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Back to Basics: Creating a Successful Collaboration Strategy for Organization Success

Dan Klanderman, Iron Bow Technologies

August 18, 2015  |  Collaboration

Today’s successful work environment is one that creates and supports collaborative environments that allow users to respond to each other quickly, track what they are doing, create structured groups around a specific task, throw all the information in one virtual location and easily communicate through text, video or audio. To get to the right solution, I recommend starting with the end in mind – creating a way for employees to better communicate and collaborate – but also understanding what obstacles may be in the way of effective collaboration at your organization today.

The first obstacle, typically, is that a company’s collaboration strategy begins and ends in the IT department. Working with an OEM, the IT team chooses a technology, deploys the technology and then wonders why usage and adoption are not in alignment with expectations. They build it and no one comes. A better way to approach it is to reach out to the end users and lines of business first about what they need and find a solution to support that vision.

Putting the end user at the forefront involves finding out the following:

  • If no one is using the tools currently, offered, why not?
  • Is the tool difficult to use?
  • Are employees already using something else (maybe not sanctioned by IT)?
  • Is there, perhaps, an issue standing in the way of collaboration in a department, business unit or across the company? Are there elements in the organization (existing processes, structures, policies, conflicting objectives) that actually hamper effective communications that need to be addressed?
  • If they are using a specific platform – email, IM, video – do they prefer one to the others?
  • Which do they utilize most often?
  • How often do they use it and across what groups or, business units?
  • Do they have the necessary tools to communicate effectively outside the organization such as customers, supplier, and partners?

If there are multiple platforms, and that is the primary issue preventing successful collaboration, is there a way to work around that? If the roadblocks is a technology or usability challenge, is there training available to offer employees? If there are silos – different departments using different tools – can you create a common platform that all departments may be willing to use or perhaps implement an interoperability strategy to compensate for the silos?  If we can’t talk about the silos we’ve constructed, how can we hope to dismantle them?

Once your assessment with end users is complete, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when creating or leveraging collaboration technology:

  1. Does your OEM offer it on a “pay-for-play” basis? There is a huge push right now for consumption models, which will keep your organization from buying more capacity than it may need. It’s also a great model for piloting various solutions before standardizing on one across the organization.
  2. What is the long-term roadmap for both collaboration and the organization? Whatever your organization may be trying to accomplish, remember that technology is probably going to change. Make sure your collaboration roadmap is flexible enough to grow, change and evolve to support the organization’s mission.
  3. To that end, make sure that your collaboration tool is based on industry standards and has open APIs. We have no idea what we may see in terms of new technologies over the next decade. Don’t lock into proprietary technology and close your organization off from opportunities to create more powerful collaboration platforms.
  4. Create a collaboration platform that mimics the communications style of software development teams. I am seeing more and more organizations adopting this methodology – in which teams start projects, code for a while, then step back and assess its features, look at the market and readjust as needed. In the past, companies would take very structured approach to deliver a new product in a specified amount of time, usually 18 months. Now, as market demands force them to deliver products more quickly, they must be agile enough to add on new features on the fly. Adopting a collaboration technology that allows teams to communicate in real time – similar to the software development model – offers that agility,  which you don’t  find in an email, conference call world.

Keeping the end user in mind from the beginning will help your organization create a culture of collaboration that is just as flexible and scalable as the collaboration platform you use for your employees’ and your organization’s success.

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