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“Business Applications and Collaboration Platforms Should Be Linked”

May 27, 2010

That phrase stood out like a beacon for me in the Social Media: Cultivate Collaboration and Innovation whitepaper posted yesterday by the Cisco Services Group that referenced the results from a study conducted between April and September 2009 with 97 businesses across 20 countries to understand how organizations use social networking and Web 2.0 tools to collaborate outside traditional organizational boundaries, and along with changes in culture and process, can drive business model innovation. To support that statement, I quote:

Many interviewees attested to the need for social media tools and platforms to integrate seamlessly with an organization’s existing business applications and infrastructure. Currently, certain business applications are automated, so that individual employees can connect to a central system and transmit transactional data back-and-forth. However, this automation is limited because the business applications they routinely navigate are separate from the communication tools they use. For example, an employee relates, “If I’m a sales order entry person or if I’m a support rep or I’m a field engineer you know, I get my job statuses, I get my firm transactional data sent to me and I complete it and I send it back. But how I collaborate with everybody else doing that…is still pretty manual. These are cell phones, emails, instant messaging, SharePoint sites….But it’s not cohesive….We’re looking to create a collaborative platform integrated into our business processes…because you can’t have the two decoupled.

The whitepaper continues:

Business and IT Need to Meet in the Middle

Across the board, respondents recognized that social networking is here to stay. Moreover, the tools and complexity will continue to evolve and influence the way business is conducted. By ignoring this reality, organizations invite potentially harmful consequences.

However, instead of falling vulnerable to such breaches and disruptions, organizations can actually empower themselves to new levels of innovation by integrating these tools into the enterprise. The researchers’ conversations with study participants illuminated the following trends:

  • Increased integration of various collaboration tools is shaping the evolution of delivery channels.
  • Organizations are becoming more transparent.
  • More meaningful connections are being cultivated with key audiences outside the enterprise.

But as the business-minded rush to chart new opportunities, mounting evidence suggests that they need IT on their side. To unleash maximum potential, business and IT must work together to refine social networks, so that they are secure, integrate into corporate information systems, and support work processes to deliver business results. It’s not just business and technology though. Management needs to view collaborative social networking differently. They must oversee the adoption process and change culture to achieve positive results.

And concludes with:

Balance Is Paramount

Research indicates that savvy companies will recognize the role of technology as they finesse their social media strategies. The goal is to design a collaborative IT architecture which mitigates the risks inherent to social networking, while also enabling people-centric environments where technologies accelerate real-time interactions, not impede them. In the end, organizations need to understand the relationship between business, process, culture, and technology, and how each area can catalyze collaboration to drive optimal performance and business success.

While the whitepaper uses the term “social networking” to connote what I tend to think of as “community,” I found the following value map to be quite affirming for the high level business value that that I believe can result from the use of such tools.

Perceived Value of Social Networking Tools Along the Value Chain

Business Function Social Networking Applications
Customer relationship
management (CRM)
• Listen to customer concerns
• Support/solve problems
• Education/spread best practices
• Transfer support tasks to community
Human resources (HR) • Promote company among potential employees
• Identify/gather information on job candidates
• Train employees
• Tap into pool of “passive” job seekers via professional social networks (e.g., LinkedIn, Xing, and Viadeo)
Supply relationship
management (SRM)
• Add social layer to supply chain management
• Build purchasing coalitions
• Hire “virtual” contractors
Product development/innovation • Solicit ideas, opinions, and feedback to incorporate them into existing and/or new products and services
Service delivery • Enhance collaboration on projects and service engagements
• Co-create/share knowledge
• Collaborate on documentation

However, I had to laugh at #8 in the list of suggestions quoted below though I wholeheartedly agree with the rest. You should call it collaboration not because it’s less risk, but because it’s the broader and more strategic goal that your organization should strive to achieve. I’ll need to ping my colleagues in the Cisco Services Group to make sure that they read and agree with my Collaboration 2.0: New Old Thing, Next Big Thing – Prelude post! 🙂

10 Ways IT Can Promote Collaboration

  1. Open up the firewall to Facebook and LinkedIn.
  2. Add photos to directories—seeing a face helps people remember.
  3. Document use cases and distribute them to aid adoption.
  4. Build a solid strategy around it and guide people step by step.
  5. Don’t alienate different generations.
  6. Make clear what’s available, who should use which tools, and which audiences to target.
  7. Understand the behaviors of groups that are using social media. Understand the culture. Understand that it’s not technology-driven—it’s social.
  8. Don’t call it social media. Call it collaboration; it’s less risky.
  9. Educate ourselves. Ask kids.
  10. Don’t over-engineer. Let the organism grow.

Key success factor for Enterprise 2.0: Finding new roles for middle management

May 26, 2010

[This is a repost and minor update from a blog entry I had posted almost a year ago, but I believe that it rings even more true today.]

Yes, I said it. And here’s why.

A couple of days ago, I posted the following tweet:

Disintermediation Brought to You by Lance Amstrong (by @jtwinsor) [“Celebrity 2.0” authenticity over fakery/posery!]

Then I came across the “What Will Social Networking Displace?” blog entry by @lauriemccabe, which triggered another tweet from me:

Social&collaborative media can tear down political/religious/cultural/organizational walls that ppl in power r fighting hard to preserve.

I felt so strongly about it that I posted two more tweets:

Social media disintermediating PR agencies on Web; collaborative media disintermediating middle mgmt within enterprise. Runners > hurdles!

“Cross group collab” perennially ranks low in employee surveys (at least at Microsoft). IMHO, problem is middle mgmt.

And then I saw the following blog entries, all of which attempt to differentiate the challenges and impact of social computing on the Web against those of collaborative computing within the enterprise.

Although these guys made some very valid points, and I have the utmost respect for their perspectives, I believe that they missed the biggest issue of all in terms of the primary challenge for successful Enterprise 2.0 implementations, which is succinctly described in the following blog entry:

Essentially, the primary challenge comes down to people, and there are 4 types involved in any given Enterprise 2.0 project:

1. The software vendor’s sales and support personnel

2. The consultants (who could also be from the software vendor) who help design and implement the solution

3. The organization’s personnel (usually IT), who provision and manage the solution

4. The organization’s personnel (usually LOB), who use the solution

Hence, and I quote:

The secret to sniffing out a rotten enterprise software implementation is recognizing these groups and identifying how well their interests are aligned. In successful implementations, all the key players have complimentary goals and objectives. In failed implementations, these groups are working at cross-purposes, if not actively trying to sabotage each other.

I could end this blog entry right here [even more so now that I’ve posted the The Collaboration Framework’s Organizational Enablers: People and Culture entry], but I haven’t directly addressed the provocative subject of why I believe that finding new roles for middle management is a key success factor for Enterprise 2.0. Okay, here me out. While management in the most generic sense is “simply the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals,” middle management “is a layer of management in an organization whose primary job responsibility is to monitor activities of subordinates while reporting to upper management.” And just like how social media and other Web 2.0 technologies have enabled Lance Armstrong to bypass the middle management (e.g. PR firms, talent management agencies, news makers) that has stood between him and the general public, Enterprise 2.0 technologies enable people who are doing the “real” work within organizations to bypass their middle management and connect and collaborate with each other directly as well as update and engage upper management directly. By cutting out middle management, the savings are not only in the salaries of those individuals but also in the time and energy expended by their subordinates and upper management to interact with them. Yes, middle management is the tangible overhead in many organizations that Enterprise 2.0 can eliminate!

