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Cross-Border Collaboration - Collaborative Business Environments Change the Rules

Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at the issue of collaborating and sharing knowledge with colleagues across time zones and borders.  Two years ago, on 1 May 2004, the European Union expanded eastward, shifting from a tight-knit club-like association of 15 countries, centered around France and Germany, to an assemblage of 25 countries representing 455 million people whose outlook on many issues, including wealth and business, varies greatly.  This includes what the citizenry knows and thinks about the knowledge economy.

One way of bringing knowledge workers together from afar is through a Collaborative Business Model, which we discussed last week in depth. 

For managers that do recognize the possibilities of the Collaborative Business Environment model for their organization, the marketplace holds many possibilities.  Many offerings have the potential to reduce the inevitable inefficiencies that arise when people interact with others. Soon, with technology advances such as real-time communications, Web services, On Demand Computing, Service Oriented Architectures, and powerful Collaborative Business Environments, information will flow to where it is needed, precisely when it is needed.  Theoretically, the long sought-after productivity gains will finally be realized in enterprise-wide efficiencies, and everyone in an organization will have access to critical information when it is most useful. 

The deployment of a Collaborative Business Environment is not a simple matter, especially if it must traverse continents, multiple languages and multiple cultures.  Given the resources that such implementations require, such as infrastructure, people, and funding, as well as the amount of time that the implementation will take, such as planning, deployment, and training, it is essential to choose a system based on a measure of its impact on the knowledge workers who will use it.  It is also important to understand the different classes of Collaborative Business Knowledge applications and services, which is beyond the scope of this article and will be covered in a future edition.

Although a Collaborative Business Environment can have a positive impact on an organization with as few as ten people, the benefits of a CBE become even more apparent when deployed in companies that are integrating new territories into their organization, such as an expansion to new markets within new member states in the EU.

Although new offices are usually seeded with long-time employees, the learning curve for new employees in the new regions can be considerably shortened by essentially giving them access to everything that a company knows.

Collaborative Business Environments do, in fact, change the rules.  They maximize the potential for appropriate levels of interaction, both within the enterprise and between a company and its suppliers, customers and partners.  They create a real-time environment where asynchronous activities, such as voice mail and e-mail messages, can move to the background because workers are able to initiate synchronous, or real-time, activities easily.  

Collaborative Business Environments have the potential to finally realize long-sought enterprise productivity gains.  No longer need one wait days for feedback from a colleague who is away on holiday.  No longer must workers settle for help from a colleague lacking suitable expertise when the most knowledgeable person could be located just as easily, even if that person is 6,000 miles away.

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