughout the workshop, provide case studies of how your company has utilized SharePoint to improve collaboration (phase one activities), as well as case studies from companies that have entered into the second phase of collaboration. 

Here are resources that provide case studies of companies that have entered the second phase of collaboration:

After the workshops are complete, and you begin the proof-of-concept, your team can then take Sadalit Van Buren’s SharePoint Maturity Model and grade how your company is currently utilizing SharePoint for the specific business area where you will be conducting your proof of concept – this will create your baseline. 

This will help you and your team to continue focusing on how you can improve the use of SharePoint to support this companywide initiative.  You will update the model throughout the lifecycle of your collaboration project for status reporting.

Setting the Direction for Companywide Collaboration Step 3: Creating the Community

This will make or break the proof-of-concept.  You will need a few people who have accountability for helping to build the activity of the community.  Here are some resources that speak to building digital communities…

Once again, I hope the purpose of these articles (provide a central location with several resources that can help you on your journey to improve companywide collaboration at your organization) is providing value.

The value of collaboration will be different for every company, as well as the challenges you will face.  In essence, every company’s journey is unique.  Getting employees aligned around top-level business priorities and improving the way they can work together speaks to the potential collaboration offers for gaining a competitive advantage.  Collaboration provides the ability to create unique fit among many related activities.

We will finish the series by looking at a framework for collaboration, which provides a method to work through challenges associated with improving collaboration.  The framework will speak to what it takes from a people and culture perspective, a process and governance perspective, and finally a technology perspective to improve collaboration.

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4 thoughts on “Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – Part 3: Setting the Direction for Companywide Collaboration

  1. Pingback: Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – Part 4: Implementing the Framework « Ben McMann's Weblog

  2. Pingback: Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – The Series Overview « Ben McMann's Weblog

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