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Do Companies Need a Chief Collaboration Officer?

This past Tuesday, I came across an article discussing the possibility of companies hiring a Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO). I found this discussion interesting and over the last two days I’ve come to the conclusion yes, companies should have a CCO.

What is a Chief Collaboration Officer?

Before everyone tells me that the last thing companies need is another obscure C-level individual pulling them into meetings, I want to explain what I think a Chief Collaboration Officer is. You see, this role primarily stems from the problem of adoption of new policies and tools. The problem with collaboration isn’t the technology; it’s a cultural one. For most companies acquiring the tools is pretty straightforward. The issue arises because after purchasing the technology only a few select individuals integrate them into their daily routine. Here’s where I imagine the CCO stepping in. Here they could assess the company’s culture and match it with the tool that would be best suited, and then become the chief internal evangelist for the project. In effect they would create internal programs to foster adoption of the software and help educate others about the logic behind the push for collaboration.

So, is a Chief Collaboration Officer Really Needed?

The short answer? Yes. Change is tough, especially when it involves changing your routine. Having someone who can help explain and show first-hand the benefits of adopting these tools helps massively with adoption. This said, I believe a CCO should not be a stand-alone role. Instead, I think it should be someone who is technical enough to be able to identify the right software for the job, but also have the ability to convey the meaning and vision as to why this is being pushed.

Who it the right guy for the job?

Like filling most positions, this isn’t easy. However, Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp offer up some excellent ideas in their Harvard Business Review post, Who Should be Your Chief Collaboration Officer? They suggest looking at the following:

  • The current CIO – Hansen and Tapp believe that the current CIO may be a good fit. They point out that if you’re looking for your CIO to broaden their role and drive value across the company, then this is a golden opportunity as they’ll have to broaden their horizons and go beyond IT.
  • The head of HR – Getting people involved requires the right incentives, performance evaluations, promotion criteria, and people development. Thus, HR is a logical place to take charge of the CCO role. It would entail going beyond “regular” HR issues and working with others, such as the CIO, to craft a holistic solution but something HR is certainly capable of accomplishing.
  • The current COO –If your company has an existing COO that oversees the many aspects of the business, adding the Chief Collaboration Officer role is a natural extension.
  • The current CFO – I know what you’re thinking – “What the CFO, are you sure?” This may seem counter intuitive; however collaboration is first and foremost about creating economic value. As it turns out, many CFOs also oversee the strategy department, so why not add cross-company strategic activities to the portfolio.
  • The head of strategy – Successful collaboration mean finding and highlighting areas of potential synergy, an exercise well suited for the executive responsible for the overall strategy of a firm.

Regardless of who actually fills the position, I believe it does not make sense to have it be a standalone role. This is why I believe that yes, companies do need a Chief Collaboration Officer, but it should come as an extension of an existing role.

Your Turn

Thoughts? Think this position isn’t necessary? Think that is should be a stand-alone role? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.

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