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6 Steps for Successful Collaboration

Everyone knows: Collaboration is key. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a 50% increase in collaborative intensity in the workplace, and 97% of businesses believe technology-enabled workplace collaboration is key to a competitive advantage, according to a Wainhouse Research survey.
Yet, despite its importance, companies still struggle to make collaboration work. McKinsey research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Oxford, found that, on average, large IT projects (costing more than $15 million) run 45% over budget and 7% over on time while delivering 56% less value than predicted. A 2018 study by Forrester, reported in Forbes, found that 35% of enterprise projects fail to meet their original business intent.
So, what’s going wrong? And how can companies make sure their collaboration projects live up to expectations? Many factors come into play, but one stands out above all others. For collaboration to work, you must focus first and foremost on your users – what they do and what they want.
Understanding How People Collaborate
Today, there are a myriad of collaboration options – and not everyone wants to connect the same way or for the same reason.
Companies need to ask their employees whether they want apps on their devices or if they’d rather join collaborative meetings from huddle spaces or their desks. Senior executives may need the privacy of an immersive video conferencing suite, but other groups may not like using them. It’s important to understand the size of the groups that will come together either in informal huddle spaces or formal conference rooms, and whether they’ll make use of features like digital whiteboards if you provide them.
In the financial services sector, for example, companies use collaboration to inform branches about sales promotions, train staff remotely, and broadcast morning briefings. They even use video chat to give high net worth clients the personal touch.
In manufacturing, by contrast, the use cases are quite different. Here, collaboration can accelerate the design process across a dispersed R&D ecosystem, as well as bring together supply chain partners around the world.
Over in the film, TV, and music industries, collaboration takes on yet another meaning. The product is digital content; when companies collaborate, they’re sharing high-definition video and audio files. User experience expectations are much higher, and they need their collaboration services to support studio-quality sound and visuals.
In one specific company example, civil engineering firm Gammon installed a new corporate network to all its construction sites that could support modern collaboration techniques. Instead of doing project reviews every few months face-to-face, to everyone’s surprise, they started doing them weekly using video conferencing. In addition to increased efficiency and productivity, the company was also able to cut travel costs by 30%
Steps for Success
As I talk to customers, I often put forth a six-step methodology to drive a successful collaborative project. These steps are:
1. Set your collaboration strategy based on user experience – make sure you know what your overall business vision is and set a collaboration strategy that aligns with it.
2. Assess, develop, and adopt – talk to end users about what they do and develop use cases for different industries, job functions, and demographic groups.
3. Select the right technology and provider – opt for a technology platform that will meet the use cases and user experience expectations you’ve identified. Select a provider that can integrate the new technology with what you already have.
4. Finalize your plan – be sure to include metrics of how you intend to measure success and return on investment.
5. Beta testing – test your use-case scenarios, develop a training and adoption plan, and carry out readiness assessments of systems and security.
6. Launch – implement your adoption plan, tell people about the new service, show them what it can do, and encourage them to use it.
Collaboration is never vanilla flavored, and clearly there’s much more to collaboration than simply buying some technology or signing up to a SaaS offering. By following these steps and consulting with the right experts, you can achieve the correct alignment between business vision and collaboration strategy, understand user experience expectations, define use cases, and efficiently integrate the new technology on which collaboration depends.