Chief Collaboration Officer? Doh!

In a well argued article in Harvard Business Review, Who Should be Your Chief Collaboration Officer? Morten T. Hansen and Scott Tapp argues that collaboration across silos is critical. We agree.

They are not suggesting that it is another highly paid exec, but one of the existing execs CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CTO should pick up the role.

I think this is starting a great debate, but possibly pointing everyone to look in the wrong place to find an answer. Collaboration across silos will need to happen at every level in the organisation, particularly at the lowest levels. Yes there needs to be a champion. But there needs to be a way of delegating ownership down the organisation.

Now, simply telling people to collaborate will not work. People need to see how and where collaboration or interaction between departments takes place. Sadly, most of this is in people’s head or the ether. In well managed organisations it is documented in a process model which is up to date and actually used by staff as a guide.

The difficultly is the last highlighted part of the sentence. Documenting it in Visio, Powerpoint, burying it in a vast MSWord document, using some complex process mapping terminology (BPEL, BPMN), or hard coded as webpages IS NOT going to cut it. But this is an approach used in 80% of organisations – who btw recognise it is not working.

It is not working in today’s business environment which requires that content to be i) auditable, ii) easily updated iii) understood and accessed by everyone.

Interesting question: Who maintains Wikipedia?

Ans: We all do.

More important question: Why?

Ans: Because we care about the content.

Question: Can process content management be like that?

Ans: It is

So I applaud the HBR article, because it highlights the need to raise the importance of collaboration to the C-suite. But collaboration is the means not the end. If you want a CxO person, let’s lobby for a Chief Performance Officer who is the champion for the project to implement effective process and metrics managed throughout the organisation. Collaboration will then happen naturally.

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Ian Gotts is CEO and Chairman of Nimbus Partners, an established and rapidly growing global software company, headquartered in the UK. He is a very experienced senior executive and serial entrepreneur, with a career spanning 25 years. Ian has co-authored a number of books including “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”, published in English and Chinese and in its second edition, "Why Killer Products Don't Sell" and books covering Cloud computing from the perspective of both the prospective buyer, and the software vendor. Having begun his career in 1983 as an engineer for British Rail, Ian then spent 12 years at Accenture (nee Andersen Consulting) specialising in the project management of major business critical IT projects. During this time, he spent two years as an IT Director, seconded to the Department for Social Security (DSS), with a department of over 500 and a budget responsibility of 40 million pounds.