Monday, 21 July 2008

Collaborating for business performance


I've only just come across this research via Steve Roesler's All Things Workplace.

Meetings Around the World: The Impact of Collaboration on Business Performance”, published recently by Microsoft, Verizon and Frost & Sullivan, measured companies' “collaborativeness” through an index consisting of the quality (the nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organisation’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork) and capability (an organisation’s orientation, infrastructure and technologies) of collaboration.

The technologies referred to here include audio conferencing, web conferencing, e-mail, and instant messaging, and the report notes that an overwhelming proportion of respondents (9 to 1) believe that collaboration through communication technologies supports their productivity and provides a personal competitive advantage.

On an organisational level, the research finds that collaboration is a key driver of profitability, profit growth and sales growth in companies around the world.

In fact, the impact of collaboration is twice as significant as a company’s strategic orientation / aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities and five times as significant as the external market environment. 

I think this is a really important finding and although the research focuses very heavily on the use of technologies it would also seem to indicate that broader forms of collaboration might have similar levels of impact.

The research also finds that whilst collaboration is consistently important across regions and verticle industries, there are regional differences in how people in various countries prefer to communicate with one another.

American professionals enjoy working alone, and prefer to send e-mail rather than calling a person or leaving a voice mail message. Europeans thrive on teamwork and prefer to interact in real time with other people. Professionals in Asia-Pac want to be in touch constantly during the workday and find the phone to be an indispensable tool and prefer instant messaging to e-mail.

The research notes that these differences highlight an opportunity for greater cultural understanding to improve collaborative efforts around the world.  Yes, but I think this need relates to other activities to enable collaboration as well.  Whether people prefer large-scale events, team meetings or one-to-ones will also vary by country, industry and probably organisation to organisation, and from team to team.

And if the opportunity is as great as Microsoft et al suggest, these activities (whether they involve technology or not) are worth getting right.