Of course, no one likes losing their jobs. Without a preemptive plan to find new roles for middle management personnel who will ultimately be displaced, they will undoubtedly do everything they can to jeopardize the success of the project because self-preservation is a powerful human instinct that’s driven by pain and fear. Similar to ERP and CRM projects in the past, Enterprise 2.0 projects have as much, if not a lot more, impact on an organization’s personnel, especially those in middle management. Hence, every Enterprise 2.0 project should include “finding new roles for middle management” as a key success factor.

What new roles can former middle managers play in an organization optimized (or transformed) by Enterprise 2.0? Well, that’s going to take a whole other blog entry, so bear with me while I find time to write it. In the meantime, I would love to get your feedback on what I’ve posted above.

[Update: I received some feedback from Christian Buckley via Facebook:

Great post, but I have one issue with your conclusion — that the primary role of middle management is doing nothing more than pushing paper, chasing status reports. If managers provide no value, then yes, cuts should be made. But what is often lost is the human factor — large, flat organizations (look at Google, for example) have notoriously poor employee sat numbers, because there is very little manager-to-direct interaction. On the contrary, the best-performing and, arguably, happiest teams are the ones where there are strong manager/employee relationships. Can one Director do that with 30 reports? Nope. But can it be done with a robust collaboration platform? Still nope.

To which I replied:

Thx for the feedback. I was referring to the middle management “overhead” in most large organizations where managers have fewer than 7 to 8 direct reports. The “magic number” of DRs may differ in different organizations, but I do agree with you that having 30 DRs is not healthy or sustainable. Nevertheless, I still believe that Enterprise 2.0 technologies can reduce the need for traditional middle management roles, so managers can spend less time managing and more time coaching, leading, and contributing.


[Update 2: Just saw this insightful blog entry by Trevor Gay, which makes the point that “the manager is dead – long live the coach” and partially affirms my thesis about how middle management must evolve beyond just managing. I quote the relevant excerpts below:

Nowadays the subordinate person who was previously ‘managed’ by their boss is in possession of as much information as the boss – thanks to the internet. The implications for managers are simple and obvious. If the manager is to retain that ‘higher place’ in the pecking order he/she will need to illustrate what is the added value he/she brings. And ‘many years in the job’ is not the right answer.

I advocate embracing the new challenge and see your role as a coach of talent. The manager with experience and qualifications should be in a position to impart that knowledge and encourage the people in the team. I see less hierarchy and more teamwork where the coach has the job of keeping all the team members happy, fulfilled, motivated, stretched and enthusiastic. This will require development of new and existing skills. The alternative is to watch frontline employees take your space in the organisational chart.

Peter Drucker said “90% of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.” In the new world of management I see frontline employees being in control of their own workload and calling upon the coach for advice when they need it. Customer expectations are increasing because the customer is more informed. Frontline workers must be at least one step ahead of the customer in order to meet that expectation. The customer of the future will be more demanding. To be left waiting for an answer while the frontliner goes through various layers of management to solve simple problems will not be acceptable.

We have to find ways of ‘letting go’ of the perceived power managers currently have. The best way to gain power is to let go of power. Frontline employees are more than capable of creating their own working practices and project teams with the ‘support’ of the coach rather than the ‘direction’ of a manager.

And here’s a related blog entry by Domenic Certa about how to go from being just a “good” coach to an “amazing” coach.


Recommended Reading: The Art of Community (book)

May 20, 2010

This may be old news to some of you, but I’ve just recently discovered this book and felt that it’s just too good not to share (again). If you are a Community Manager, Community Advocate, Social Media Enthusiast, or merely fascinated by the dynamics of online communities, this is a must-read book for you. Mashable had the same conclusion when they reviewed the book back in December, 2009.

The book was authored by Jono Bacon, who’s the Community Manager for Ubuntu, one of the largest open source software projects in the world. It’s a hefty 357 page volume that contains countless nuggets of insightful context and prescriptive guidance. And incredibly, the entire book is available not only as a free download but with a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, which means that its contents can be shared and remixed based on proper attribution, non-commercial usage, and share-alike licensing. In a keen sense, the author and publisher are “walking the talk” by contributing the book to the global community at large and encouraging others to chime in.

I could write at least a dozen blog entries to highlight the numerous key passages from the book, but I know that I just don’t have enough free time to do so effectively. So, I will simply repost an excerpt from the 1st chapter of the book, which resonated so well with my own views about the fundamental virtues that are essential to sustaining a vibrant community. Based on my experience in managing a worldwide community (for Microsoft SharePoint) and in consulting with many organizations (large and small), I would assert that no community can be successful long-term without a clear understanding of the basic concepts excerpted below. And please don’t stop reading when you get to the end of this blog entry; continue on with the rest of the book!

The Essence of Community

On February 26, 2004, three friends and I released the first episode of a new audio show called LugRadio ( Although LugRadio will be featured extensively in this book as a source of stories, all you really need to know about it right now is that (a) it was a loose and fun audio show (a podcast) about open source and free culture, (b) on that day it was entirely new, and (c) we had absolutely no idea what on earth we were doing. Radio personalities across the world were not exactly shaking in their boots.

Recorded in a very small room that I called a studio, but was actually a bedroom filled with secondhand recording equipment, LugRadio involved my three compadres and me opining into four precariously balanced microphones that fed into a computer. Episode 1 was around half an hour long, composed of bad jokes and a book review, and totally unpolished. At the time, it was just new and different. (Little did we know that four years later we would wrap up the show having achieved over two million downloads.) Anyway, enough of the self-congratulatory back-patting and back to the story….

With the show out, we did what many of us in the open source world do—we set up forums, wikis, and channels, and tried to get people together around our new project. The forums went online first (, and people started joining.

The 22nd member was a guy called Ben Thorp, known as mrben on the forums. An Englishman living in Scotland, mrben was an open source enthusiast who stumbled onto the forums, listened to the show, and liked what he heard. For the four years that LugRadio lasted, mrben was there every single day: in total contributing over 3,000 posts; involving himself in the chat channel, the wiki, and the organization of the live events; running an episode download mirror; and much more. mrben was there every step of the way, loving every second of it.

The first question is—why? Why does a 30-something Engli-Scot decide to immerse himself so deeply in a group of people he has never met before? What is it that makes him want to spend time away from his friends and family to contribute to a radio show performed by four
strangers in a different country? Why would he want to contribute to something with seemingly no financial, career, or other conventional benefit to him?

A cynic could argue that mrben is some kind of socially challenged nerd who can only communicate with other similarly socially inept nerds. Conventional wisdom sometimes argues that anyone who contributes their time freely to something that could not benefit them financially is weird. This was clearly not the case with Ben. He had a job, a wife, and a child. He went to church regularly. When I had the pleasure of socializing with him, I found him a fun, smart, and entertaining part of the group. In fact, at two of the live events, he was a guest in my home. Social deviation was clearly not the answer, or if it was, he hid it well.

The reason why Ben was so involved in LugRadio, why Neil ran the Linux User Group meeting, and why thousands of other community members around the world get together, comes down to one simple word: belonging.

By definition, a community is a collection of people (or animals) who interact together in the same environment. Community exists everywhere in nature. From people to penguins, from monkeys to meerkats, the vast majority of organisms exhibit some form of collective grouping. Grouping, however, is a touch simplistic as a means to describe community. It is not merely the group that generates community, but the interactions within it. These interactions, and the feeling of belonging that they produce, are generated from a distinctive kind of economy: a social economy.

