“The fundamental driver of our success at Virgin has, and will always be, our people working together. To be successful in business, and in life, you need to connect and collaborate.”
Sir Richard Branson; Inc.Magazine
Outstanding accomplishments are often the result of bringing together expertise and collaborating toward a common goal, big or small. Putting a man on the moon took over 400,000 people working together. The Large Hadron Collider was a collaborative effort of 10,000 scientists and hundreds of universities over a decade. In the business world, time allocated to collaborative activities has grown steadily in the past decades.
In the 1960’s Harvard Business Review reported that executives were spending 3.7 hours per week in meetings, the epicenter of corporate collaboration. In the 1970’s, that number had doubled. By the end of the 1990’s, the typical manager was spending anywhere between 25 to 80 percent of their time in meetings. Today, most knowledge workers spend 85% of their time in a given week on email, in meetings and on the phone.
So if organizations understand their success is closely tied to the employees’ ability to connect with people across their value network, and work together in order to achieve a common goal, what differentiates high-performance companies from low-performance ones? Not long ago, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP) published the brief How to Avoid Collaborative Overload highlighting the findings of a study on collaboration. In the report, the institute addresses four practices than enable greater collaboration while avoiding overload.
Over the next two blog posts, we will review these practices and examine how collaboration platforms can play a key role in supporting them.
Here are the first two practices.
Practice #1 – Provide Time and Workspaces Designed to Collaborate
High-performance organizations are 2.5 times more likely to provide workspaces designed to encourage and facilitate cross-functional project collaboration than low-performance ones.
The idea is to bring people from different functions side-by-side with the intended result of sharing knowledge and building relationships. What if unforeseen circumstances (such as the current pandemic) or costs made it difficult to remodel your existing office or bring people together in the same physical space?
Platforms such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform provide a range of collaborative capabilities that can make a big difference. I4CP’s research found that high-performance organizations are 1.5 times more likely to adopt technology platforms that connect workers and allow for better collaboration. A collaborative platform facilitates more flexibility – you can create an infinite number of digital spaces and the setup cost is immaterial. A collaboration platform can also instantly connect workers together even if they are in different geographical locations.
High-performance organizations are 3.5 times more likely to ensure employees have the time they need to collaborate.
Collaboration platforms have an intrinsic asynchronous quality, making them ideal for global value chains (and their participants) spread across 24 time zones. In a sense, these platforms enable collaboration over time without the requirement of having every single contributor available at the same time. Of course, online collaboration never quite provides the same level of intimacy as being in the same room or office with your colleagues, but with upcoming telepresence technologies, the in-person vs. virtual gap is getting smaller.
Practice #2 – Groups Formed Based on Expertise
High-performance organizations are 2 times more likely to ensure that collaborations are based on business needs or goals.
Imagine that you are leader of a new cutting-edge project and you need to recruit a team of five people with a mix of different functional expertise. You would likely include a couple of people from your previous team and maybe invite a few individuals based on your boss’ recommendation. What if you could have searched for the desired skills and expertise across your entire organization, instantly identifying and selecting people offering the best expertise and deepest experience? What if you could explore the digital contribution of these individuals to past projects? You would be able to put together a team with the required expertise that is fully aligned with the business needs and goals.
Robust collaboration platforms allow people to build a digital profile similar to the one you may have on LinkedIn with your skills, experience, interests, etc. Collaboration platforms act very much as a system of record, keeping safe your organization’s know-how. You could review individual contributions to groups of interests (i.e. communities) or previous projects. Such platform even allow you to connect with people directly, creating a highly fluid and rich collaboration with someone who may reside halfway across the world. The result: a group of individuals with the best expertise available are collaborating in one continuous cycle.
High-performance companies are 1.7 times more likely to establish technology platforms that connect workers and allow for better collaboration.
What if on Day 1 of your new assignment, you could invite all of stakeholders into a digital space and share all there is to know on this project: goals, business presentations, technical bulletins, models, past financial results, list of approved suppliers, etc. On Day 2, you could get the team fully engaged using an interactive application to manage your collaborative meeting? On Day 3, you could start iterating on a plan guiding your team’s execution. The result: a group fully engaged via a collaboration platform – a real-time, single source of truth – that ensures complete transparency and accuracy to all stakeholders.
Click here to read Connecting and Collaborating: Part 2 where we have a look at the last two practices offered by The Institute for Corporate Productivity: Freedom to Shift Work and Roles that Drive Collaboration. For more details, see the report How to Avoid Collaborative Overload.