Effective collaboration multiplies results


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The white paper by Marty Parker, Principal, UniComm Consulting and Co-Founder, UC Strategies, emphasizes the ways in which improved collaboration maturity pays off for organizations. You will see how improved collaboration capabilities can provide great ROI by enabling your organization to go faster or to use less resources or be different from or better than your competition. Each of these types of returns are grounded in the actual case studies of real life customer successes.

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Effective collaboration multiplies results

  1. 1. Effective collaboration multiplies results Marty Parker Principal, UniComm Consulting Co-Founder, UC Strategies
  2. 2. Introduction Collaboration is a key business process for most organizations, whether large or small, whether public or private sector. The importance of collaboration can be visualized as recurring business processes that can be accelerated or enriched in order to produce a return for the enterprise. Use New Collaboration Solutions To: Enrich Results: 2 Cycles Per Period Save Costs: 2 Cycles Per PeriodIncrease Output: 3 Cycles Per Period Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 1 Cycle 2 SavingsCycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 3 Current: 2 Cycles Per Period Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Use New Collaboration Solutions To: Enrich Results: 2 Cycles Per Period Save Costs: 2 Cycles Per PeriodIncrease Output: 3 Cycles Per Period Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 1 Cycle 2 SavingsCycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 3 Current: 2 Cycles Per Period Cycle 1 Cycle 2 The enterprise, organization or department can choose, depending on their priorities and situation, to apply the gains from improved collaboration to: • Increase output or grow revenues by completing more cycles per time period • Enrich the content or quality of the results by enabling more diverse and effective interactions • Reduce costs simply by completing the required cycles more quickly The choice of approaches may be consistent across the enterprise. Some enterprises may use all three methods depending on the specific business processes that are targeted for collaborative improvement. Each of these choices produce positive outcomes that justify investment in the new collaborative tools. For most organizations effective collaboration is crucial to their success for two major reasons: • Collaborative processes are essential to the organization’s ability to respond to customers, clients, citizens, and supply chain partners. If collaborative processes are ineffective, the organization will be increasingly unresponsive or uncompetitive. Conversely, if collaborative processes are highly effective the organization will be resilient, innovative, responsive, and likely economically effective (i.e. profitable in the private sector). • Collaborative processes consume one of the most valuable assets in most organizations -- the highly-trained and usually highly-compensated knowledge workers, information workers, and senior management. Highly effective collaborative processes can magnify the effectiveness of these resources while also improving the organization’s economics through more effective utilization of these valuable assets. These two reasons can be positively supported by understanding collaborative processes in terms of the types of collaborations that occur within an organization and by identifying where within organizations’ value chains or business processes these collaborative activities occur. • By understanding the types of collaborations, the broad range of new collaborative communication technologies can be applied most effectively to those collaborative activities. • By identifying where within organizations the collaborative activities occur, the collaborative technologies can be applied in the context of the workflows. In many cases the new collaborative technologies may be integrated directly into the work environment of the collaborative team, ranging from the design of physical spaces to the integration of collaborative technologies into document repositories or business software applications.
  3. 3. SMART Technologies Inspired Collaboration Assessment To assist businesses in better understanding the role of collaborative technologies in their organizations, for the past year SMART Technologies has offered an online assessment tool known as SMART Inspired Collaboration Assessment (ICA)1 . To date, approximately 1,500 businesses have used this survey to report the current state of their collaborative technology deployment as well as the type and degree of results they are achieving with that collaborative technology. Participation provides feedback against the total population that can guide collaboration strategies and tactics. This database of enterprise customer inputs is a valuable and unique guide to understanding collaborative technology deployments and results. A report titled, “Visual Collaboration Best Practices” that describes ICA results is available2 . This white paper will make reference to the Inspired Collaboration Assessment at various points to illustrate the current state of adoption of collaborative technologies and to highlight ways in which enterprises are experiencing the best results from their investments. 1. This organizational self-assessment tool is available at SMARTTech.com/assessment42. 2. Visual Collaboration Best Practices: http://downloads01.smarttech.com/media/research/whitepapers/business_collaboration.pdf Defining Collaborative Activities Before exploring the types and organizational locations of collaborative activities, it is worth differentiating collaborative activities from transaction-based activities. There has been a trend among the communications technology vendors to label any form of communication as collaborative. This is clearly not the case. For example, an email, text or voice call to place an order for a specific product or to check on the delivery schedule for that order is a transaction, the exchange of specific known information, not a collaborative activity in which new ideas or information are created through interaction or discussion. By contrast, collaboration means an activity or process in which two or more people work jointly, usually interactively and iteratively, to reach a common goal or to produce a shared outcome. Collaboration usually includes sharing of knowledge, learning by the participants, and building consensus. Understanding the distinction of collaboration in contrast to transactions is very important to identifying the opportunities for leverage of new collaborative technologies and to focusing of the new collaborative technologies in the areas of highest return.
