Collaboration technologies are changing the business culture. In an age of real-time collaboration and instant expectations, meaningful collaboration can mean the difference between success and failure. And, it is fast becoming perceived as essential for business success.
A recent global survey of 538 C-level executives and IT decision-makers, conducted by Kelton Research, shows that companies perceive clear value from employee collaboration services and software. However, while there are perceived and real business benefits, executives and IT decision-makers also recognize specific risks in collaboration.
The benefits of collaboration in the workplace are well documented. Some Fortune 500 companies quantify cost savings that video conferencing systems create by reducing travel. Small start-ups forego phone systems for document sharing sites and wikis. According to the survey commissioned by Avanade:
- More than 80 percent of executives surveyed believe that enterprise-wide collaboration is the key to success.
- Thirty percent of respondents feel that communications and collaboration tools have made it easier to work with others over the past five years.
- Seventy-five percent of companies surveyed plan to increase the use of communications and collaboration tools in the next year.
Potential Cultural Drawbacks
While companies perceive benefits and see some collaboration software and services as essential, a majority of respondents are also wary of new cultural issues created by collaboration in the workplace. The survey showed that employees may, in fact, be passing on responsibilities over certain tasks because of readily available collaboration options.
More than one in three respondents agree that people problem-solve less on their own today and instead rely on collaboration to ask other people for help or offload work. In the U.S., that number jumps even higher to more than half of respondents -- 54 percent.
While the survey results indicate an increase in the rate of collaboration technology adoption, some employees still claim to dread the act of collaborating with colleagues, especially across different employee levels and company departments. Although a minority, one in four executives and IT decision-makers dread collaboration because of the amount of time it can waste.
Interestingly, employees at small companies (fewer than 1,000 employees) are twice as likely to report that collaboration slows down work as their counterparts at larger companies (1,000 employees or more). And C-Level executives amplify the attitude that collaboration slows work, by a three-to-one ratio compared to IT decision-makers and business unit leaders. While large companies appear to have found many collaboration technologies that meet their needs, to a greater extent, smaller companies depend on a more specialized mix of collaboration technologies.
Fueling Innovation and Growth
The data also showed that companies around the world are becoming more open to embracing new technologies and are actively emphasizing innovation and growth, even over cost savings. Across geographies, respondents reported a gradual shift away from cost savings as a top priority, and a marked increase in pressure they feel to innovate.
This shift away from costs and toward innovation is even more pronounced at the executive level. Key data supporting this trend:
- 92 percent of respondents report their company’s rate of new technology adoption has remained steady or increased.
- Nearly 80 percent of respondents say that the recent economic turmoil has caused their company to become more open to new technologies.
- Avanade’s September 2009 survey found that just 18 percent of respondents reported current pressure to innovate. Just six months later, the number jumped to 28 percent reporting pressure to innovate -- a 56 percent increase in rates of responses.
Furthermore, two data points reveal how companies approach cost considerations for collaboration technologies. Forty-four percent say communications and collaboration technologies need to pay for themselves in the first 24 months. On the other hand, interestingly, 42 percent of respondents do not claim to measure cost benefits, yet many name cost as a top priority. This further supports the trend towards more innovation and growth.
These survey findings and industry trends show how collaboration is impacting both culture and technology adoption in the enterprise. Today’s business realities force companies to radically change the way they operate on a global scale. Reducing the delay involved in connecting, sharing, understanding and making use of information becomes increasingly important in today’s fast-paced business world.
Collaboration technologies link people together in new ways, changing how they work and how they think about how to do their work. It’s not just about access to documents and voice communication. Fostering a collaborative corporate environment also reinforces and amplifies behaviors that improve employee morale. Today, people expect to use many of the same communications and collaboration tools that they use in their personal lives. Delivering on this expectation helps employees work together better.
Ultimately, collaboration can have a positive impact on the bottom-line by fostering a ‘collective intelligence’ within the organization to solve business issues more effectively. The companies that foster that kind of culture will outperform their peers in a globalized market that is increasingly dependent on immediate access and continual knowledge-sharing.
Editor's Note: Additional articles on enterprise collaboration: