Collaboration has changed….are YOU Ready for the “Empowered Enterprise”?


When I began working on Collaboration within organizations over 15+ years ago, it was called “Messaging & Collaboration”.  Email was the primary collaboration medium and it was an excellent technology.  Other than in-person meetings or voice calls for collaboration, email allowed collaboration over distances between multiple persons or groups.  Document Collaboration was most popular amongst the collaborators via email , yet unknown to us practioners, siloes were being formed.  If you were not on the email thread you were out of the conversation.  Email, Instant Messaging, Portals,  and other collaborative technologies increased the abilities of users to collaborate and work more effectively, yet silos still were being formed and thus existed as barriers to true leveraging of Collective Intelligence.  Just being able to collaborate on documents, projects, send large attachments, and instantly communicate did not fundamentally transform the enterprise to leverage the “Collective Intelligence” of organizations.  In order to capture this intelligence, we have recently seen the explosion of a Social Networking paradigm within the enterprise paralleling the advent of Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, etc.  It is now called “Social Business”, and it is a great term because it encompasses internal and external communications that occur within business. Linking people across the enterprise along with business processes can unleash new avenues of innovation and empowerment.   This new type of Enterprise Collaboration when mixed with Social Business concepts allowing the growth of an organization’s Collective Intelligence creates what I call the Empowered Enterprise”.

Enterprise Collaboration key tenets

First is Informational Acceleration.  Today Information is produced and shared with rapid availability both inside and outside the firewall.  Digital Information is now produced natively and organizations must review their existing information lifecycles to architect methods to provide that information to enterprise & public consumers over digital mediums.   When a company is slow to adapt to changing business climates, you can be sure their competition is not waiting…all markets are too competitive for companies to take their time in adapting the Collaboration Strategy to their Business Strategy.  Innovation comes without warning, from anywhere at anytime.  With the internet, information is now available globally.  Enterprises need to be adaptable and agile to leverage these rapid advancements in order to maintain competitive advantage.

Second is the Technology available to foster this collaboration of digital content.  Sharepoint, JIVE, IBM Connections, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, NewsGator, SalesForce.com’s CHATTER, and many other collaborative platforms provide the technology necessary to provide the ecosystem needed to lubricate the Collective Intelligence efforts.   The advancements of Cloud Computing & Mobile Devices have provided new capabilities IT teams can now leverage to deploy these various technologies with little up front investment necessary to capture value. 

Third is the Consumerization effect on collaboration that has swept into every company.  With the advent of the Internet, almost all types of collaboration is now possible, interacting with anyone from anywhere at anytime.  Employees (& business units) experience this outside the office and cannot understand why IT cannot provide the same level of capabilities at the same cost…(Low or Free!).  This phenomenon has led to challenges to IT and CIOs who are trying to balance collaboration capabilities with legislative regulations around data protection.  An example of this is evident with Mobile Devices;  tablets, Smartphones, Blackberry, Android & Apple devices, Windows Mobile devices, and others are incredibly powerful and capable devices,  empowering the consumer’s and their Collective Intelligence, and the enterprise is still struggling to catch up and understand the “value” and justify the rational of a ‘”BYOD” (Bring your own device) mindset to the Enterprise.

The Fourth tenet is the Perceptions\Expectations of new employees coming into the workforce. These Millennials or Generation “F” (Facebook) employees grew up with the speed and availability of information as normal as playing with conventional toys were to older employees.  To them, not having these advanced collaboration capabilities means your enterprise is old-fashioned, restrictive, and too slow to provide them the instant gratification they grew up with.  To this add the fact younger employees have a different perspective and outlook on the world; the lines between companies and cultures are blurred to them, they tend to be more altruistic than older employees.  Younger workers have been empowered by their parents and teachers their whole lives and expect to experience the same level of empowerment in the enterprise….with little restrictions or rules…You may not like to hear it, but it is a reality.

Collaboration and the expectations around how workers share information, knowledge, and ideas has certainly changed.  How will your organization prepare to become the Empowered Enterprise?

