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Business Collaboration: Taking the Next Step

As a species, our expectations are generally limitless. And in industrial pursuits, they’re incalculable. Smart businesses understand that the quintessentially human trait of discovery driven by curiosity is what pushes us to evolve and invent. They know that gaining access to the best ideas means working together, trusting in partnerships, and risking control. They also know that innovation isn’t enough to derive value from business collaboration.

Sometimes we get in the way of our own progress. Companies are faced with too many options coupled with too many processes, causing them to struggle with taking the next step and implementing collaborative initiatives across the board. We have the tools. We have the technology. Now we have to use them — together.

Back Away From the Device

Every problem that exists is being chased after by someone with a glorious, quest-like certainty that if they just figure out which tool solves which problem and how, they’ll champion a solution no one else has even considered. What if we just… stopped doing that? Just for a little while. For long enough to consider what it could mean to take a business-first — rather than technology-first — approach to collaboration?

“It is an understatement to say that interoperability is critical with collaboration tools so users have a seamless experience when using them to communicate, do business, and maximize results,” says Hans Hwang, VP of Advanced Services at Cisco. We know it’s nearly impossible to jump gadget-first into collaboration — just ask anyone in your IT department who’s losing sleep over the wide variety of devices they’re keeping track of. However, weaving collaboration into business processes is something that can be measured in cost-savings and increased productivity. And since it’s unrealistic to expect employees to converge workflows unprompted, it’s crucial that these practices are outlined and deployed from the top down, and with the proper bandwidth in place to support them.

The Architecture of Your Business and Creating a Collaboration Blueprint

A huge part of why businesses fail at integrating collaboration tools is because there’s just so many of them. Sampling is a great way to determine what works for your company, but trying to use everything at once — just so you don’t miss out on a feature or function — is disastrous. It’s inevitable that one tool will have an advanced task management system, another a more intuitive user experience, and a third won’t be as effective but will cost significantly less than the first. That does not mean you should use them all, and trying to do so doesn’t count as tool integration.

Says Hwang, “Integration services must take a business and technology architecture approach for accelerating and simplifying business processes.” Simply put, businesses need to find and address actual collaboration needs and gaps that exist in their current infrastructure, using the framework of the business as a map. Once pain points have been identified, it’s time to — you guessed it — collaborate with employees, watch how they work, and seek out their opinions on possible solutions. Map out how different tools could potentially inspire or inhibit collaboration. Test them. And when an ideal solution or tool emerges, being able to tie it back to the business process will prove invaluable and (bonus) truly cost-effective.

Re-engineering business practices to get the most out of modern collaboration isn’t necessarily easy, and it isn’t necessarily quick. But we’ve noted before that “using collaboration platforms is much more about behavior change than it is the tool” — and as with anything, taking the next step only happens when you’ve realized there’s somewhere to go.

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