Building Belonging into the Social Economy

At this point in our journey, it is clear that belonging is our goal. It is that nine-letter word that you should write out in large letters and stick on your office wall. It is that word that should be at the forefront of your inspiration behind building strong community. If there is no belonging, there is no community.

From the outset, though, belonging is an abstract concept. We all seemingly understand it, but many of us struggle to describe it in words. I identify belonging pragmatically: as the positive outcome of a positive social economy. In the same way that we judge a strong financial economy by prosperity, wealth, and a quality standard of living, belonging is the reward of a strong social economy.

An economy is a set of shared concepts and processes that grow and change in an effort to generate a form of capital. In a financial economy, participants put goods and services on the market to generate financial capital. The processes and techniques they use include measuring sales, strategic marketing, enabling ease of access, and so forth. A social economy is the same thing—but we are the product, and the capital is respect and trust. The processes and techniques here are different—open communications mediums, easy access to tools, etc.—but the basic principles are the same.

Social capital is known by us all, but we know it by many different words: kudos, respect, goodwill, trust, celebrity, influence, supremacy, greatness, and leverage, to name a few.

The first known use of the term “social capital” (referred to in Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community [Simon & Schuster]) was by L. J. Hanifan, a school supervisor in rural Virginia. Hanifan described social capital as “those tangible substances [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit….”

Social capital is the collective family of positive interactions between two or more people. When you affect someone positively, it builds your social capital. This could include being generous, helping someone, sympathizing over a problem, or something else. Hanifan identifies the opportunity behind social capital:

  • The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself…. If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors.

The meat in Hanifan’s description is the opportunity for social capital to “bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community.” In essence, if a member of your community has a positive approach to another member, her social capital grows, which has a positive impact on that person and the community as a whole. It all sounds a lot like karma, and it is.

Of course, capital, whether monetary or social, is not the end game. People don’t make money for the purposes of just having money: they make money because it allows them to do other things.

This is an important aspect of understanding where an economy starts and ends. Most folks riding the financial economy are not purely greedy numbers freaks who just want a big pot of money; most people who work with social capital are not merely air-kissing, hand-wavey, superficial animals who simply want to name-drop and be name-dropped in the interests of social acceptance. Of course, the greedy and the socially obsessed do exist, but it is important not to use them as a basis for judgment. The economy is not flawed; those people are flawed.

A final point: for an economy to work, every participant needs to believe in the economy. Belief is a critical component in how any group of people or animals functions. This can be belief in God, belief in values, or belief in a new future. Whatever the core belief is, the economy and the community can be successful only if everyone has faith in it.

So let’s have a quick recap:

  • A sense of belonging is what keeps people in communities. This belonging is the goal of community building. The hallmark of a strong community is when its members feel that they belong.
  • Belonging is the measure of a strong social economy. This economy’s currency is not the money that you find in your wallet or down the back of your couch, but is social capital.
  • For an economy and community to be successful, the participants need to believe in it. If no one believes in the community that brings them together, it fails.
  • Like any other economy, a social economy is a collection of processes that describe how something works and is shared between those who participate.
  • These processes, and the generation of social capital, which in turn generates belonging, needs to be effectively communicated.

The Collaboration Framework’s Organizational Enablers: Technology (3 of 3)

May 19, 2010

This is the third and final of a series of posts in which I describe the Collaboration Framework’s organizational enablers – (1) people and culture, (2) process and governance, and (3) technology – required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration.

I intentionally put technology as the last topic because too many organizations focus on technology before having diligently assessed the people/culture and process/governance challenges of an enterprise collaboration initiative. I couldn’t agree more with Gartner’s recent prediction, “Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.” Given that enterprise collaboration initiatives are typically broader and more strategic than social media initiatives, the risk and impact of failure are likely even greater.

Once again, I will excerpt much from the “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One” report because frankly, I couldn’t have written the following any better:

Members commented on the wide scope of technology decisions they must make for their organizations to embrace collaboration along the collaboration evolution curve, such as what specific collaboration tools will be used; how they will be introduced, sequenced, scaled, and evaluated; and how they will integrate with an organization’s legacy systems—i.e., supply chain or ERP. For example, one senior IT executive expressed the challenge of scaling up globally a set of technologies for groups of 40,000 to 50,000 employees. Such decisions impact the full “technology stack,” from the network layer to the application layer, including the development process from top-level strategy to foundational infrastructure design, to prototyping, and so on. Decisions also must take into account both user and IT requirements, such as mobility, security, personalization, document management, and retention and archive policies, to mention only a few.

IT executives mentioned that much of the benefit expected from “new collaboration” rests on technology and the assumption that technology will be available when and where it is needed. Business leaders should be aware that this is a nontrivial assumption in a more open and distributed organization, especially in a global enterprise. Placing all the necessary tools, solutions, and services where they will be needed globally can be a major challenge. Collaboration may allow or require employees to work from home on flexible schedules or while in transit, requiring access to technologies both within and external to the traditional workplace. This access also covers partners, suppliers, and customers who share information and/or collaborate on a regular basis.

Depending on an organization’s place on the collaboration evolution curve, implementing collaboration technologies can be as fast as installing a server in a sandbox environment to test and learn from the technology use, or as challenging as scaling up an integrated communication solution across the globe. Although it is not rocket science, in most cases, implementing collaboration technologies requires significant effort and resources. The good news is that other organizations have blazed a trail and have best practices and lessons learned to share.


Selection Process

When defining a collaboration technology strategy, members stressed the importance of having a well-defined approach to the following set of questions about the technology selection process:

  • Is there a plan that outlines the sequence of collaboration technologies to deploy?
  • What is the selection process the organization will use?
  • How will the organization scale the technology across the organization?

In the investigative phase of collaboration, an organization may have developed a limited, local plan to deploy a technology on a small scale, but may not address how it should scale for organization-wide use. In later phases, a systematic approach and plan is required to deploy and scale individual technologies or solutions for use within existing or new business processes. Part of the selection effort requires verification that the individual technologies will actually scale to meet enterprise-wide requirements. The initial testing and experimentation, as well as other vendor and reference resources, help to identify any limitations. Providing a separate sandbox environment to allow IT and business functions to experiment with new technologies, without production constraints and regulations, has proven extremely useful to members that have used this approach.

After the collaboration priorities are identified and impact zones have been analyzed, an organization must then consider what technologies to apply to the business process to capture business value. Technology decisions should be aligned with the prioritization and outcomes from the collaboration impact zone analysis to ensure that technology investments are being applied to the areas having the greatest impact.


Another key issue raised by members is whether the technology strategy addresses the integration required between the collaboration tools and legacy systems, specifically:

  1. Have the key touch points to integrate collaboration with key business applications been identified (e.g., linkages with ERP and other application databases)?
  2. Are open standards being used to create future options for integration?

The early experimentation conducted by the majority of members rarely involved integrated solutions; more often than not, it consisted of single-technology deployments, used for a single task to boost individual productivity. However, most members identified the mashup of collaboration and other technologies—ones that are easy to use and can be applied to workflows to address a business problem to create higher business value—as a very complex challenge in the future. That level of integration is required and pursued by several IT organizations to ensure that the right information is at the right place and at the right time—resulting in reduced cycle time and increased employee productivity. Although members did not go into great detail, many felt that open standards are required to achieve this objective.

The following examples describe how two member organizations created integrated solutions and applied them to business processes as part of their evolution to the performance phase.

