Aligning your collaboration solution with your business model

To achieve the desired business results from effective teamwork, it’s worth taking the time to align your collaboration solution with your business model.

What makes for effective collaboration? This is one of the most common—and important—questions we get asked by clients who are considering a collaboration solution. There’s no simple answer. Perspectives have evolved over time, with Henry Ford once opining, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” We can be pretty sure that, for Ford, moving forward together meant doing things his way, with thousands of workers turning bolts in unison.

Michael Jordan offers a more dynamic take with, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Even Mother Teresa was in on the action with, “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
So, which is it? Is collaboration about “moving forward together,” “teamwork and intelligence” or doing “small things, with great love”? We have found it’s all three, really. Collaboration can take many forms. However you do it, though, collaboration needs to fit with your business model and overall business strategy.

To achieve the desired

There is no such thing as pure collaboration. Collaboration always exists in the context of a business need. The right mode of enabling workers to get things done together depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. For instance, some collaboration scenarios are project-based while others are ongoing. In our experience, we see the following collaboration patterns across our business and public sector clients:

  • Collaboration among members of the same team or department—This is perhaps the most common form of collaboration. People who work together on a permanent basis frequently need to share tasks, check in with one another, maintain agreed-upon schedules and so forth. The collaborative process might be loosely-defined, like the work of event planning or well-defined, as in the case of a government document processing workflow.
  •  Collaboration between organizational units—We see this when a business model requires a matrixed type of organization. For example, a marketing team in one business unit must collaborate on a creative campaign with a team in another division.
  • Collaboration between companies—People who need to work together to achieve common goals don’t always have the same employer. This happens when the business model demands close cooperation between vendor and client or among alliance partners.
  • A hybrid of all three—Given today’s constantly-evolving business models, we frequently see collaboration use cases the blend intra- and inter-company collaboration. A business model that relies on outsourcing of product design and fabrication, for example, typically throws a collection of teams together on an ad hoc basis. These might include the design firm, the product management team, the manufacturing contractor, the legal department and so forth.
Obstacles to Aligning Collaboration with Business Models

Probing the definitions of collaboration offered by Henry Ford, Michael Jordan and Mother Teresa suggests, we can reasonability conclude that collaboration is an inherently human activity. Isn’t that great? Human beings coming together to achieve a goal. Except, it isn’t always so great.

Working with organizations on collaboration solutions, we find at least two major roadblocks to successful collaboration. The first involves conflicts rooted in organizational culture and structure. If an organization has an “up or out” or “stack ranking” policy, then collaboration will be, at best, limited. There’s nothing wrong with these policies, but they are usually at odds with effective teamwork. There are few incentives to share information or help others succeed.

The collaborative toolsets themselves can hinder collaboration and the achievement of business objectives. For example, if a company’s business model leverages strategic alliances and close vendor/client relationships, it will be highly counterproductive if the collaborative tool cannot allow connections outside the company. This is more common that you might think, and there are good reasons why businesses are shy about letting third parties into their networks. However, if you are required (and perhaps compensated) based on how well you collaborate with people with whom you cannot connect, you’ll probably feel pretty frustrated.

Finding the Right Collaboration Solution

What’s the right collaboration solution for your business? The good news is that you have a lot of options and they’re getting better all the time. That said, not all tools are equally well-suited for every organization The best collaboration tools offer a true “single pane of glass” experience for end user. Toggling between email, chat, file storage and collaborative work groups inevitably degrades the effectiveness of the process. The more collaborative tasks the user can perform inside the tool, the better.>/p>

We encourage our clients to think through how their teams work together, both inside and outside the four walls of the business. The outcomes of these conversations will guide choice of tooling as well as configuration. With an understanding of how people work together, we can put policies and settings in place that enable the degree of flexibility and privacy that people want to get their work done, their way.

Conclusion

Collaboration is now a non-negotiable reality of the workplace in so many organizations. If you don’t have a collaboration tool now, you’ll probably be looking at one soon. Or, perhaps more likely, you’ll be exploring an update to the collaboration solution you already have. When the time comes, it may be beneficial to work with an advisor who can walk you through the thought processes involved in selecting the right solution and setting it up so it will align to your business model and advance your unique business strategy.

To learn how Chrysalis can partner with your organization for a collaborative win, please contact us today.

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