Shy But Outgoing: The Collaboration Conundrum

  • Workplace collaboration still reflects traditional corporate roles.
  • Collaboration can move beyond its barriers and be reshaped for corporate advantage.

Current research suggests business people are using collaboration solutions to simply reflect their existing behaviors. To some extent, these behaviors also seem to be determined by function.

For example, IT is leading the internal collaborators race. HR is generally more outgoing than legal, who can be shy when it comes to external collaboration.

A closer look at collaboration

“Collaboration Frontiers: An Integrated Experience,” a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of AT&T, offers some interesting statistics. For internal collaboration, IT leads the way with 75 percent of respondents currently utilizing it. HR follows at 64 percent and marketing with 62 percent, and sales with just 54 percent adoption. When we look at external collaboration, marketing leads with 59 percent adoption, sales at 44 percent, while IT (32 percent) and HR (21 percent) drop down.

The global ad agency Y&R, in the article “Collaboration and Co-Creation for Brand Innovation,” points out that brand communication has evolved to what’s been called a ‘trialogue,’ with consumers accessing and sharing brand information, using a multitude of online platforms to engage brands and each other in community forums. A brand’s future value, they argue, lies principally in the community it creates. More than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies have made co-creation through community sourcing an integral part of their innovation strategy.

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You would expect HR to be more outgoing. Those departments have common issues— reducing labor costs, sustaining or enhancing productivity, keeping the talent pipeline full — that make short-term and long-term business success dependent on a strong HR/finance partnership. By collaborating, they can address both people-related needs and financial constraints in a way that minimizes business risk and supports strategic growth goals.

Lagging communications

However, reluctance can get in the way of true business benefit, as the age-old gap between sales and marketing highlights. “Sales and Marketing Alignment: Collaboration + Cooperation = Peak Performance,” a 2010 study by the Aberdeen Group, found that sales and marketing alignment is critical for growth. By cooperating and collaborating, top-performing organizations achieved 20 percent growth compared to a 4 percent decrease in laggard companies.

The Forrester study states that respondents had comparatively low levels of collaboration for product development: 58 percent internal and 23 percent external. The external figure is worrying because of the potential benefits of collaboration with suppliers, research organizations, and business partners. An article by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, “ R&D Collaboration: The Process, Risks and Checkpoints,” points out that many companies simply cannot justify carrying on research and development alone. They miss opportunities to access specialist knowledge, skills, or technologies that can provide a strong competitive advantage.

Organizations have moved beyond the need-to-know basis or interpersonal communication and are seeing the rewards of balanced collaboration. However, there is still work to be done to enable collaboration to not only reflect existing behavior, but also to shape it for personal and corporate advantage.

If you are interested in finding more information about the subject of collaboration, read more about AT&T unified communications solutions.

Lisanne Powers Unified Communications Lead Marketing Communications Manager AT&T About Lisanne