intelligent organization collaboration

The omnipresent challenge of collaborating effectively

Whether talking about collaboration tools or just the idea of collaboration, at  this point in time it should not be “news.” We’ve collaborated forever and the tools have been around for well over 20 years.

And yet it seems we still struggle to figure out how to collaborate effectively.

Maybe it is our org structures, where competing goals, or just different leaders, cause conflicts.

Maybe it is biases and underlying tensions, where we either seek to be part of the crowd or worry about what an effective collaboration means to me as an individual.

Maybe it is that we just assume we all know how to collaborate and yet fail to make it work.

Whatever the reason, organizations that talk the collaboration talk, often fail to walk the walk effectively.

Let me give you an example.

There is all kinds of research and commentary that effective collaboration requires, at a minimum, a well declared goal/purpose and clearly defined roles for “collaborators.”

But let’s look at in practice using, you guess it Gartner’s Enterprise Technology Adoption Profiles (ETAs).

I’m gonna make some connections between a few different research studies, but bear with me. There are 3 of our profiles where the “control” attribute is based on a Collaborative Approach between business and IT:

  • SCD – Strict Planners, Collaborative, Dynamic pace of change
  • ACR – Accommodating Planners, Collaborative, Responsive pace of change
  • FCM – Flexible Planners, Collaborative, Measured Pace of Change

In our study of high quality deals (situations where both the customer and vendor are happy)”, we saw one of these groups stand out in terms of the % of high quality deals among our respondents:

  • SCD – 50%
  • ACR – 15%
  • FCM – 12%

A big, big difference. That stood out, but then we did a second survey, where we asked respondents how much they agreed with a statement that basically said “we regret nearly every technology product we purchase via subscription.” The results (higher is worse, of course):

  • SCD – 28%
  • ACR- 71%
  • FCM – 71%

Again, a huge difference. It seems that our SCD group has figured out how to collaborate. Their strict approach to technology planning and focus on moving as fast as it prudently possible helps them standout. The other two seem to muddle along, trying to delay or avoid decisions (yes, we have other research that shows those profiles have lots of no decisions) as much as possible.

But just recently, I found some other data in some of our research. I’ll be writing about this with some colleagues, but we recently asked about roles responsible for decision making or influencing decisions around SaaS and IaaS/PaaS. What jumps out for me is all of these ETA groups involve a diverse set of roles in decisions, with a range of 8 to 11 roles typically involved.

But, there was a big difference–the average number of roles designated as decision makers.  The means for the SCD groups was 3.69 (SaaS) and 3.20 (Iaas/PaaS).  The means for the ACR group was 5.12 and 4.77. Finally, the mean for the FCM group was 5.82 and 5.45. The two groups that struggle with effective decisions have significantly more people designated as decision makers (vs. influencers). More decision makers is not a bad thing–if the specific decision responsibilities are clear. But if they are muddled, then it backfires.

Putting the data from the different studies together, it seems that the ACR and FCM groups have a lot of unclear roles and responsibilities, leading to paralysis, passing the buck, or just getting stuck (BTW, another fact from studies–these two groups have many more no decisions than any other ETA

It is also important to remember that the ACR and FCM groups are two of the largest ETA groups–typically accounting for well over 40% of the market. For vendors, this is both a warning signal and an opportunity. Collaboration, done right, is powerful (look at the SCD group). You have an opportunity to help your customers that want to be collaborative, but haven’t figured out how, to do it more effectively. It will make a big difference for you, and them.

Author: Hank Barnes

Source: Gartner