One of the most difficult aspects of evangelizing collaboration tools and platforms is the slippery slope of defining business value. No single model for business value will satisfy every organization. In my more-than-two-decades of experience in the information technology landscape, I've come to realize that business value is defined by most as quantitative value, rather than a mixture of qualitative and quantitative -- which is how I look at the world. Sure, you pay for a piece of software or a service, and you want some hard data that what you spent money on now helps you sell more product, serves customers faster and better, or optimizes your business processes in a tangible, bottom-line-impacting way. But don't discount the intangible, employee or customer good will-inducing, holistic-perspective-building benefits, because they're just as important -- and may have more of a positive impact on your bottom line than you think.
Happy workers are more productive. Don't believe me? This is according to Forbes, HuffPo, the NY Times, and BusinessWeek. But how do you define a "happy worker?"
During my tenure, I have come to believe that culture and technology are equal partners in the happiness (and productivity) of the information worker -- and that the two are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, if you have a healthy corporate culture, you'll better understand and more readily implement the technology that will further promote and enable your workforce to be happy and productive and successful. And likewise, if you have a healthy technology strategy, then you must have taken into consideration the cultural "fit" and impacts of anything you've deployed. There are many examples of excellent (dare I say "perfect") deployments of the latest, greatest technology platforms -- but without consideration of the social and cultural implications, and that perfect system, deployed to meet every technical requirement, that system still went down in flames. The most perfect collaboration platform in the world will be a failure if users do not adopt it.
So, if we agree that happy workers are productive, and happy information workers consists of cultural and technological symbiosis, how do you then measure that success?
I've heard again and again that one key organizational measurement is "innovation." But then it gets fuzzy from there. How do you define innovation? Does that mean quantifiable intellectual property, maybe in the form of a preliminary patent filing? Does it have to be documented in some way, with revenue projections?
The way that I describe innovation through group collaboration is through the "emergence of ideas," where one idea sparks innovation and leads others to expand on that idea, to incrementally improve or otherwise go in another completely new direction based on the input from others. This concept is what makes diversity so important within organizations: different people from different cultural, societal, and educational backgrounds coming together to solve problems in ways that a mono-cultural approach would never approach problems. Innovation through emergence helps teams to clarify their idea creation processes, sharpen their messaging, refine ideas and approaches, and to deliver value in a more holistic way.
Of course, there is still the issue of measurement. I could share my ideas, but I'd really like to hear from you. How does your organization track and measure the qualitative and quantitative benefits of collaboration?
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