Driving Collaborative Decision Making

By Diana Mirakaj Print this article Print

The concept of collaborative decision making is frequently employed as a catchall that includes everything from face-to-face communication to knowledge management to coordinating partnerships.

Collaborative decision making is a descendent of the broader concept of a virtual workspace, in which potentially disparate teams can come together to access a common work environment, post and share supporting information, and communicate in real time to solve problems. This virtual workspace equates to a combination of the model itself and three key levels of collaboration.

Level 1. Direct collaboration refers to the discussion of issues in real time, using tools such as e-mail, instant messaging and notification services. These discussions are meant to facilitate dialogue between decision-makers or to solve a specific problem. For example, an implementation consultant may need to establish which technology standards are in place through a direct question-and-answer session with members of the client team.

Level 2. Model-level collaboration happens when more than one team member contributes to any individual model. This occurs quite frequently, such as when analysts require supervision and input from managers, or individual models span multiple skill areas or business units. A good example of model-level collaboration is a supply-chain process model, in which demand planners, plant managers and supply planners come together to diagram an end-to-end flow of how a manufacturer plans and executes its supply chain.

This level of collaboration includes model check-in/check-out, version control, change tracking and model comparison/merge activities. It can also include aspects of document/knowledge management to help teams share knowledge that supports their decisions in the model. In addition, model-level collaboration can act as a gateway to direct collaboration, for example, when an inconsistency between two versions of a model is discovered and the team collaborates to determine which version is correct.

Level 3. Alignment-level collaboration represents the highest level of collaboration. It is driven by the necessity to cross white spaces to align multiple models. Effective business-technology management spans business modeling, process optimization and technology automation, and, as a result, includes a variety of stakeholders with unique areas of modeling responsibility.

To cross these disciplines, team members often negotiate to come to a shared decision. This may involve a prolonged, robust exchange of information that includes elements of both direct and model-level collaboration. To facilitate back-and-forth exchange, team members use a mini-impact analysis of sorts. In this case, each side develops multiple scenarios until they reach an acceptable compromise: For example, analysts from two business units may compare process models and establish standards for enterprise processes.

The three levels of collaboration can occur both vertically (within a single business unit or team) and horizontally (across multiple business units or teams). In vertical collaboration, the focus is on pervasive integration of well-defined team members and processes in order to share knowledge and improve efficiency.

Horizontal collaboration, on the other hand, requires employees to identify and analyze important developments in their own work environment, and then to pass these along through free-form interactions to whomever is best equipped to act on them. This is the foundation for an integrated organization that recognizes broad trends and shares them across business lines to provide opportunities elsewhere.

Diana Mirakaj is the chief marketing officer of BTM Corporation. BTM innovates new business models and enhances financial performance by converging business and technology with its products and intellectual property. © 2010 BTM Corporation | info@btmcorporation.com

This article was originally published on 2010-06-28

Diana Mirakaj is the chief marketing officer at BTM Corporation.

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