Building a Thriving Collaborative WorkplaceBy Samuel Greengard Print
Creating a collaborative workplace that delivers benefits to both employers and employees requires a clear strategy, transparent goals and the right tech tools.
Collaboration has always been a key to business success. It's virtually impossible for an organization to build products and services—and achieve outstanding results—without people working with other people. However, in today's high-stakes business environment, effective collaboration is critical.
"Collaboration is happening within organizations, whether it was planned or not," observes Jason Warnke, managing director for enterprise social collaboration at consulting firm Accenture. "The key is to harness the power of collaboration and bring it 'online' for the benefit of the larger organization."
The task, as business and IT leaders acknowledge, is daunting. The goal, Warnke says, is to "digitize the collaboration and relationships that happen every day, across partners, clients and an extended ecosystem. Evolving business models demand different ways of communicating, and they change the way people undertake work, measure value and connect."
This, in turn, requires an enterprise to step beyond a classic IT framework and build "organic"— and at times spontaneous—connection points for communities, whether a task involves two people or 2,000. "Savvy digital organizations see this as an opportunity to share and gain insights that can improve organizational agility, increase productivity, aid decision making and spark idea generation," Warnke explains.
How can business and IT leaders navigate this environment effectively and achieve maximum results? Sean O'Driscoll, a principal and partner at consulting firm PwC, says that it's all about creating impact and value through a shared context.
This requires the right mix of technology and the right set of business processes and workflows. "Collaboration and social functions are now an essential component to any and every business function," he points out.
Integrating a Collaboration Strategy
Boosting organizational agility, productivity and decision-making capabilities is at the center of a collaboration strategy for WeddingWire, an online service that helps couples plan their wedding, track their budget, and find the products and services necessary to create a perfect day.
The company has tightly integrated Salesforce.com with Chatter, Adobe E-Sign and Slack so that the firm's 650 full-time employees (up from only about two dozen in 2010) can interact at the speed of digital business. It also relies on Google Chat and Gmail, as well as Yesware.com, an email tracking service, to automatically slot messages into Salesforce for later reference.
"Today, every department is affected by every decision," says Christopher Chi, director of sales operations. "The entire organization has to be in sync, and it also has to be connected to customers and business partners.
In fact, the firm has integrated E-Sign with Salesforce so that sales reps can build contracts and pricing, sign agreements with vendors and later view the information (including the terms of purchase) in an instant. The workflow ensures that all contracts are signed and that appropriate staff members have access to the documents when and where they are needed, including on mobile devices.
In the past, the sales staff faxed documents back and forth—a process that required hours or days and could lead to errors. Chi says the digital collaboration framework saves a typical employee more than seven minutes a day. "We are able to operate faster and better while boosting employee and customer satisfaction rates," he says.
Opportunities Expand Exponentially
As mobility and cloud computing have taken shape, opportunities to use real-time communication and collaboration have expanded exponentially, and the ability to interact anytime and from anywhere has become a critical component.
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