  4. 4. Types of Collaboration There are a number of interesting characterizations of collaborative activities from reputable sources. One taxonomy that has been very helpful was provided by IBM in 2010 and describes collaboration as falling into three categories, Ad Hoc, Activity Centric and Formal: • Ad Hoc is collaboration that occurs at a moment of opportunity as one person seeks advice, information, confirmation or network building with another, usually in presence-based directories or social network settings. Discussion of a sales strategy or validation of a technical analysis are examples of ad hoc collaboration. • Activity Centric collaboration focuses on the steps that occur in a business activity, but on an episodic basis more than in a formal process. The collaboration could take many forms, from a live conversation, to a blog or wiki post, to a presence-driven IM or Group Chat. The consultation by a development engineer with the product manager to clarify customer preferences or the consultation by a lead attorney with particular legal specialist while preparing for a contract or a case are examples of activity centric collaboration. • Formal collaboration is the implementation of a specific approach to defining or designing or deciding on organizational directions, activities or choices. Often this occurs in context of written procedures and is performed via enterprise portals and embedded communications, delivering both optimized and standardized workflows with self-documenting features for compliance and audit purposes. HR hiring processes, health care physician consultations and aircraft designs are examples of formal collaboration. The structure of these three collaboration categories can be used as guidelines for acquiring, deploying, and supporting the technologies to achieve the best organizational collaborative outcomes. SMART Technologies Characterizations In the SMART Technologies ICA, collaborative technology deployments are described in terms that relate easily and logically to the types of collaboration outlined above. The ICA differentiates between informal and structured/formal deployments. Informal deployments are available for quick and easy access in support of Ad Hoc and Activity Centric, collaborations and may be deployed in break rooms, common areas, small huddle rooms and on the users’ PCs/Macs and other personal devices. Structured/formal deployments support more process-driven collaborations including both Activity-Centric and Formal collaborations and are usually configured in larger conference rooms or other specific work areas while also allowing participation from the users’ PCs/Macs and other personal devices. The ICA also includes a deployment category for Dispersed technology deployment and recognition of the mobile and distributed nature of most organizations and the need to include customers, clients, citizens, and supply chain partners in some types of collaborative activities. Dispersed deployments may relate to any of the three collaboration Categories.
  5. 5. Where Collaborative Activities Occur within Business Processes Every organization can be understood in terms of a value chain3 by which that organization creates and delivers its products or services to its intended customers. It is both possible and useful to examine and enterprise’s value chain to find the activities that are most dependent on successful collaboration since that will determine the areas with the greatest potential for high return from improvements in those collaborative activities. Examples are provided below for two industries – Manufacturing and Professional Services. Manufacturing Effective collaboration can deliver high or very high ROI in these three value chain categories: Professional Services Effective collaboration can deliver high or very high ROI in these three value chain categories: Product Design & Development The engine for future revenues and growth. Uses all 3 Collaboration types. Shortens product release times by removing delays. Improves product quality via more, better insights. Very high ROI both by cutting dev. cycle time and costs and by earning revenue more quickly. Marketing & Sales High leverage for shares of mind & market. Ad Hoc & Activity-centric. Speeds creation of campaigns & proposals via interaction with agencies, customers, prospects. High ROI from lower campaign costs & from more sales cycles and higher win rates per period. Managment & Planning Effective organization & direction of business. Uses all 3 Collaboration types. Speeds and improves planning, decision making, approvals. Increases effectiveness of feedback & reviews. High ROI from faster response to change, more agility vs. competition, shorter project cycle times. Client Relationships Moves client service & rapport to new levels. Uses all 3 Collaboration types. Enriches interactions at any time and place. Increases engagement via both software and room/ whiteboard tools. High ROI from customer satisfaction and Firm differentiation. Rich relationships drive repeat business. Services Production Multiplies output of professional staff. Uses all 3 Collaboration types, but esp. Formal. Speeds completion of projects, esp. multi- discipline, consultative. Shortens review cycles while increasing quality. High ROI by reducing project completion times, avoiding errors & rework. Grow revenue or reduce costs. New Services & Professional Development Creates new service offers, new skills. Activity-centric and Formal Collaboration types. Speeds design process for new services; shortens training of staff on new offers, processses. High ROI by more agile response to markets, clients, regulations. More competitive at lower costs. 3. Porter, Michael E. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.
