CollaborationOver the past several months I've met with senior executives from a variety of organizations to clarify the challenges they've been tackling and to understand what opportunities they foresee in the near future. They've shared that as organizations become more complex and expectations more demanding, the need for efficient and effective collaboration has become critical to the successful delivery of initiatives.

This makes sense. As teams are distributed across the globe, and team members are represented through a cornucopia of both internal and external relationships, managing the complex network of parties can become overwhelming. Couple a diverse set of partners with individualized compliance needs and onboarding considerations, and the effort to stand up a single project feels overwhelming.

Once a team is assembled and onboarded, members must navigate internal processes, technologies and procedures to deliver results. Maintaining effective communications and collaboration throughout the initiative can easily be overlooked.

Reflecting on this, I understand why leadership is focused on improving collaboration. Time spent starting and facilitating projects directly hits the bottom line: fewer projects are delivered, and each project costs more to complete. The ability to start small, assess progress and iterate quickly is fast becoming a competitive advantage.

A common misconception is that collaboration is all about document sharing and communications. Marketing efforts for tools such as Slack, Yammer, and Basecamp suggest that these tools get work done. In reality, these are but one piece of what collaboration means. Scaling collaboration is about aligning data, technologies, processes and procedures in a modular and compliant fashion to empower teams to develop, test and iterate quickly, cheaply and simply. Think iPhone apps for the enterprise.

For example, a team focused on analyzing sales and marketing results to identify key inflection points needs much more than communications to be effective. Team members need data, analytical modeling tools, and some idea of what success looks like. A laundry list of activities needs to happen before the team can begin. Team members must be aware that the data exists; the data must be cleansed and access to it provisioned; members must align on a toolset and have access to the toolset; they must have a mechanism for sharing their work internally with other team members and externally with other stakeholders; they must be able to communicate expectations with stakeholders and clearly understand when to adapt. Open floor plans and cobbled technologies will not create the efficiencies needed for the team to begin and progress quickly.

Despite such pressing needs, most companies don't have unlimited time, money and resources to build new collaboration capabilities. Employees have their day jobs in addition to projects, so building a better approach oftentimes doesn't come to mind. Couple this with decades-old legacy systems, business rules and procedures, and scaling collaboration becomes a fancy pipedream. But change will not happen unless companies act. To deliver successful initiatives, these organizations will need to embrace new approaches to collaboration and define guiding principles to ensure that collaboration is incorporated into development expectations. Integrating a new data source into your warehouse? How can you make it more flexible for you and others to use in the future?

I'm intrigued by the impact that purposefully scaling collaboration can have on organizations. Over the next few months, I'll be exploring what it means to scale collaboration and will share my insights here. Stay tuned.