The "you get what you pay for" mentality still survives in the enterprise and is an important point to remember when trying to demonstrate the true value of collaborative tools to decision makers.

Payoffs of Collaboration

Plenty of research and studies from recent years have concluded that an organization’s ability and extent of collaboration has a major impact on its performance.

Among the most cited studies is the Collaboration Index from 2006 by Frost & Sullivan. They found that 36 percent of an organization's performance was due to its cultural and technological ability to collaborate and in what ways and how much it collaborates. Another interesting study done in 2010 by Google together with The Future Foundation identified a strong correlation of 81 percent between collaboration in business and innovation.

Especially large companies should take collaboration dead serious and act on the insight that they must excel at collaboration if they are to survive and thrive in the digital age. They need to see the digitalization of work for what it really is, a new and emerging -- and completely different -- operating system for running a business. It is an operating system that relies on connecting people and information across time and space.

Investing to improve an organization's collaboration capabilities should not be seen merely as a way to save money by reducing traveling or flexible working; it should be seen a main path to improving productivity, innovation and organizational agility.

The True Cost of Cheap

The fact that new collaboration tools are often inexpensive compared to traditional enterprise software such as ERP systems is often highlighted as a key benefit when consultants and software vendors create business cases for implementing new collaboration capabilities. But I would argue that this is a really dangerous approach, especially when you need to sell it to executives.

If something is too cheap it won't be considered important enough by executives or anyone who is involved in making the big decisions in an organization. It will be largely invisible to them. It won't get their attention in either a good or a bad way. Throwing the cheap argument at executives might very well come back to you as a boomerang and hit you in the back of your head. When you need to use the "...and it's cheap!" argument, it is a clear sign that you have failed to communicate the real benefits of collaboration.

To sell collaboration to executives you need to help them see the use cases that are tied to the organization’s performance. If collaboration becomes connected to how they are measured themselves, it will also become important to them personally, and chances are they will see it as important for the organization as a whole. If it’s not tied to their own performance measures, it will most likely never make it to the top of their agendas. If you sell collaboration too cheap, it definitely won’t be on their agenda at all.

Image courtesy of tanatat (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Oscar Berg's thoughts on the Social Enterprise:

-- Enterprise Collaboration: Start Celebrating Adoption, Not Deployment