Focus on People

I believe the key to the Empowered Enterprise is to first focus on PEOPLE, vis-à-vis the culture of the company.  Your culture dictates directly how your organization effectively collaborates, innovates, moves at the pace of information and is competitive.  If your culture is built on a Command & Control model, you are not leveraging your greatest corporate asset…the Tacit Knowledge each employee has and wants to share!  The sense of belonging to a larger social consciences that can change the organization for the better.  Generally, employees want to do more and give to the company their best effort.  Companies need to have faster decision making processes, empowering employees to perform under the new global business climates.  Command & Control cultures prohibit that empowerment and cause frustration, limiting your company’s ability to innovate and adapt to changing business conditions.

In order to craft the Empowered Enterprise leveraging a Social Collaborative Program, a very strong Change Management Program must be architected within your company.  This Change Management Program needs to have some key components in order to be successful.

Key Change Management Points

1. Identifying groups & communities of practice within the company that are already successful who can be enlisted to demonstrate value and to commercialize to other employees the tacit value of this new type of collaboration.  Community Managers will help train employees how to work within this new ecosystem, and this builds the WIIFM (What’s in it For Me) use cases and helps spread adoption and acceptance.

2. Strong Top-Down sponsorship for a Community Management Program; dedicated employees to act as advocates for this new way of collaboration.  Community Managers engaging across all levels of the organization will be key to combat resistance from personal who see this new collaboration paradigm as a direct threat to their established power base.  Senior Management must openly endorses Communities of Practice (CoP), Communities of Interest (CoI), and Communities of Experts (CoE);  drivers to empower employees and bridge silos, it can lead to rapid acceptance and adoption.

3. Communication, Communication, Communication!….too much communication is not enough in this effort.  It will be key to send out frequent communications on how this new collaborative culture can benefit the employees, the company, and lead to greater organizational performance…video communications are powerful enablers to link faces to the overall effort in changing the culture.  Show how segments of the organization are becoming more successful within the new collaborative ecosystem, and others will want to follow.

4. Patience and Expectation Management will be key as not all of the organization will jump to embrace this new collaborative culture.  Remember, collaboration is about people, and change is not comfortable for everyone.   Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) linked to qualitative and quantitative values can be helpful to demonstrate value and drive acceptance and adoption.  But keep in mind you will NEVER have 100% of the users actively contributing.  Choose your KPIs carefully and define success using realistic measures.

5. Do NOT deploy the technology platform will ALL features and functionality on Day One.  If you deploy with too many capabilities, you could confuse your employees and they will see the platform as just another tool.  I recommend identifying key capabilities and deploying with a minimum of functionality enough to on-board the users.  Publish a roadmap of capabilities to spur interest, excitement, and provide another reason to return to the platform. 

6. Do not be too restrictive in the beginning of the deployment.  Allow for Communities and Groups to be created by all users.  Provide awareness training to solicit good behavior and best practice, but don’t be too authoritarian or you will have users complaining about Command & Control behaviors and they could abandon the platform.  Make the idea of using this new Social Collaborative Platform fun and promote an openness for users to share.  Remove as many barriers to resistance as possible.  Vocalize the use and promote early adopters.

In Closing…

You need to understand in todays’ world information control is really an illusion.  Technology has enabled people to access information from anywhere, anytime, at a rapid pace.  Instead of trying to control the information flows,  it is better to channel it approriately.  Employees today are being asked to do more with less, and the business climate has forced companies to prioritize investments in technology choices.   Align the technology with business models fostering employee and customer empowerment, and an organization’s culture can become its greatest asset if allowed to flourish and prosper in alignment of these business goals.

Collaboration is no longer just about processes and technology.  It cannot be, as the speed of information and available choices in business-to-business and consumer buying behaviors has forced organizations to evolve or lose market share.  Certainly each organization has to tailor its culture to maximize its business model, but to compete at a global level, you need to unleash your greatest asset; your people, empower them by establishing a open culture devoid of roadblocks and bureaucracy. Give them the atmosphere to create, innovate, and share information openly.  This cultural shift of empowerment has to come from every level of the organization.  It must be communicated from the CEO all the way down.  Foster and reward that culture of empowerment and you will see how your company becomes the “Empowered Enterprise”.

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One response to “Collaboration has changed….are YOU Ready for the “Empowered Enterprise”?

  1. Pingback: Agile Project Collaboration Roundup – Six Articles Worth Reading | Goshido

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