  • RAND Corporation. As part of a structured approach to defining a collaboration vision and strategy, the role of the Information Services and Technology (IST) department at RAND is to identify how collaboration enables RAND’s business priorities. RAND felt that its top priority for collaboration was its research business process; RAND’s collaboration vision was to deliver the best quality research by connecting people with expertise across the organization. Two technology components were deemed critical for RAND to realize this vision: (1) integrate collaboration and legacy technologies so that researchers can access the necessary information from a common gateway to save time and money; and (2) develop an expertise locator through a mashup of technologies. RAND is just
    beginning this collaboration effort, which will first be tested with smaller research teams and then scaled throughout the organization.
  • Cisco. Within the sales organization of Cisco’s U.S. and Canada theater, the company faced the challenge that specialists in advanced technologies were unable to scale their expertise to meet account team and customer demands, resulting in either a longer sales cycle or missed sales opportunities. To address this business problem, the Specialist, Optimization, Access, and Results (SOAR) program was established to optimize the deployment of specialists by leveraging virtual tools and Web 2.0 technologies in their day-today sales process. The solution included self-help tools, including a reference database and a WebEx Connect Community to answer the simpler questions; video to effectively deliver virtual product demos on a regular basis; and an expertise locator with remote collaboration capabilities to enable high-value interactions between the specialists, account teams, and customers. The result was a 45 percent increase in specialist interactions with customers, a 9–14 percent specialist productivity increase, and an increased margin of US$50 million from reducing the sales cycle.


The last aspect of the technology element of the framework is the requirement for a solid technical foundation to support scalability, mobility, security, and other requirements for new collaboration and rich media technologies. Members stressed that having a well-documented technology architecture is definitely required to ensure the organization’s collaboration technical readiness. They also stressed the importance of being ready to assess whether infrastructure upgrades are necessary to support new or expanding collaboration capabilities (e.g., increase in bandwidth/storage, expanded extranet connectivity, network intelligence) and of working well ahead of demand by having a plan in place to address any gaps, given lag time of deployment, especially on a global scale.

To achieve the transformational phase, a collaboration technical architecture should support both existing and new innovative business processes. If any gaps exist, a plan to address these gaps for both existing and emerging innovative business processes must be documented and incorporated into the collaboration strategy. !ese infrastructure dependencies can become critical priorities to enabling new business opportunities.


The consensus among members is that the technology component of the Collaboration Framework—including the architecture, selection process, integration capability, and infrastructure—must be in place to ensure the successful implementation of an organization’s collaboration strategy. Not every component is required during early experimentation, but they all must eventually be addressed to support a scalable, secure evolution to later phases.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the components of the Collaboration Framework, if you are embarking on an enterprise collaboration initiative or in the midst of one, then you should read Chapter 6: Getting Started as well as the 6 case studies in the Appendix of the “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One” report.

The Collaboration Framework’s Organizational Enablers: Process and Governance (2 of 3)

May 18, 2010

This is the second of a series of posts in which I describe the Collaboration Framework’s organizational enablers – (1) people and culture, (2) process and governance, and (3) technology – required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration.

There is a growing number of consulting companies and would-be consultants offering various new age approaches and fancy models for process and governance under the guise of Enterprise 2.0. Don’t be confused or distracted by them! Focus on aligning your process and governance with your collaboration vision and strategy, and you will have a much greater chance for success.

Once again, I will excerpt much from the “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One” report because frankly, I couldn’t have written the following any better:

When thinking about collaboration strategies and how to implement them, organizations must consider the process, business models, and governance attributes that should be in place to ensure a scalable and successful service offering.


As with all components of the Collaboration Framework, a limited number of these process and governance capabilities may be required in the investigative stage of a collaboration strategy. However, as organizations evolve toward the performance and transformational stages, a complete set of capabilities is required to ensure success.

Business Planning Methodology

While all organizations have formal business planning processes that identify priorities and allocate resources, a key question to address when developing the Collaboration Framework for an organization is whether collaboration capabilities are leveraged in the course of the planning processes. If the answer is no, the company is in the investigative phase and there is an opportunity to initiate a dialogue on the value that collaboration can generate and its relevance to business process performance.

The initial impetus for introducing collaboration in the business planning process varies. For one Consortium member, a group of line executives took the initiative of driving value from collaboration, and their successes were rolled out company-wide by the top leadership team of the company. For another member, the CEO played a key role in placing collaboration at the heart of the company’s new organizational model.

Independent of the starting point, making collaboration an integral input in the business planning process is part of the evolution from the investigative to the transformation phase. In the performance phase, collaboration is included in the planning process for parts of the organization; for organizations that are in or moving toward the transformational phase, collaboration becomes a component in the organization-wide planning process.

Leveraging collaboration as part of the planning process leads to formulating a collaboration strategy and a collaboration framework to operationalize it. These two ingredients are critical for any organization seeking to take full advantage of collaboration capabilities and cross the collaboration chasm.

Organizational Model

When a business planning methodology centered around collaboration is combined with an organizational model that fosters and supports collaboration, an organization is better able to maximize the business value that can be obtained. As collaboration becomes more pervasive throughout an enterprise, successful companies utilize a cross-functional body or other coordinating mechanisms to evolve their collaboration strategy across the company. The implementation and accountability of initiatives, though, should remain with business stakeholders. Two examples come to mind that demonstrate how collaboration has been embedded within an organizational model and its planning functions.

  • Cisco. Over the past eight years, Cisco has evolved from a command-and-control leadership model to a cross-functional collaborative model that uses councils, boards, and working groups for executive decision making, cross-functional alignment, and oversight of business initiatives. This collaborative model is based on three pillars: (1) an organizational structure of councils and boards; (2) an approach to drive business model decisions through vision, strategy, and execution (VSE); and (3) defined market adjacencies to grow new markets and solutions. The cross-functional collaboration model includes an approach, known as C-Change, to document the process and best practices from lessons learned while evolving to this new leadership model. C-Change greatly increases the speed with which cross-functional groups can form, accomplish goals, and then disband when their mission is complete. It provides an effective approach for making decisions, coordinating resources, and tracking accountability. Cisco credits this new model with enabling the company to take on 28 business priorities during the 2009 fiscal year, compared with only two priorities just two years earlier.
  • Wipro. Wipro has a matrixed organization, with industry verticals and lines of service as go-to-market axes. The industry verticals are market–facing, and the service lines provide the functional competencies enabling the verticals. Both organizational axes are critical to meet the demands of customers and their businesses. Collaboration strategies are extensively used to enable Wipro’s matrixed model. Collaboration initiatives are central to how Wipro does business, and they are linked to overall business goals. Collaboration initiatives and business processes are not parallel activities; instead, collaboration initiatives allow Wipro to drive business efficiencies in serving customers. As a result, collaboration is embedded in Wipro’s corporate culture and in its day-to-day work.

Establishing the right organizational model for collaboration requires an executive sponsor, who will champion collaboration among the executive team to support the proposed strategy. Several Consortium members had at least one executive sponsor, frequently a CXO level executive, who championed the collaboration efforts. Often the champion is from IT. However, Consortium members found it most effective when the executive sponsor was from a business function or partnered with IT.

Process Improvement

To ensure success, Consortium members concluded that dedicated resources are required to leverage collaboration in business processes, projects, and programs. For example, members recommend addressing the following two questions: (1) Has the organization made internal services available, such as planning and consulting resources, to provide strategic and tactical assistance to departments and executives? and (2) Is there a client engagement methodology, consulting resources, and a change management methodology to drive business value? The ability to achieve greater business value or to evolve collaboration across an organization is very limited without the resources to assist internal departments or functions. The following examples demonstrate the role played by support resources.