  6. 6. Similar analysis can be applied to any enterprise in any industry. The key points of these examples are to show that (1) collaborative activities are focused in specific areas of an enterprise, not uniformly distributed; and (2) the payoffs from improvements in collaborative activities are significant and also differentiated across the elements of the value chain. These examples also make clear that the returns from improvements in collaborative activities can be categorized into three broad groupings: • Go Faster: Effective use of collaborative technologies can enable certain business processes to be completed much more quickly thereby multiplying the return on the human resources or other assets of the enterprise. This was illustrated in the examples by faster time-to-market for new products which multiplies the future revenue stream; by faster completion of sales cycles to increase revenues and possibly margins; and by faster completion of engagement definition, engagement execution, and new service development in a professional services firm all of which will increase the overall revenues as well as the cost to revenue ratios. • Use Less: Effective use of collaborative technologies can enable certain business processes to be completed with less resource usage or cost. This may be done by more effective engagement of external resources; by more effective interaction with customers, clients, citizens or supply chain partners; by faster problem solving in production and service operations; and by more efficient, yet more insightful and thorough, professional service engagement completion. • Be Better or Different: Effective use of collaborative technologies, especially those for Ad Hoc and Activity Centric work is very likely to improve the quality of the goods and services that an organization delivers as well as stimulating and enabling differentiation through creativity and innovation among the enterprise’s employees and broader ecosystem, including customers. The effect of these types of business process improvements usually results in returns on investment exceeding the 100% per annum level, as illustrated by a number of case studies available from SMART Technologies and others in the industry.
  7. 7. Assuring Successful Collaboration There is a lot of information available as a guide to successful collaboration within an enterprise. The very comprehensive and industry thought-leading information available from the SMART Technologies’ Inspired Collaboration Assessment (ICA) is a very important source of such information guiding successful collaborative technology investments and deployment. Here are some highlights of this report. Collaboration Maturity Increases Returns. As highlighted in the “Visual Collaboration Best Practices” reference above, the reported level of business value increases dramatically from low to high or very high when the collaborative technologies are delivered in environments that are integrated (integrated with other communications systems and business software tools) or collaborative (equipped with a variety of easily accessed and easily used collaborative technologies designed for the users’ roles and activities) and/ or optimized (both integrated and collaborative plus thoroughly supported with cultural leadership and pertinent training and information) environments. As highlighted previously, since the leverage of effective collaboration, i.e. collaboration maturity, is so high it is compelling to make the incremental investment in collaborative technologies and the incremental investments in integration, culture, and support that will drive those returns to optimal levels. Certain Technologies Correlate To Highest Returns The ICA also captures the use of specific collaborative technologies which allows the correlation of technology usage to maturity level. As of early 2014, the enterprises who reported a more mature environment of collaborative or optimized collaborative technologies also indicated that their use of the following five technologies were higher than the enterprises at the unsupported level by the significant percentages shown below. Collaborative Technology % Of Increased Adoption Conferencing administration software 39% Team collaboration software 38% Integrated whiteboards 37% Conferencing software 33% Social software 32% Clearly, there is a benefit of providing the appropriate tools to support: • Easy use of conferencing software • Including software that supports team collaboration, such as project-specific collaborative workspaces or similar tools, as was suggested in the Activity Centric and/or Formal collaboration activities in the manufacturing and professional services examples above • Equipping the conferencing and team collaboration tools with interactive environments specifically represented by integrated whiteboards, which certainly should include touch sensitive creation and image manipulation in combination with background application software • Supplementing these environments with social software to facilitate the Ad Hoc interactions in addition to the Activity Centric and Formal collaborative activities.
