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10/27/2005
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What's the Justification, Kenneth?


While you and I may see clearly the value in using collaboration environments to improve the way we work with each other and customers, from time to time, we will be called upon to justify the usefulness and the business case for the technology. How do you develop your elevator speech for this topic? Stick to the issues.

What are your company’s five top strategic issues or challenges? Once you know these, you can directly address them by pointing out the advantages of collaboration environments. In that elevator, you will most likely be standing with the bottom-line folks. They will need to see the return on investment (or the ubiquitous ROI). That will be the biggest challenge because some of the inherent advantages collaborative environments cannot be measured by economic metrics.

What is the value of connecting two or more individuals who never would have “met” otherwise, so that they can solve each others’ problems? In some cases, the host of that particular environment will never see a return from that. However, that host is now responsible for a relationship built on trust and good will. That is priceless.

On the other hand, we can measure how quickly we achieve our goals versus how slowly we achieved them prior to using the collaboration environment. Elementary finance tells us that when we use less time to achieve a goal, we spend less on resources toward that goal. Thus, you can calculate and present your ROI to the bottom-line folks.

Let’s say that some of your issues include not only connecting disparate groups, but connecting those groups to information that they wouldn’t have access to within the current architecture. How do you communicate the value in that? Will your customers be impressed by the forward-thinking knowledge and content management? Perhaps. If it wasn’t what they already had or if it’s a new concept.

If you float the concept with a few key customers with whom you have solid relationships, and they are impressed, you can include them in your business case for a collaborative environment. If not, you may try emphasizing the value of being able to meet customers’ needs “on-the-fly” more readily through the environment.

Like it or not, those of us who are involved in the collaboration environment “movement” as it were, are at the leading edge. To that point, it’s the rare business or board of directors that does not wish to be ahead of the fray. When you are mounting your justification, remember to emphasize that the powers that be are about to launch their business into the brave new world. You may also remind them that the move to a collaboration environment also puts them closer to that vision of globalization they had about five years ago.

Last, do your homework. If you can find out what your company’s or client’s competitors are offering as far as collaboration environments go, you will be able to answer the inevitable questions about their technologies and talk about how your recommendations will surpass them.

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