  • Renault. Renault’s transition to global engineering centers spurred the need to use Web 2.0 and new media tools to enable collaboration between employees located in engineering centers and plants around the world. eRoom (an online document-sharing solution) and eConf (a virtual meeting solution) are two key collaboration tools, first launched in 2003–2004, to address this need for globalizing operations. Part of Renault’s collaboration methodology includes an approach to encourage collaboration practices—such as how to manage documents, how to establish communities of practice, and how to share information. The support also includes a consultative group that helps potential users analyze how they currently work together and recommends new work practices enabled by collaboration through eRoom and eConf to improve team effectiveness. With these governance components, the IS team is well positioned to jointly work with business management to formulate an approach to collaboration. While a department’s interest in collaboration often initially starts with a request for eRoom, the consultative group ensures that users get the maximum benefits of collaboration and that the tools are tailored to their business needs.
  • Canada School of Public Service (CSPS). The Centre of Expertise in Communities of Practice (CECP) uses a cost-recovery model to provide the consulting services required to ensure successful community implementations. The consulting services cover the Community of Practice (CoP) Process Model, project management, tools, and approaches. The core components of the CoP Process Model define how to create a community, grow the community, and then expand it to ensure that it has the greatest opportunity to succeed. The CECP team also developed a comprehensive evaluation strategy with standard and customized packages to help government organizations assess the value of their communities and identify areas for improvement. Based on the CECP team’s experience, it could take as little as four weeks to get a virtual community up and running but as long as 12–18 months to build a community that will add value to the business. The results achieved by the CECP team earned them a prestigious gold medal at the 2009 GTEC Distinction Awards for a national effort in the human dimension category. (GTEC is Canada’s Government Technology Event, which brings together public and private sector experts to collaborate on serving citizens better through innovation and technology.)

In the investigative phase, an organization does not need to dedicate resources to collaboration efforts; in fact, the required business process redesign skill set might not even be internally available. Consortium members used a combination of dedicated internal resources and specialized external consultants on early efforts. Those efforts provided a learning ground in which to train internal resources to lead future e#orts and scale collaboration organizationwide. The ideal resource team in the transformational stage is a virtual, 24/7 collaboration planning and services resource model, sta#ed with internal and external experts to ensure the maximum level of business impact for the organization.


The successful deployment of collaboration strategies requires communication support and services, such as communication planning, creating appropriate awareness and training content, and gathering and responding to feedback. Often this support requires both tactical and strategic elements and requires the use of tools to capture information, such as that from web analytics and surveys.

The communication activities must address how to increase awareness and adoption of the collaboration strategy. Given the social networking aspect of collaboration, these support services include community components to take advantage of early adopters and provide a means to reach a broader audience and increase relevancy.

Consortium members have identified five key questions to address to ensure that an organization has the right communications capabilities in place:

  1. Is there a well-defined and published communications strategy and plan, with the necessary services and processes to support that plan?
  2. What strategic and tactical communication components are required?
  3. Is the organization leveraging early adopters and communities of interest as part of the communication strategy?
  4. Are the communication tools most appropriate to deliver the messages, to collect feedback, and to evaluate whether metrics are e#ectively leveraged?
  5. How will internal best practices and success stories be captured and shared?

In member companies such as Cisco and Novartis, the collaboration efforts are actually led out of the Corporate Communications functions in partnership with IT, which helps to ensure that the right communication support capabilities are in place. For example, within Cisco, a Communication Center of Excellence (CCOE) was created several years ago to bring together employees who have a common interest in and commitment to accelerating success in communications and collaboration for the company. The CCOE is described as a town hall for connecting, communicating, collaborating, and learning about how best to employ Web 2.0 technologies, coupled with process and culture, to drive productivity, growth, and innovation at Cisco.

Funding and Resource Models

At the onset of collaboration efforts, project teams very frequently face the challenge of developing the business case and creating an appropriate funding model. These teams, often from IT, are usually required to develop a formal business case, with a documented return on investment, as part of securing required resources to deploy a new technology or enable a new service offering.

However, in today’s world of Web 2.0 technologies, the process of getting started is slightly easier, as experimentation can begin prior to requiring a formal business case. Members of the Consortium generally agree that experimentation with new technology is the right approach to gather some early feedback through test-and-learn activities. Then, from these efforts, the greatest business opportunities and challenges can be identified, and a formal business case with recommended funding and resource models can be proposed to scale the effort across the organization.

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS). Over the last several years, the TBS within the Government of Canada (GC) has investigated how to apply Web 2.0 capabilities within a government context to take advantage of the business value that can be realized. One such experiment was a GC-wide wiki in early 2008, now known as GCPEDIA. From a funding and resource perspective, the early experimentation was limited to a smaller group of participants, requiring very little investment to quickly get an environment up and running. Even when the scope was initially expanded to invite broader government communities to participate, GCPEDIA did not require a large formal organization to operate it. It was deployed as an open environment with a limited number of rules, in which communities can form, develop, and share open knowledge. This enabled the environment to scale quickly in the early phases. As further expansion was planned, several operational items were considered. In particular, TBS developed options for a GC-wide hosted wiki/blog service, with a business model that included funding options for participating organizations. There is now work in progress with other levels of government in Canada and abroad to see how GCPEDIA can be leveraged.

Canada School of Public Service (CSPS). Another funding example from the Government of Canada is the Centre of Expertise in Communities of Practice (CECP), mentioned earlier. The CECP works on a cost-recovery basis to fund the technology platform and support services, using a subscription fee that is paid by individual departments or organizations wanting to create a community. Once an organization subscribes, it can create any number of subcommunities in the space. The subscription fee covers the resources required to provide and maintain the base service and allows the team to scale as new subcommunities are requested.

Consortium members have identified key questions to consider regarding funding, fixed versus operating requirements, development resources, and ongoing support resources:

  • Should the funding model be centralized or decentralized by function, or will a pay-peruse model be more appropriate?
  • How will funding need to increase to support scalability?
  • What permanent and temporary resource commitments will be required?
  • Is there a community model that can help support the e#ort?

Each of these questions should at least be considered. Each funding and resource situation may be unique, depending on the corporate-level priorities, the business value expected, and even the feedback from early adopters.

Policies and Guidelines

An organizational model for collaboration efforts should revisit existing policies and guidelines to ensure that the old rules are still appropriate in the new Web 2.0 world. For example, policies that pertain to employees’ behavior when they are using new technologies internally with other employees, and externally with customers, partners, and resellers, should be put in place. Encouraging the right collaborative behaviors is important and should be supported through performance reviews and reward systems—for example, appropriately sharing best practices and knowledge with others outside of formal teams.

Other policy examples that should be reviewed include confidentiality policies, particularly for intellectual property, and codes of ethics or conduct to guide public collaboration. Employees must remember to differentiate between social interactions and business interactions. Often, policies are required to help establish the boundaries.

Overall, an organization should determine what policies and guidelines must be in place or considered. One option to address areas of uncertainty is through the creation of a social networking guide, which combines policies and guidelines impacted by social networking into one easy-to-reference document. An example of an Internet Postings Policy created by Cisco for its employees is available at

Training and Adoption

The final area of process and governance to be addressed involves the training and effective adoption of new collaboration technologies and services. !is can include the use of local champions to become role models for desired behaviors, or it can include the use of incentives and reward systems to motivate employees toward a desired outcome. When considering training and adoption, it is also important to address how best practices are shared across an organization.

