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From talking to transforming: Getting real value from enterprise collaboration technology

For a company’s workforce to be highly productive they need to use technology to shape collaborative behavior.

Overview

Companies need a workforce that works smarter, faster and more productively. To achieve it they need to embed social collaborative technology deep into processes, use the technology to shape collaborative behavior, and ultimately transform the way organizations find and allocate expertise. Companies don’t need collaborative platforms that employees use to talk about their work, they need collaborative solutions that create new ways for employees to do their work.

The question for leaders is how to move from old platforms and find solutions that create new ways for employees to do their work.

Executives are sold on the need for collaboration and the value of collaboration technology: Surveys of IT and business leaders show 77 percent of decision makers are using social collaboration technologies, and 82 percent of businesses which use them want to use more of them in the future. The need is especially great in today’s enormous global organizations.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT [PDF, 2.62 MB]

Key Insights

Executives have long promoted collaboration tools by mandating their use, involving users in the vendor selection process, and being champions and users themselves. Those tactics make an impact in the short term, but they rarely bring sustained changes in attitude or behavior.

There are however, some companies that are starting to realize measurable benefits too:

  • A Nucleus Research Inc. study found adding social capabilities to CRM systems increases sales staff productivity an average of 11.8 percent— for example, by resolving customer queries faster without hiring more service staff.

  • Enterprise social platforms are enabling sales teams at General Electric Co.’s GE Aviation business to readily share documents and answer questions, completing in minutes work that had taken over a week.

  • By sharing practices and ideas through an online platform, CEMEX S.A.B. de C.V.’s Alternative Fuels employee community reduced CO2 emissions by 1.8 million metric tons per year, saving the company over US $140 million while earning $80 million in sales of CO2 credits.

But not all companies can point to results like this from their use of collaboration tools. Employees often use these tools for spreading “nice to know” information, rather than the kind of “need to know” communication that systematically leads to better decisions and higher productivity.

Recommendations

What’s a better solution for the long term? Three strategies can help companies achieve the large gains in productivity, decision-making and innovation they seek.

  1. Embed collaborative technologies into business processes. Companies need clear objectives in mind before collaborative technologies can become seamless – embedded in work processes, rather than left to people to figure them out. Clear objectives also make it possible to answer: How can new collaboration technologies enable the process changes needed to deliver those gains? Which technologies, if embedded in the new process, will not just enable them but feel seamless – inseparable from the work process, and helpful, integrated and easy for users? Collaboration can only feel seamless when it’s thoroughly integrated in people’s daily tasks.

  2. Shape collaborative behaviour through technology. Collaborative behavior is driven at least as much by mindset and training as by technology. With the right tools, companies can gain insights into how the workforce is collaborating and identify effective and ineffective practices. But understanding collaborative behavior is only useful when combined with techniques that successfully change behavior. Turning peer pressure in favor of collaboration, and participation into a game with winners and awards, are emerging as ways to successfully encourage employees to use collaboration tools.

  3. Rethink the universe of talent. New technologies do more than just accelerate old ways of doing things; they make new ways of doing things possible. Over time, collaborative technologies are set to create entirely new ways of sourcing and using talent. People tend to be affixed to particular departments, and regarded as the assets of a particular local group. But collaboration technologies open up the possibility of applying expertise wherever needed.

For further insights read:

How collaboration technologies are improving process, workforce and business performance in Accenture's Outlook.

THREE STEPS THAT TAKE COLLABORATION FROM TALKING TO DOING (Wall Street Journal) [PDF, 140.13 KB]

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