Fostering High-Value Collaboration

Hat tip to Accenture for its research published this week on Fostering High-Value Collaboration, which points out that collaboration is highly valued by managers, employees and investors – but is not necessarily productive:

“Collaboration may never appear on a corporate balance sheet but it directly affects enterprise valuation…but not all collaboration adds value.”

The research defines four types of collaboration, and applies Social Network Analysis techniques with some interesting results. The aim is to help managers identify and encourage collaborations that are likely to yield fruit for the organization.

We’ll all recognize its description of ‘the specter of collaboration overload’, where people find themselves inundated with requests for collaboration. And its advice that managers need to be clear that collaboration can be expensive and too easily consume time and attention.

So, effective collaboration is the goal, which further reinforces the value of an enterprise-wide collaborative framework based on four pillars:

(1) it uses the language of business process

– not an artificial construct owned by IT or some process cognoscenti but the day-to-day business reality

(2) it’s holistic

– end-to-end processes, not process fragments. A joined-up view of the enterprise: everything, not just what’s automated, and including risks and business controls management; a single repository that meets the needs of all the stakeholders, especially IT to avoid competing business vs IT definitions of the operational reality. And it has master/draft/scenario capabilities that enable the modeling of change within the same process framework.

(3) it’s real

– the operational reality, the DNA of the business, integrating process with real-time KPI metrics and training, and deployed to every desktop as a personalised intelligent operations manual: ‘the way we do things here’.

(4) it’s governed

– with a robust but easy-to-use governance framework that underpins every aspect of compliance and risk management. It’s not built to last, but to evolve – which is the key to its sustainability.

A collaborative framework of this kind – which is not utopian but already being implemented by global leaders in BPM such as Nestle, Cisco and Chevron – won’t meet all collaboration needs. But for most purposes it will ensure effective collaboration, the kind most likely to yield for the organization the sweetest fruit of all – sustainable operational excellence.

Mike Gammage is VP and Principal Consultant at Nimbus Partners. Mike has worked in performance improvement consulting, and more recently the BPM space, for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in the overlap between two very dynamic worlds: BPM and perfomance improvement (the drive across all industries to standardise, improve and automate) and sourcing and the virtualisation of the enterprise (the drive to create more flexible and lower-cost service solutions through outsourcing, offshoring and shared services). In either case, Mike believes the enterprise needs a single source of truth about its end-to-end business processes, as well as a framework for the design and implementation of change. It also needs to connect the end-user and all other stakeholders to ensure the adoption of change. These are the keys to sustainable transformation and continuous improvement.