Training can be as formal or informal as an organization cares to invest, but should utilize many mediums to provide employees with choices based on their learning preferences. Each organization needs to assess what support services will be required for training, facilitation, and consulting, and whether these services should be available in-house or from an external partner. The following examples demonstrate how organizations are addressing training requirements with current and future employees.

  • Canada School of Public Service (CSPS). The CECP was cited earlier for its approach to process improvement and well-defined funding model. An additional objective of CSPS is to promote and implement social learning approaches within the Public Service of Canada. The school is moving to a blended environment that includes conferences and events, e-learning, webcasts, and collaborative tools to complement the classroom courses already offered to public servants. The Communities of Practice (CoP) program was added as an opportunity for employees to network, collaborate, learn from others, and share their knowledge. The CoP team offers a number of training and support services for new community owners and participants. The presentation and training services include technical training, online CoP facilitation, presentations on concepts and theories, and training on other related collaboration tools. Various tool and support services are also offered for CoP implementation projects.
  • Wipro. Wipro is recognized for its partnerships with higher education to prepare graduates for future employment and to enable new employees to continue to grow academically. One example is Magnum Opus, which is a mega initiative to train college students in the third year of their engineering degrees using real-life projects with hands-on programming and industry experience. The program involves the creation of a big-vision theme to tackle a problem or opportunity, and a Wipro Senior Architect is assigned to define an architecture. Work is divided into manageable projects in each phase of implementation, and students are assigned to a project with a Wipro mentor. The teams are enabled with a combination of technology and processes to enable distributed work. Students learn collaboration practices, tools, and behaviors as part of a real project. Overall, they complete the project and semester with a better understanding of how to apply their academic knowledge and their new collaboration skills in a real business environment.

Adoption efforts should question whether project champions have been identified and supported with the right resources. In the early stages of collaboration, local champions will emerge as a result of their successful experimentation. In later stages, key leaders will emerge who are recognized by peers for their e#orts, and they will help establish a new direction. These leaders are role models for others in the organization and will in’uence their adoption of new behaviors and technologies.

Reward systems are another component that will optimize any adoption effort if employee contributions to a collaborative environment can be more formally recognized. An organization’s reward and incentive systems should be designed to promote and support the vision for a collaborative enterprise at the executive, manager, and individual contributor levels. Early adopters and their successes and best practices should be captured and recognized through existing organizational communications vehicles, such as published success stories. In the performance phase of collaboration, adoptions of an organization’s collaboration efforts are required elements of an employee performance review cycle, and they are heavily weighted in compensation calculations. In the transformational phase, promotions and bonuses, especially at senior levels, should heavily favor those who leverage collaboration most strategically and effectively.

The final component to ensure effective adoption and training is providing formal mechanisms or forums to ensure that best practices are captured and shared within and across business processes. This can be accomplished through periodic seminars, knowledge-sharing sites (wikis, blogs), and forums that are widely adopted. This practice should be fully embedded in the corporate culture and also rewarded as part of the performance measurement system. Many of the Consortium member organizations have such mechanisms in place to allow employees to share their experiences.


The process and governance components of the Collaboration Framework cover the business, organizational, and process models necessary to ensure the successful implementation of your collaboration strategies. These models should consider the planning, organization, process improvement, communication, funding, policy, and training support functions. All functions are not required from the onset of the evolution curve; however, they all need to be in place to enable transition to later phases.

The Collaboration Framework’s Organizational Enablers: People and Culture (1 of 3)

May 14, 2010

In my previous blog entry, I described the first component – vision and strategy – of the Collaboration Framework. In this next series of posts, I will describe the second component, which is the set of three organizational enablers – (1) people and culture, (2) process and governance, and (3) technology – required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration.

Again, I will excerpt much from the “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One” report because frankly, I couldn’t have written the following any better :-):

The people and culture component of collaboration tends to be perceived as the softest aspect of change and may be the easiest to overlook. However, Consortium members agree that tackling the people and culture component is key to capturing the business value of collaboration. The challenge for most organizations is to evolve from vertical hierarchies of command and control to more horizontal organizations and self-directed teams in which people interact laterally. Rather quickly, this causes organizations to have a combination of vertically organized business units and functions and de facto horizontal collaboration and integration.

For example, employees in one department may end up helping those in another department, perhaps unrelated to their own immediate work but absolutely critical for the organization. The employees offering this help may spend several hours per day in activities that are beyond their organizational unit but have substantive impact on the organization’s goals and objectives. The employees may even ask to be partially freed from their usual responsibilities to assist with cross-functional priorities.

Since collaboration enables employees to cut across vertical silos, people practices and cultural values have to reflect a different way of working together. For example, it may be necessary to increase communication to convey the collaboration vision and actions to reinforce it; re-align individual performance metrics, redesign business processes, and review recruiting processes to incorporate collaborative contributions; and deploy programs and tools for employees to assess and grow their collaborative skills. Over time, the organizational structure should be reviewed to formalize emerging reporting lines.

Consortium members identified collaborative behaviors; human resources processes; metrics and measurement systems; and benchmarking as the most important attributes of the Collaboration Framework to address people and culture.


Collaborative Behaviors

When Consortium members discussed the collaborative behaviors and practices necessary for success, they agreed that it is very difficult to conform whether those behaviors and practices actually exist within an organization and are embedded in its culture. For example, reward systems often create incentives for individual as opposed to collaborative efforts; in another example, subject-matter experts may be reluctant to share information for fear of losing control, and thus the free movement of ideas among them may be limited.

Consortium members generally agree that collaborative practices and organizational values require change or adaptation at all levels—senior leadership, middle management, and the front line. As a starting point, a few Consortium members found it very useful to codify and implement collaboration practices and behaviors at the project team level to facilitate collaboration both within the team and outside the team with stakeholder groups. Once these organization-wide collaboration guidelines and models are documented and implemented, they enable teams to apply them within either existing or new workflows, enabling greater team performance and generating initial change momentum.

However, while very effective, empowering teams with collaboration creates a new dynamic that should be addressed. When collaboration tools make the activities of front-line employees more transparent to senior leaders, middle managers may feel threatened and may become a stumbling block to change. Middle managers are likely to be the most affected by increased collaboration, and their role of coordinating and aggregating information and options to enable decision making may be greatly reduced by front-line self-synchronization. To address this situation, a manager’s role should evolve to be more of a coach and facilitator to ensure that the right resources can be applied to the right priorities at the right time, regardless of functional organization. Talented managers should be given new responsibilities and opportunities
to contribute in new ways.

Consortium members also recommend reviewing current policies, incentives, and reward systems to ensure that they are reinforcing the desired behaviors and that misaligned incentives are eliminated. This includes ensuring that employees who contribute to cross-functional priorities managed outside of their home organizational units are recognized and rewarded for their contributions. Employee performance review systems should also capture and recognize collaborative behaviors as part of a core set of organizational capabilities. A Consortium example of a reward system to recognize team collaboration is Cisco’s quarterly award for “Collaboration Across Cisco,” which recognizes teams who implement Web 2.0 technologies for collaboration with employees, customers, or partners. Employees nominate teams and then vote for the selected finalists.

A final area that Consortium members identified as important to support collaborative behaviors involves change management. An organization’s change management process and messaging should include and leverage the collaboration vision established for that organization. They should also scale to address existing processes and to develop new concepts, products, and services.

