The telephone might be considered the first collaborative technology, followed by fax and e-mail. However, in the last few years, the advances in newer forms of collaborative technology are transforming business efficiency and accessibility worldwide. The use of collaborative software enhances the ability of an organization to adapt quickly in a volatile economy.
Step 1: Assess the environment. This step involves analyzing the infrastructure and collaborative technologies as well as the existing collaborative behaviors. Additional analysis on the potential affect of the application of technologies is recommended. Managers and key stakeholders need to understand the value proposition that improved collaboration will bring as well as how to phase in the technology. A global assessment in conjunction with IT is important to understand the complete ramifications and develop “a corporate-wide strategy for the successful deployment of collaboration technologies going forward.”
Step 2: Identify collaborative business processes. Some business processes are more conducive to collaboration. The next step is to identify business processes that will benefit from “collaborative leverage.” These processes typically include sales and marketing, customer service and support, research and development, training, decision support, and crisis management.
Step 3: Build a collaborative vision. Creating a shared vision and extolling the benefits of collaboration is the next step. It can be done through workshops and trainings. Using case studies and examples built around critical business processes is most effective.
Step 4: Build a business case for collaboration. This step involves estimating the costs, benefits, and risks involved in implementing the vision. It must specify the business problems being addressed, the value of the collaboration platform, and who will fund the initiative. Total cost of ownership should be used to determine the net benefit of the project, including direct and indirect costs. The benefits that factor in include but are not limited to shorter cycle times, increased productivity, revenues, profitability and market share, fewer errors, better-quality products and services.
Step 5: Identify a sponsor. Identification of an executive sponsor who believes in the project and will allocate funds to see it through to its final stages is an essential step in the success of any project. The sponsor should be someone who is likely to benefit from collaboration and will be a champion for the project within the organization.
Step 6: Develop a collaboration strategy. A strategy for implementation should be developed that supports the overall goals of the project. This strategy involves determining which technologies already exist and if they should be replaced or integrated into the larger network. Process maps are useful in determining which business processes can be improved. A gap analysis is recommended to find areas where:
• The infrastructure may need to be upgraded.
• Security policies may need to be revised.
• Training and education will improve adoption rates.
• Processes may need to be streamlined.
The strategy should include initial projects where collaboration delivers quick wins. Strong project management and communication around progress are essential to successful implementation.
Step 7: Select collaboration technology. The next step is a careful vendor analysis that addresses the appropriateness of the offerings as well as the vendor’s financial viability, track record, training, and support. A return on investment analysis that details the actual costs and benefits is strongly recommended.
Step 8: Pilot project. A pilot project is a good next step to get the project off and running. The application that is selected should be one that will have a substantial impact and positive results. This success can be used to sell the concept throughout the organization.
Step 9: Enterprise rollout. This step leverages the success and learning from the pilot project. The steps for enterprise rollout are to:
• Prioritize the business units.
• Identify necessary resources.
• Define the education and training process.
• Define the support process.
• Define the metrics.
It is easy to underestimate the complexity of this process. It is important to facilitate communication so that issues and delays will surface quickly.
Step 10: Measure and report. To achieve the greatest value from the entire process, it is critical to continually monitor, measure, and report of the adoption and usage of collaborative technologies for each business case. Publicity about successes as well as compensation for adoption and usage should be considered as ways to ensure success.
As collaboration technology improves, the pressure to adopt will only increase. Organizations that embrace collaboration are going to raise the competitive bar. The use of technology is essential to survival in a dynamic organization.
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