Enterprise collaboration is about how a large organization communicates internally. As teams get large and more spread out, the number of ideas and voices increases. With no systematic method of hearing all these voices, the quality of collaboration falls away. After all, communication between team members is at the heart of collaboration. Having the correct enterprise collaboration tools are essential.
Collaboration within organizations is more than just team members talking to each other. Collaboration starts with a culture which encourages the exchange of information and ideas. But even good culture is not enough. You need good enterprise collaboration tools to harness, organize, and implement good ideas.
When communication is not working it looks a lot like dysfunction. Teams who are dysfunctional do not intend to be this way. They are simply a reminder that collaboration at an enterprise level is hard.
What do dysfunctional teams look like?
There are many reasons why workplace collaboration can descend into disorder. In this context, dysfunction does not mean total anarchy, it just refers to a time when enough sub-optimal habits are joined together to render an organization uncompetitive. Here are some classic scenarios:
1. The enterprise collaboration tools are not fit for purpose
Frequently, organizations grow rapidly and teams swell in size. If your IT architecture does not keep with that growth, then entry-level tools and home-grown software will never cut it.
2. Information floats around with no purpose
Every day in organizations of all sizes, conversations take place formally and informally. Ideas are exchanged and feedback on various company processes is offered. But this is simply information floating around if there is no systematic way to capture ideas and to call them ideas.
3. Very little employee engagement
If employees do not feel they have a stake in the decision-making process, they will fall silent. It will be more common that they complain to their partners at home that things could be better if the company would only do x, y, or z. There is power in the voices of employees, they just need to feel valued and they will engage.
4. Staff work in silos
Silos are inevitable in organizations. At team level, different functional teams naturally stick together. This is for no other reason than because they are located in the same office space and sit in the same meetings. What smart organizations need to do is to realize the nature of silos and break them down through cross-functional or cross-purpose teams.
5. Intellectual property lives in silos
Teams cannot effectively collaborate if they do not have access to common intellectual property. Documents, policies, and processes should not be the preserve of departmental gate-keepers. They should be available to all employees for scrutiny.
6. Using outdated methods and tools
Outdated and manual project management tools is where collaboration dies a slow death. Many tried and tested manual processes are just not suited to the rapid pace of businesses. In this instance, an organization might know that it needs to collaborate, but is simply using slow and cumbersome methods.
Why is Enterprise Collaboration Important?
Clearly, dysfunctional teams lose crucial ground against more organized and streamlined competitors. Good ideas executed well are the lifeblood of the modern company. Enterprise collaboration as a culture and a habit is important for a number of reasons:
- It increases productivity by getting teams to speak across team divides. This can be done through intranets, company social tools, and video conferencing.
- It increases innovation through fostering regular dialogue with key groups like customers, suppliers, and vendors.
- It improves the efficiency and effectiveness of communication with all stakeholders. This is because when communication channels are open, information can be found easily and is not a state secret.
- It helps organizations prioritize important processes if there is a constant feedback loop that something is not working.
- It helps sharpen the culture of collaboration. If a robust enterprise collaboration tool is a daily part of a staff member’s tasks, they will associate the tool with its purpose, which is to improve processes.
- It takes away secrecy. For a variety of reasons, secrecy and ringfencing of ideas happens in organizations. Often the fear of sharing becomes irrational, and departments hold on to information simply because they always have. Having a culture of collaboration will reduce this fear.
The benefits of enterprise collaboration
There are tangible benefits to enterprise collaboration. These do not always come in the form of a large, successful project delivered well. Sometimes the benefits lie in the birth of culture and habits that if entrenched, will make an organizational hyper-competitive:
- Less waste. This refers to less wasted ideas, less wasted meetings and brainstorming sessions. A truly collaborative enterprise brings ideas to development and execution, meaning that the hours spent by employees in meetings is not wasted.
- Streamlined processes. Organizations who collaborate well end up placing their daily activities on a well-greased track. With the reduction in workplace silos, work flies through the system.
- Less duplicated effort. There is nothing worse than different departments having similar processes which were ideated and developed through completely separate departmental processes. Collaboration means that teams can leverage off work already in development by other departments.
- Greater security. It might be counter-intuitive, but when the right information is in the right hands, it is better than information sitting in a folder that nobody knows exists or what to do with it if they did.
In today’s rapidly-changing world, old and outdated processes are a drain on organizational speed and focus. Dysfunctional teams do not set out to be dysfunctional, but through the emergence of common behaviours like self-focus, they can easily become this way.
Enterprise collaboration tools not only provide a home for communication and ideas, but they frequently have built-in processes such as idea management tools, which turn employee frustration into better and improved operational processes.