Human Resource Processes

A second attribute of the people and culture component of the Collaboration Framework is the set of human resource processes that must be enabled or modified to support collaboration readiness at both the individual and organizational level. These processes include recruiting, performance management, training and development, resource allocation, and the physical work environment.

Consortium members that have experience with adapting human resources processes recommend addressing the following questions to help assess whether an organization is leveraging human resources processes to further its collaboration objectives.

Is collaborative behavior a criterion during the recruiting and performance management processes? Some organizations are starting to probe personal collaboration experience during the interview process to understand an individual’s predisposition toward contributing in a collaborative environment. It also could involve formal testing of collaborative skills in the context of projects or business processes to which a future employee might be assigned. Extending the logic, collaborative skills and experience are prerequisites to recruiting, and teams are assembled in ways to optimize collaboration. Performance management processes should document existing collaboration and communication skills and help employees plan how these skills might be enhanced with the relevant job experience and training.

Are programs in place to help employees assess and develop their communication and collaboration skills? In the early stages of the collaboration evolution curve, individual training and development of collaboration and communication skills are often sporadic, uncoordinated efforts taking place in different parts of the organization. As the focus on collaboration matures, systematic approaches should be implemented to help employees develop the necessary skills, and collaboration assessment tools should be made available as part of an annual assessment process.

Are “collaboration profiles” being used to track employee communication and collaboration skills for resource allocation? A gap analysis between the current and required skills can identify where individual employee training and overall recruiting efforts are required. The end result is the development of a collaboration profile that can be leveraged by both the employees and the organization.

Does the physical work environment need to be modified to reflect the requirements of a collaborative environment? This usually involves a facilities or workplace management function in the planning and implementation effort. Early attempts may involve experimental changes to the physical workspace to tinker with the best ways to enable face-to-face and/or virtual collaboration. With time, the physical work environment should be designed to improve collaboration, and the resulting best practices should be documented and shared throughout the organization. The physical work environment is eventually designed to support both existing and new work processes, with emphasis on flexible group environments and the appropriate technology support.

Consortium members were also interested in exploring tools that would help diagnose the culture of their organizations. While Consortium members ran out of time on this topic and further investigation is much required, one tool investigated by the Culture subgroup was the Cultural Intelligence (CI) model by Elisabeth Plum,which enables teams to bridge and benefit from the cultural complexity of people from different nationalities, work areas, professional backgrounds, personalities, and organizational cultures. CI combines the emotional, cognitive, and practical dimensions of cross-cultural encounters and allows more effective and fulfilling cross-cultural collaboration. More information about CI is available at

Metrics and Measurement Systems

As part of implementing collaboration, members shared how they are grappling with the challenges of measuring the value of collaboration, tracking the return on investment, and linking results to how people are evaluated and rewarded. Early Consortium member insights suggest three areas to explore for those interested in implementing metrics to measure the value of collaboration:

  • Can the organization measure and track collaboration technology awareness, usage, and adoption?
  • Does the organization have the ability to measure the impact of collaboration on business process indicators (BPIs) and business operational metrics, such as cycle time, quality, productivity, customer satisfaction, and innovation rate?
  • Does the organization quantify the impact of collaboration on business value and operational goals?

The measures of awareness, usage, and adoption, such as counts, hits, and coverage, track how broadly the tools are being rolled out and how often they are being used. Specific metrics may include the numbers of communities and of individuals participating in communities, the number of videos recorded or blog posts, and the number of tool downloads. They provide the most immediate and direct way to gauge adoption and should be implemented from the onset in the investigative stage.

Organizations that have deployed and are using adoption and usage metrics have found them very useful; they are “must-have” metrics for anybody going down the path of collaboration. However, the emerging perspective is that, while they provide circumstantial evidence of the value of collaboration, these metrics fall short of providing a direct measure of business impact. In early but promising efforts, some organizations are tracking qualitative indicators of collaboration through surveys and focus groups. For example, Consortium members have explored the use of the Collaboration Readiness Assessment Survey to track progress and develop internal benchmarks against key organizational attributes of collaboration. Others are starting to establish cause-and-effect linkages with business metrics, and these organizations see those linkages as absolutely essential for business and IT leaders to make investment decisions and to understand whether the expected benefits of collaboration translate into business value. Collaboration is linked to the relevant business metrics of the underlying business processes before, during, and after implementation of collaboration.

More challenging to measure but equally important is the evolution of the organization toward a collaborative enterprise. The goal is to assess whether barriers to collaboration are falling, individual collaboration skills are being built, and misaligned rewards are being eliminated. One Consortium member raised the issue that, while progress within an organization should be tracked, managers should be aware that comparing absolute measures across organizations could be misleading. One organization may be “less collaborative” than another because of industry structure, internal style and values, or other aspects of its business system. Organizations that conduct more confidential or proprietary work than others may measure as “less collaborative” than others. That being said, it is important for all organizations to track progress toward a more collaborative enterprise, with the goal of deploying a structured and integrated framework for developing business cases in relation to process improvements for existing and new business processes.


The final attribute of the people and culture component of the Collaboration Framework involves internal and external operational benchmarks to establish a collaboration baseline and measure progress—in addition to usage and value metrics just discussed. Consortium members identified the following questions to consider in addressing this topic:

  • Does the organization regularly survey internal management and employees on the value of collaboration and alignment between collaboration and business strategies?
  • Does the organization regularly survey all internal employees about their readiness and their organization’s readiness to execute and sustain collaboration?
  • Does the organization know where it stands in comparison to external peer groups (e.g., external benchmarks)?

Consortium members agree that the collaboration vision and strategy for an organization should be well communicated and understood by all levels of management and employees within an organization. The use of surveys, polling, and related tools enables an organization to capture this internal benchmark information to verify the value of collaboration and to ensure alignment between collaboration strategies and business strategies. During the early phases of collaboration, sporadic benchmarking occurs and collaboration surveys are executed in parts of the organization. In later phases, surveys to gauge awareness of collaboration value and alignment to existing and emerging business processes should be conducted regularly.

To execute and sustain collaboration at both the individual and organizational levels, a measure of collaboration readiness should be captured to establish a baseline. Once this baseline is created, organizational gaps can be identified when compared against the attributes of the Collaboration Framework. To cross the collaboration chasm and advance into the performance phase and beyond, a systematic collaboration readiness assessment may be used to identify collaboration opportunities and challenges across the organization. Gaps identified through a more thorough analysis can be documented and a plan developed to address them.

Finally, ad hoc benchmarking with external peers/competitors should be executed in parts of the organization as an initial first step to get a reading on how an organization is doing in comparison with competitors in the industry. In later phases, a systematic benchmarking approach with external peer groups can be used within an organization to further develop the collaboration framework and collaboration ambitions.


Consortium members believe that addressing the people and culture component is critical to capturing the business value of collaboration. The topic generated very interesting exchanges, and even some heated debates. Consortium members made significant progress in furthering their understanding of the role of people and culture, and their work yielded valuable approaches and tools. While progress was significant, much remains to be done, and many Consortium members felt that our effort barely scratched the surface on this very important set of issues.

Achieving Major Benefits from Collaboration with a Collaboration Framework

May 14, 2010

Fredrik Matheson left a comment on my previous blog entry with the following provocative statement:

Collaboration 2.0 fusses over tools, ignores collaborators, community and domain knowledge and – to be a little mean – favors mechanisms over outcomes.

Tools are useful, but they’re only part of the puzzle.

