Collaboration; …and the IT

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Third post looking at the development of greater collaboration within businesses – The Good…putting users at the heart of any initiative, The Bad…the potential costs associated with introducing collaboration projects.
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…and the IT

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One of the areas of business making the most progress in utilising social media is Knowledge Management. The increasing use of sophisticated collaboration based platforms highlights the importance companies place on their knowledge workers and the impact they can have on innovation, growth and ultimately business performance.

However, it would be wrong to view any single application as a ‘one size fits all’ solution. In ‘Using technology to improve workforce collaboration’ James Manyika, Kara Sprague and Lareina, highlight the importance of first identifying and understanding the specific roles and needs of the workers involved and only then selecting the appropriate technologies to support their activities.

Although organisations recognise the importance of managing the collation and sharing of their expertise, many still struggle to do it effectively ; the performance gap between the best and worst companies in collaboration-intense sectors is nine times bigger than in the production or transaction sectors where tasks and management are much better understood.

In part, this variance is due to the huge variety in knowledge worker collaboration, which can include – high level abstract thinking carried out by scientists and product development teams; the building and maintenance of contact networks by sales and buying teams; or the day-to-day problem solving carried out by operational functions.

It is also due to a lack of understanding about how to accurately measure ‘collaboration productivity’. Whilst most organisations focus on encouraging more collaboration, far less thought is being given to the quality of the collaborative interactions occurring.

Organisations have much to gain from improving performance. The paper’s research shows that at least 20 percent and as much as 50 percent of collaborative activity results in wasted effort.

Improving collaboration

The firs step in raising the quality of collaboration is to accurately identify exactly who in the organisations is interacting with who, how these interactions take place and what they achieve. Once this is understood then they can be effectively supported with the appropriate technology.

  1. Classify workers by the work they do – job titles alone may be misleading or inaccurate. It is more useful to look at precisely what role each individual performs when they collaborate, remembering that the same person may perform different roles at different times depending on the nature of the interaction.
  2. Match technologies to the workflows –
  • Understand the specific requirement of the interactive task; two people working closely on a sophisticated plan will need different support than a group spread across the globe coordinating responses to a suggested strategy.
  • Establish those tasks that create the most value for the organisation, and which support the companies priorities – innovation, customer service, recruitment, new product launches etc etc.
  • Identify inefficiencies and waste that can be avoided or eliminated – e.g. avoiding wasted effort due to misunderstood or conflicting goals; improving delivery effectiveness through improved search capabilities or knowledge sharing; or avoiding duplication of messaging or effort through microblogging or use of wiki styled shared workspaces.

More, and more productive, collaboration can bring major gains to many organisations. Social Media tools and techniques can make a significant contribution, but their full value will only be realised when they are developed and deployed to meet the specific needs of individuals and the goals they are working to deliver.

This article also appeared on www.GNIUS.co.uk

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