While many companies struggleto adopt social business practices, others have found ways to generatereal business results through collaboration.

The difference often comes down to a structured approach to social businessthat was explored yesterday in a CMSWire webinar featuring Jim Lundy, CEO andlead analyst for Aragon Research, Matt Wenger, CEO of ThinkTank and Kim Glover,manager of knowledge management for FMC Technologies. The session was sponsoredby ThinkTank.

What's structured collaboration? Lundy explained it's basically a mash-up ofexisting social techniques with product management technologies augmented bypredictive analytics.

The Competitive Edge

"Our prediction is that by the end of 2016, 40 percent of enterpriseswill adopt structured collaboration," said Lundy. "It's the softwarethat is really going to be the driver. That's going to get you to a competitiveadvantage."

As Wenger explained, any type of workplace collaboration involves two basicchallenges to human nature. First, workers often shy away from saying what theythink out of fear that their ideas will be viewed as silly or irrelevant.

The second challenge is a misperception. Managers bring more people intoa project on the assumption that the extra brain-power will yield abetter result. "But the reality is the more people we bring together, themore complex we make that collaboration," said Wenger. "We add morelimits and obstacles to a successful outcome."

He said ThinkTank addresses those challenges with an approach built onthree pillars: linking the best thinkers around the world, creating anenvironment that overcomes personal fears and engaging in a structured processthat is designed to achieve business outcomes.

Getting Stuff Done

"The definition of collaboration is changing," said Lundy, who wasfeatured in a recentinterview on CMSWire. "We're seeing more business leaders who say,'Look, I want to get this done'."

Not surprisingly, more gets done when people stop simply sharing their views andactually start working together toward a specific business outcome.

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"Getting the team to coalesce around an idea or approach is very, veryhard," Lundy said, referring to slide that showed the progression of social business approaches.

"Collaboration isn't new," he said. "But teams that move fastare going to do more collaboration. They're going to do it with more people. Andthey're going to get to those outcomes faster."

The trick, he said, is to embrace new technologies like predictivesoftware, mobile engagement, the cloud and connected devices. As those elements fuse, they can help to turn a group of chatty employees into apowerful force united on a mission.

Learning Opportunities

"Computers and humans are going to work closer together than they havebefore. Technology, including collaboration, is going to become a competitiveweapon much more today in business than it ever has been," said Lundy.

Pulling Away

"We think enterprises that use structured collaboration are going to getto the right outcome 50 percent more often than those who use traditionalapproaches," he said. "The big thing today is speed. If you can get atool that enables that, you're going to have a competitive advantage."

FMC is a case in point. The oil-and-gas company has swollen fromabout 10,000 workers in 2009 to about 20,000 today. Glover's job is to fulfill amanagement vision of sharing knowledge across the global workforce in a way that boosts productivity.

"You can't just tell people 'Let's go collaborate' and expect it tohappen and to magically create business value and customer value," saidGlover, who oversees 60 collaborative systems. She added:

We really believe that we can help drive this culture of executionthrough innovative collaboration -- maybe it should also be called structuredcollaboration -- and that it can unleash the value and potential of ourpeople. And by 'people' we don't just mean employees. Wemean our partners, our suppliers, our third-party contractors and, of course,ultimately our customers."

Big Winners

Before closing, Wenger offered other examples of companies that saw strongresults from social efforts within about a year of adopting ThinkTank'sapproach:

  • Boeing reduced process cycle times by 91 percent
  • IBM cut its process cycles by 92 percent
  • P&G reported a 950 percent increase in ideation

"Essentially what we do is we enable leaders to construct sessions usingbest practices and collaboration building blocks" such as crowd-sourcing,voting tools, collaborative spreadsheets, wikis, he said. "What we do ispull them together in a timeline framework."

You can watch the full webinar below.

Title image by XuanHuongHo / Shutterstock.