Hence, I’m compelled to excerpt a bit (or lot) more from the “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One” report (I guess people just don’t bother to read documents on the Web anymore <shrug>):

The insights from organizations that are achieving major benefits from collaboration are the core of this report and have been codified into the Collaboration Framework to help companies on the journey to become collaborative enterprises. The Collaboration Framework consists of two components: the Collaboration Vision and Strategy component, and a second component that consists of three organization enablers.


First, the framework’s Collaboration Vision and Strategy component articulates where collaboration drives business value and how to capture it. It ensures that collaboration efforts are aligned with the business vision and strategy of the organization. The collaboration vision, or strategic intent, explains how collaboration helps an organization to achieve its three-to-five year business vision and, at a high level, how it creates business value. The collaboration strategy outlines the sequence and types of collaboration actions that are required to capture the business value of collaboration. Implementation of the strategy is done through a collaboration operational plan, which describes in detail the future state of business processes targeted for performance improvement via collaboration.

The second component is the set of organizational enablers required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration. This set includes three elements:

  • People and culture. This is the human element of collaboration. It describes the approaches to foster desired collaborative behaviors. Examples of “soft” and “hard” issues to address for this element include management and execution guiding principles, employee workspace policies, the collaboration profile of employees, and individual performance metrics.
  • Process and governance. This is the set of business systems to implement and manage collaboration. It includes the internal business model to operationalize collaboration—staffing and funding, support services, and the change management approach—and the organizational model that internally governs the evolution of collaboration.
  • Technology. This element describes what collaboration technologies are required, how they will be evaluated and introduced, and how they will integrate with and be supported by the broader technology architecture.

It’s important to note that the Collaboration Consortium intentionally mentioned the “People and culture” and “Process and governance” organizational enablers ahead of “Technology.”

The report continues by providing detailed insights into each component of the Collaboration Framework:

Aligning Collaboration Vision with Business Vision and Strategy

There are four major benefits to collaboration: reducing costs, enhancing quality, accelerating speed, and creating business agility.


For a company in survival mode, collaboration can help reduce costs and sustain the business. A company on firmer ground can use collaboration to increase the speed of product delivery (for example, by reducing decision making time or time to market). Another may focus on enhancing the quality of deliverables (again, decisions or products) or creating a new strategic capability, such as the ability to redirect an organization rapidly in response to market changes. An organization with a strong balance sheet may be able to emphasize all four goals. In fact, in a down market like today’s, a strong company that invests in collaboration may be able to redesign business processes and create new ones to differentiate themselves and benefit from the recovery when it comes.

There is no generic collaboration vision; instead, each organization must align its vision with its own goals. Shaping a collaboration vision should be a conscious decision to create a platform to drive business performance.

Once an organization is clear on its collaboration vision, choices must be made to translate that intent into a collaboration strategy: Where will collaboration have the greatest impact? Where should we invest first? How should we proceed? How will we measure impact? These choices can be made by identifying opportunities and setting priorities.

The report then describes the collaboration vision from three different organizations, each of which illustrates the alignment between the organization’s collaboration strategy and its business objectives, provides examples of collaboration initiatives, and highlights the business impact of collaboration. To save space, I will not excerpt that portion of the report here, but I’d strongly encourage you to take a read when you have more spare time.

Identifying Collaboration Impact Zones

The greatest payoff from an investment in collaboration comes where people and content intersect, whether in real time, asynchronously, or both. Collaboration drives the greatest value where there is a high concentration of (1) interaction—for example, in-person meetings, phone conversations, or project teams; (2) expertise—an exchange of tacit knowledge or expertise, such as an executive, knowledge worker, or specialist might have; and (3) information—as found in databases, working documents, and archives.

Those junctures where interactions and the exchange of expertise and information are frequent, urgent, and complex are what we call “collaboration impact zones.” Collaboration impact zones help an organization focus on the right areas of collaboration to ensure that the financial return of collaboration is greater that the associated opportunity and collaboration costs. Collaboration impact zones can be focused either on internal operations, or on external operations, i.e., processes through which an organization connects externally with customers and through which collaboration can have a positive impact on sales, customer experience, and the value of a brand.

What does a collaboration impact zone look like?

The three components of a collaboration impact zone are (1) the part of a business process in which there is a high concentration of expertise, information, and interactions required to deliver the process outputs, (2) the communication and collaboration tools deployed to enable collaboration, and (3) the business impact, as measured through the metrics of the business process impacted by collaboration.


One of the great benefits of collaboration technologies is that they empower people to solve problems and eliminate the intermediaries of hierarchy and time. These technologies help connect the people who have specific information and expertise with those who need it: People on the front line can access the expertise or information they need instantly, instead of reporting a problem and waiting for it to go up the chain, over to an expert at another location, and back, with delays throughout the process. Human latency in business processes is removed, time is saved, and better decisions are made.

Setting Collaboration Priorities

While collaboration leverages knowledge and skills throughout an organization and empowers front-line workers, decisions about which collaboration impact zones to invest in must be made and owned by business leaders and other key stakeholders, in alignment with the business strategy. These are strategic decisions with business-changing results and, for some, big price tags. Thus, they require top management perspectives on business priorities. Key business leaders, in consultation with the CIO, must determine what those processes are, what the potential collaboration impact zones within those processes are, and what their priorities should be.

Traditional approaches to prioritization—such as plot ting all potential collaboration impact zones on a prioritization matrix whose axes combine business value and ease of capture—can be useful here. In addition, since collaboration creates shifts in the organizational mindset, it is useful to consider criteria that take into account the human behavioral aspects of collaboration:

  • Reach: Will collaboration in a given process help you reach the right communities and the right experts from both inside and outside the organization, even those you don’t know exist today? Will it help you access the “wisdom of the crowds,” your customers or potential customers, who can add to your bottom line? For example, thinking broadly about knowledge networks can lead to innovative ways to co-design new products or services with customers.
  • Richness: Will collaboration enable you to bring new ideas to life and help people interpret, understand, learn, and contribute to each deliverable in a business process? Will it tap into existing information or expertise that is not easily available today? For example, querying a large community of practices on a decision may rapidly yield a richness of insights well beyond those provided by a small circle of advisors.
  • Openness: Will collaboration make it easy to bring the best people into a key business process and to collect the best-quality inputs? Will it take you beyond the organization’s real or virtual walls to leverage user-generated content? Can people easily contribute if they so desire? For example, making collaborative interactions visible to a broader community has a viral effect, which encourages others to contribute.
  • Speed: Will collaboration shorten cycle time to deliver the outputs of a business process? Will it create a moderate boost to performance? Or will it create disruptive innovation for an organization to gain competitive differentiation?

Once the prioritization of the collaboration impact zones is complete, an organization has all of the pieces to assemble the collaboration strategy. The collaboration strategy consists of (1) an intent for collaboration aligned with the business priorities, (2) a set of targeted processes with prioritized collaboration impact zones arrayed in an implementation sequence, and (3) business performance metrics. The collaboration strategy may combine structured collaboration initiatives in some parts of the organization and investigative initiatives in others. The structured collaboration efforts scale up the benefits of collaboration organization-wide, enabling “collaboration chasm crossing.” The approach is replicated across a broader organizational scope for further success.

Well, there you have it – the first component of the Collaboration Framework fully explained. I wish all of my blog entries were this easy to write. 🙂 My next blog entry will focus on the second component of the Collaboration Framework, which is the set of three organizational enablers – (1) people and culture, (2) process and governance, and (3) technology – required to foster and sustain the value of collaboration.