Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – Part 4: Implementing the Framework

Welcome to the final part of the Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration series.  Here’s an overview of the series:

  • Part 1: Examine how the changing workforce is a driver for enterprise wide collaboration
  • Part 2: Understand the business value of collaboration (how can it help our company)
  • Part 3: Set the direction for enterprise wide collaboration (how we align employees)

This article will look at implementing collaboration projects by utilizing a framework to manage and measure collaboration.  If we take a step back for a second, the reason for this series was to look at where enterprise wide collaboration can possibly take a company and why the need has emerged.

From Padmasree Warrior’s blog post entitled, “The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise”… 

As we enter a new decade, it seems appropriate to reflect on the transformation of the “Enterprise.”  I am referring to the organizational framework that has been the mainstay of business structure for the past couple of decades. Historically many models of enterprise structure have emerged: functional, divisional, centralized, decentralized and matrixed, to name a few. Rather than debate the merits and demerits of these, let us envision what the future model might be for a successful enterprise.

What will the next generation business enterprise look like?  Well, there is no crystal ball to give us an exact answer for sure. However, we can certainly call out some of the key characteristics of the next generation enterprise. These include:

  • A geographically distributed workforce;
  • The innate ability to embrace innovation both inside and outside the organization’s boundaries;
  • Flexibility in business processes to include customers, suppliers and partners; and
  • Perhaps most important, a culture of openness and shared ideas.

By the way, it is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity. Quite the contrary! Collaboration encourages clusters of experts with diverse skills to make decisions quickly. The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise allows experts at any level to propose, create and execute without hierarchical or geographical constraints.

The point of looking at the collaboration evolution curve, and where you company is within it, is to think very big (how can your company evolve and grow), but start small with targeted, manageable projects that provide business impact.

The purpose of this article is to define why a framework is needed for effective enterprise wide collaboration, and then highlight the major areas of the Collaboration Framework from the Collaboration Consortium Report.

Why the Need for a Framework?

“No civilization … would ever have been possible without a framework of stability, to provide the wherein for the flux of change.”  – Hannah Arendt

In Craig Roth’s blog post entitled, “Attention Information Workers: Your Job Description Has Changed”, he made a powerful observation in regards to our changing workforce.  Craig quoted a Lexis-Nexis study on information work:

… the average Australian employee spends less than two-and-a-half days per week actually doing their job. The rest of the time is spent navigating a virtual forest of information. What’s more, only about half of that information is relevant to getting the job done.

Craig’s observation was,

In the information age, navigating a virtual forest of information IS your job, not the thing that prevents you from doing your job.  The job of information workers is to find the gold nuggets in all the silt and turn it into something usable.

The value we bring to our companies is being able to locate information, and process that information to make better business decisions.  In addition to processing the information ourselves, a major component of adding value is being able to find the right people who have the information – the subject matter experts throughout your organization.  You create value by not only being a subject matter expert, but by also knowing who the other subject matter experts are.  Why is this important?

From the Deloitte research white paper called “Social software for business performance – The missing link in social software: Measureable business performance improvements.”

Increasingly employees encounter non-routine issues which break the standard processes.  These “exceptions” impede operating processes and drag down business performance across all parts of the organization.  Employees spend hours, or days, attempting to find relevant information and expertise in an environment of proliferating information flows.  Often, they either guess or create a solution from scratch.  The current technologies store information and support standard business processes but fall short of supporting the dynamic informal communications needed for handling exceptions.  To improve efficiency and effectiveness, employees need tools that enable navigating across organizational boundaries, connecting to the right people, and accelerating exception resolution.

A collaboration framework gives us a systematic way to manage, measure, and deploy enterprise wide collaboration.  We need a framework to provide ways to focus collaboration efforts around delivering business value (greater revenue, lower costs) in response to the rapidly changing dynamic of work. 

Enterprise wide collaboration is a wicked problem, requiring culture, process and technology adjustments.  A framework provides guidance on the important steps that should be conducted to create value.  What your company does within each step is unique – due to the numerous factors at play within your organization along each step.

The Collaboration Framework Overview

From the Collaboration Consortium report…

The Collaboration Framework consists of two components: the Collaboration Vision and Strategy component, and a second component that consists of three organization enablers.

Collaboration Framework

First, the framework’s Collaboration Vision and Strategy component articulates where collaboration drives business value and how to capture it. It ensures that collaboration efforts are aligned with the business vision and strategy of the organization. The collaboration vision, or strategic intent, explains how collaboration helps an organization to achieve its three-to-five year business vision and, at a high level, how it creates business value. The collaboration strategy outlines the sequence and types of collaboration actions that are required to capture the business value of collaboration. Implementation of the strategy is done through a collaboration operational plan, which describes in detail the future state of business processes targeted for performance improvement via collaboration.

The second component is the set of organizational enablers required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration. This set includes three elements:

  • People and culture. This is the human element of collaboration. It describes the approaches to foster desired collaborative behaviors. Examples of “soft” and “hard” issues to address for this element include management and execution guiding principles, employee workspace policies, the collaboration profile of employees, and individual performance metrics.
  • Process and governance. This is the set of business systems to implement and manage collaboration. It includes the internal business model to operationalize collaboration—staffing and funding, support services, and the change management approach—and the organizational model that internally governs the evolution of collaboration.
  • Technology. This element describes what collaboration technologies are required, how they will be evaluated and introduced, and how they will integrate with and be supported by the broader technology architecture.

The people and culture, and the process and governance enablers, are by far the toughest part of improving collaboration across the company to build business value.  The technology will fall into place if these two organizational enablers are addressed before a collaboration project begins.

Implementing the Framework

The Collaboration Framework details an evolutionary path and a portfolio of structured methodologies that organizations can use to improve the way that information and expertise is shared among employees, customers and partners along the collaboration evolution curve.  You can break the framework down into the following four steps:

Step 1: Craft a Collaboration Vision & Strategy

  • Interview key stakeholders
  • Perform a collaboration readiness assessment project to gain a shared understanding of the upside to better collaboration within your company

Step 2: Identify Specific Business Needs to Address

  • Perform a matrix analysis to identify business problems to improve
  • Get shared commitment on where to begin – projects to focus on

Step 3: Identify Barriers to Success

  • People & Culture
  • Process & Governance
  • Technology

Step 4: Tailor Solutions to your Findings

  • Implement
  • Manage and Measure

As a community, we have all personally experienced too many implementations where companies feel SharePoint is a silver bullet.  Install the platform and collaboration will magically improve and business benefits will result.  Hope is not a strategy.  The Collaboration Framework showcases how to apply the necessary amount of structure to guide a company through the evolutionary process of improving collaboration to drive business value.

I believe this is the next step for the SharePoint community – to raise the utilization of the system from an ad-hoc collaboration solution that has provided value with point solutions, to a platform that is supporting top-down, strategic collaboration initiatives.  I hope this series has been a resource to help you understand how to go about clearly defining a business need, getting executive buy-in, and then mapping the needs of the business to the solutions to be implemented.  Technology is just one part of the solution.  But what is different are the unique capabilities of the new generation of collaboration technologies, and how they can make big impacts on enterprise collaboration to drive business value in a more efficient manner.


2 thoughts on “Driving Business Value with Enterprise Collaboration – Part 4: Implementing the Framework

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

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