  8. 8. Benefits Are Focused In Certain Roles The ICA analysis of the responses also reported the top six categories of returns from investments in collaborative technologies as shown below. Areas Of Improvement % Reporting Team productivity 73% Problem solving 65% Process cycle times 55% Decision making 53% Enhanced customer experience 53% Information quality 52% These results are well aligned with the areas of improvement within an enterprise value chain as highlighted in the manufacturing and professional services industry examples above. Culture Is Key Effective adoption of the collaborative technologies is critical to achieving and magnifying the returns from an enterprise’s collaborative activities. Enterprises that reported a high level of cultural leadership and adoption support for their collaborative technology investments were more likely to report positive returns from their investments at a rate that ranges from 63% to 130% greater than average. Enterprises that reported in the bottom 10% of cultural leadership and adoption support reported positive returns at a rate that is 16% to 27% lower than average. Given the importance of the results that are influenced by effective collaboration, this range of varying results between high performance and low performance collaboration is a matter for serious management attention all the way up to the C-Suite. Certainly other factors can influence an enterprise’s overall performance, but this data indicates that successful cultural leadership and adoption support for the appropriate level of investment in collaborative technologies is probably one of the top levers for overall enterprise performance.
  9. 9. Collaboration Investments Are Compelling Investment in any new technology will face many hurdles. Often there is no on- going budget category to fund these new investments. Thus the new technology will either have to be more compelling than other investment options, such as a new conveyor line in manufacturing, or an increased travel and entertainment budget for client development in professional services. The analysis offered above and the feedback from hundreds of organizations as shown in the “Visual Collaboration Best Practices” white paper indicate that investments in the new advanced collaboration technologies will be very compelling in two ways. 1. Hard ROI from Cost Savings and Business Growth The manufacturing and professional services examples point directly to the areas where costs can be reduced for almost all types of project-oriented work. These savings will pay back the investments and operating costs of collaboration technologies in high multiples. For some firms and in some markets, the improvements in collaboration speed and quality can be converted directly into revenue growth. In business value chain elements such as product development, sales cycle times, or professional services team capacity, cycle times can be measured to provide proof of the increased capacity and revenue that result in the very high, compelling, ROI. • At the unsupported level, only 45% of participants reported value above average, compared to other technology investments, while 16% reported value below average, compared to other technology investments. • At the integrated level of maturity, 72% reported value exceeding the average, compared to other technology investments. • At the highest levels of maturity, 90% reported value exceeding the average, compared to other technology investments. Furthermore, 30% reported value that significantly exceeded the average. Unsupported Below Average About Average Exeeds Average Not Integrated Integrated Collaborative & Optimized 2. Comparative Feedback from Peer Organizations The ICA report includes this graphic, showing that higher maturity levels of collaborative technology deployment and support produce higher returns than alternative technologies for 72% to 90% of the respondents.
  10. 10. Summary and Conclusions Collaboration is a high-leverage business process for most enterprises. An evaluation of the enterprise value chain will highlight the types of collaborative activities within the enterprise. The evaluation can then inform identification, selection, and prioritization of investments in collaborative technologies that can multiply the returns to the enterprise in each of those areas of collaborative activities. Given the business value – both economic and cultural – of collaborative activities in most enterprises, attention to this analysis on an ongoing basis is certainly warranted and essentially crucial to the organization. The ongoing, cumulative SMART Technologies ICA survey is a very powerful tool for confirming the value of investments in effective collaborative technologies. The scope of this database is unique in the industry both as to its size, its breadth of information, and its duration. It is hard to imagine an enterprise that would not benefit by participating in the ICA and in spending time with the SMART Technologies team to understand the implications of the assessment in context of the individual enterprise’s business goals, business processes and industry situation.