Collaboration is generally defined as two or more people working together towards a shared goal. Investments in collaboration software in the enterprise have always shared a noble purpose: to help people be more effective at their jobs and leverage their unique knowledge and resources to collectively achieve corporate objectives.
But people — and companies — expect to accomplish more from collaboration today because they need it in order to compete effectively. Put simply, you can’t innovate without collaboration, and without innovation, companies fail.
The good news is that there’s a whole new world of collaboration tools available to enable what can best be termed “high-impact collaboration.” These break-through collaboration tools, rooted in consumer social media, are enabling businesses to realize the elusive 10x business impact previously sought through costly Business Process Reengineering (BPR) initiatives years ago. The business objective of BPR, “was not fractional, but multiplicative levels of improvement — 10x rather than 10 percent.” This was achieved by a, “fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.”
BPR initiatives were high-risk, high-cost strategies that involved very structured, internal processes. They resulted in employee layoffs and did little to inspire workers to innovate.
In contrast, the current generation of collaboration tools focuses on strategic initiatives that transform unstructured processes and adapt to how people prefer to work, leveraging low-risk, on-demand models (self-serve, simple and social inside). In the right cultural environment, they are extremely effective at bringing employees and external partners together and inspiring them to innovate. And this is why leading organizations such as Intuit, which implemented an internal collaboration initiative called Brainstorm, have seen such impressive results. Brainstorm helps connect ideas to the people who can help rapidly shape and act on and execute them. The company is seeing 10x gains in ideation, 6x gains in new product releases per year and 5x increases in innovation participation. And it has cut its time to market 50 percent and turned 180 ideas into implemented outcomes.
These kinds of impressive results are made possible through the convergence of cloud computing, social software and the ubiquity of mobile technology, as well as a new generation of empowered employees and partners working inside and outside the corporate firewall and in the human cloud. This convergence is transforming organizational silos into communities that transcend established boundaries and enable employees to organize themselves around a specific purpose or mission. For example, for the purpose of innovating a new version of a software product, ideas can be captured from a customer-powered support community managed outside the firewall by Get Satisfaction, and prioritized by a focus group of diverse stakeholders managed in a Box.net, Huddle or Central Desktop workspace. Together with such tools, employees can channel their passions, find and connect with right knowledge and expertise throughout their social networks and work more effectively — regardless of where people are located — to accomplish their mission.