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The New Working Paradigm: Collaboration, Technology and Information

by AIMM MAITD

IBM recently released its report into how organizations are using technology and people in 2010. The report, titled A New Way of Working - Insights from Global Leaders, highlights the fact that today's business environment is becoming increasingly complex and volatile. Coupled with the new reality that customers, suppliers and workers are becoming more and more geographically dispersed, organizations today need to work smarter, not harder. This study examines what practices leading organizations are using and refining to keep ahead of the game.

The study surveyed over 275 senior executives worldwide, comprising senior leaders of business units and IT functions. The report authors also interviewed leaders that were already using smarter working practices. Just what are these smarter ways of working that the study authors investigated? The report categorizes these working practices using a three-way grid. In its simplest form, their model can be summarized as such:

Dynamic:

People can be identified and placed easily to work on current issues

Processes and rules are owned and automatically changed

Information is automatically sourced and delivered to those who need it

Collaborative:

People from within and without the business are involved in business improvement

Processes are easily understood and involve all in decision making

Information is discussed and evaluated

Connected:

People work across time, geographical and technological boundaries

Processes cross organizational boundaries efficiently and effectively

Information from multiple sources is captured in real time

Note how each element has three dimensions: People, Process and Information. It is the three dimensions together that make for effective work practices. Here, Business Performance Pty Ltd is in unison with the study authors. For example, organizations that simply install new technology without attending to getting their people on board with using it are wasting their time and resources. The same can be said of businesses that institute programs to engage people without fixing the underlying systems and processes. These kinds of effort are simply papering over the cracks in the business.

What are high performing organizations doing differently compared with their underperforming counterparts? The IBM study draws some very interesting results. For example, high performance companies are more than twice as likely able to:

  • easily identify individuals with needed skills
  • quickly build skills to address changing conditions
  • display and deliver information to meet the needs of various audiences

That's a very significant shortfall in capability in recognizing skill gaps and filling them quickly. In this modern environment, Human Resource functions need to be at the forefront in managing and deploying talent across the organization.

The report also revealed where the top performers are better at building collaborative work processes around realtime information. For example, compared with their lower performing counterparts, the high performers were:

  • twice as likely to ensure business process documentation is visual and well understood by key stakeholders
  • more than twice as focused on directly embedding collaborative capabilities within processes to improve the speed and quality of their decisions
  • three times more likely to enable users to rate and comment on the information they are using
  • 3.5 times more likely to integrate different sources of data to a significant extent
  • 2.6 times more likely to use realtime information for decision making

The top organizations spend effort on ensuring that information is practical and that people are actually sharing and using it to make realtime decisions. Think about how your organization is collecting, packaging and disseminating information. Is it accurate? Are the people needing it to make decisions getting it on time and in a form that they can understand and use? Can the information be shared within and outside the organization and discussed easily?

Other revealing comparisons made by the report are that companies extensively using these smarter work practices are:

  • 2.4 times more likely to monitor business activity (e.g., dashboards)
  • 1.5 times more likely to integrate communication modes (e.g., voice, video, IM)
  • 2.6 times more likely to use business analytics
  • 3.8 times more likely to use collaborative spaces
  • 9.0 times more likely to use a service-oriented architecture
  • 2.1 times more likely to use process automation and modelling

How do you rate your organization on each of these practices? Are you collecting, sharing and using information in a way that benefits your business? Is data collection and collaboration built into the fabric of your organization, or does it happen by chance?

Another key finding from IBM's study is that the top performers have moved beyond consolidating their position after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The report found that compared with their lower performing cousins, the top performers are:

  • 48% more likely to be developing new products or services
  • 77% more likely to be expanding into new markets and geographies

Cost cutting and streamlining processes can only go so far. The best performers are now positioning themselves for growth. Is your organization focusing on innovation and emerging markets, or stuck on reducing costs?

In conclusion, the best performing companies are using technology to enable collaborative working practices and realtime information to drive quality business decisions. In fact, high performance companies are three times more likely to be using these smarter working practices compared with their lower performing counterparts. And don't forget, in pursuing these practices, the top performers are leading the pack in satisfying the ever increasing demands of customers. How are your customers faring?

References

Copyright © Leslie Allan

About the Author
Leslie Allan

Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small.

He is also the author of five books on training and change management and is the creator of various training tools and templates. Leslie is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Quality Society of Australasia. He is also a member of the Divisional Council of the Victorian Division of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). Leslie may be contacted by email at office@businessperform.com

Leslie Recommends
Managing Change in the Workplace

For practical help with your change program, check out Leslie's resource kit, Managing Change in the Workplace. Its tools, exercises, techniques and tips cover every aspect of managing change. Visit the Managing Change in the Workplace information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical change management guide and workbook today.

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