It is widely understood that collaboration is essential to organizational growth, success and, in the long run, survival.
However, many organizations that have attempted to enable and promote enterprise social collaboration have discovered that the quantifiable benefits are underwhelming. Yes, there are many more conversations taking place – both online and offline. But no, performance, quality and results have not measurably or meaningfully improved. In fact, they may have even grown worse.
At first glance, it may seem that collaboration itself has “over-promised and under-delivered.” However, a deeper look often reveals that organization-led collaboration attempts that fail to live up to expectations are missing a key element: context.
That is, organizations need to put collaboration in the context of promoting work, so the various informal and formal conversations taking place around tasks, activities and projects are unified by a single purpose: to move work in context along its journey towards resolution, delivery or completion.
So based on the above, how can organizations embrace and enable in-context collaboration? The answer is not about deploying strategies and tactics, but about laying a three-level foundation of visibility, transparency and accessibility.
- Transparency: in-context collaboration must be driven by transparency at all levels of the organization, so that teams participate in democratic information sharing – without running into political or hierarchical barriers, or retreating to silos or “disconnected islands of activity.” Transparency also fosters in-context collaboration by aligning input with impact, as teams connect their contribution to the “big picture.”
- Visibility: in-context collaboration must be supported by 360-degree visibility, which allows teams to organically and intelligently make adjustments based on what is happening within and beyond their work group or business unit. At the same time, project managers and executives rely on visibility to make better, faster decisions that are based on accurate data – instead of educated guesses, or gut feels.
- Accessibility: in-context collaboration must be built on a cross-enterprise centralized platform; one that makes the tools needed to advance work through all steps of the journey easily accessible to all team members – wherever they are and whenever they are working. This same platform must also support knowledge management by automatically capturing, organizing and linking relevant conversations and insights with their associated work objects.
The bottom line is that “collaboration for the sake of collaboration” is not a legitimate work activity. Rather, it falls somewhere between a diversion and a distraction, and impedes individual and team performance rather than enhances it. Organizations that have attempted to parachute social media networks into their environments know this all too well, as they quickly found themselves overrun by chaotic over-communication and endlessly emerging activity streams.
However, in-context collaboration is an entirely different story. Fortified and fueled by transparency, visibility and accessibility, it empowers organizations with what they need to thrive in today’s ever-changing, highly competitive landscape: simplicity, speed, and sustained excellence.