The Collaborative Organization: Control The Center - InformationWeek
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Jacob Morgan
Jacob Morgan
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The Collaborative Organization: Control The Center

In this excerpt from The Collaborative Organization, Jacob Morgan explains how to organize for Enterprise 2.0 collaboration.

In chess, one of the key strategies in the opening is to control the center. But which pieces should be used to make that happen? Who in your organization needs to be involved in the discussion and strategy to make sure the collaboration initiative is successful?

Simply relying on the IT department to deploy and manage collaboration is not effective. Similarly, assuming that business units are going to run with the project is also ineffective. Business unit leaders and IT professionals both need to be involved in making emergent collaboration work.

This column is adapted from Chapter 5 of The Collaborative Organization by Jacob Morgan, released July 9 (Copyright 2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher).

In the survey that Chess Media Group conducted, we found that both business and IT professionals are involved in most deployments, as is shown in the chart below (many of the responses that cited "other" listed marketing and communications as the departments responsible for E2.0 at their organizations, which applies to the business unit category).

What's also interesting in this figure is that when either IT or a business unit owns these initiatives, business units are more involved than IT departments. The reason for this is that the barrier to entry for business unit leaders is now very low. These technology solutions can be simple to deploy with minimal technical knowledge and at a very low cost. Remember how easy it was to set up that Facebook or LinkedIn account? You didn't have to purchase any software, install anything, or get permission to set it up. Many of these benefits apply to the emergent collaboration space as well (even though many freemium products will eventually charge), so there is no reason a business unit leader can't deploy a collaboration solution without the help of IT.

What departments are responsible for sponsoring Enterprise 2.0 efforts?

From the organizations I have spoken to and worked with, the most effective team consists of a combination of the following:

-- A senior-level executive who helps drive the initiative from the top.

-- Business unit leaders who will be managing the initiative.

-- IT professionals who will be managing integration and security.

-- Compliance and legal professionals who will be assisting with policies and guidelines.

-- A group of enthusiastic users/supporters to act as the evangelists. It's important to have several evangelists geographically and departmentally distributed throughout the organization.

-- Project managers who will be the overseers of the project as a whole.

-- Someone from a user experience team.

-- Employees who will be day-to-day collaborators and users.

-- Any other stakeholders who wish to join or participate.

Let's take a look at why these people make up an effective team.

Senior-Level Executive

Having someone from senior-level management is important for enterprise collaboration initiatives for a few reasons. First, it shows the employees that collaboration is being encouraged and supported from the top. Second, it's important to have someone who is able to make decisions at an executive level when issues are escalated or when there is lack of agreement. Third, having someone with formal power and budgetary authority increases the chances that this will be acted on. When senior-level executives are not involved, these initiatives typically turn into recommendations instead of actions.

Morten T. Hansen, author of Collaboration, developed the concept of T-shaped management, which is applicable here. In his book, Hansen shares a story about an investment banker at a large financial institution who is up for promotion. This person is loved by his clients, is a top performer at the company, and receives great performance reviews from his managers and peers. However, the problem is that this person does not collaborate and is not a team player. Should this person be promoted to a senior-level managerial role?

Hansen states that the enemy of collaboration is modern management. Most organizations today are structured into various business units or departments, each run by a department leader who reports up to the CEO. The leaders of these units focus on achieving "their numbers" and meeting their targets. Those who exceed their targets and generate solid revenue for the company get promoted. Over time this leads to an extremely internally competitive and siloed organization; you can imagine why collaboration in such an environment does not work well.

Let's get back to the investment banker. Would you decide to promote him yet? At first it's easy to say yes, he should be promoted. But what happens if you start promoting and hiring leaders who are not collaborative? You can see how the culture of the organization and the rest of the employees are going to be affected. Collaboration in this scenario will become a problem.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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