Why is team collaboration not enough?

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Expanding beyond team/social collaboration to business collaboration

The term “collaboration” has become one of the primary hot topics for businesses and analysts throughout the industry lately.  At its most basic level, “collaboration” simply means “working with others in a coordinated fashion toward a common goal.”  But few actually attempt to define what it really means in the context of business and PPM.

If you ask most people what capabilities define collaboration in the workplace, they generally talk about the sharing of information within a given team:  document management, threaded discussions, activity feeds, instant messaging, shared calendars, task assignments, facilitation of problem solving and idea development, communication of decisions and meeting minutes, etc.  This is all good, and certainly helps a team move forward in coordinated fashion toward the common goal of completing a project or specific unit of work.  Nearly all PPM solutions provide functionality to address each of these needs within the scope of a project.  SaaS PPM solutions are particularly well-suited to providing this level of team collaboration since, by their very nature, they are accessible to all team members regardless of geographic diversity and the information they contain is always available in near real-time.

I would argue, however, that this limited view of collaboration is incomplete.  Looked at from a broader perspective, an entire organization can be viewed as a collection of units which must all work together in a coordinated fashion toward the common goal of alignment and execution against the business’ corporate vision and strategic objectives.  Thus, business-level collaboration is necessary to establish the direction for an entire organization.  “Business Direction” includes the definition for the organization’s Vision, Goals and Strategies.  By sharing and collaborating on the Business Direction, the business teams will be better prepared to drive the various work efforts.  True business-level collaboration therefore depends on the free flow of information between the project teams and the outside world – management, other departments, executives, stakeholders, etc. – to facilitate proper alignment and effective decision-making throughout the entire organization.  It is this level of “business collaboration”, as opposed to individual “team collaboration”, which is often missing from a company’s collaboration strategy.  All too often, anyone not on the core project team is actually excluded from access to the system of record for project performance and must therefore depend upon periodic status updates or word-of-mouth communications to understand, participate, or make critical business decisions on project information.

Business collaboration provides a level of transparency and visibility to project details throughout an organization.  At its heart, business collaboration makes heavy use of enhanced dashboarding and powerful reporting capabilities to expose appropriate project information to those who are outside the core project team.  Ideally, facilitation of business collaboration also provides processes and methods for these external resources to submit inquiries and participate in discussions, access project documentation, and all of the other traditional collaboration capabilities as well.

When examining the collaboration strategy within your organization, be sure to keep the big picture in mind.  Team-level collaboration is certainly important.  But enabling collaboration across departments and across levels within a larger organization can often be even more critical to the success of the entire business.

Posted on: January 14, 2013 03:05 PM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Well said, Collaboration if often misinterpreted in IT industry and good take aways.

David, although this dates back to 2013, the topic is very much still alive in the workplace and still lacking critical support and leadership in most circles of influence. In the last 12 months, I've had the opportunity to work on multiple teams, both in a Network Operations setting, as well as an Agile focused team environment where both groups collaborated well, but surprisingly at the same level. Where I am seeing a gap still to be filled is that external collaborative mindset where teams are connecting with what I call auxiliary shareholders that are sub-beneficiaries of the outputs from the project. The area of opportunity I see is not only in the broader circle of visibility around the projects status, but also in the need for ongoing collaboration and expert opinion / advice that needs to happen continuously throughout the project. It can seem stifling or a lag at times to stop and check or bounce ideas, but the gains by humbly asking or checking in with experts are priceless. I like your points about project visibility collaboration and see today a gap in leveraging the resources we have to further eliminate risk and capitalize on opportunities that would otherwise be lost.

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