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Using Collaboration For a Competitive Advantage

Many of the challenges facing enterprises in today’s ultra-competitive business landscape can only be resolved with complex strategies and tactics. The tremendous quantity of data that needs to be assimilated when making organizational decisions can be overwhelming. Addressing the multi-faceted and demanding nature of the 21st Century customer base introduces another set of difficulties that must be negotiated if companies wish to remain relevant and competitive.

It has become virtually impossible for a single individual or entity to adequately process the information and relationships required to make intelligent business decisions. Organizations need to adapt and employ flexible methods such as collaboration if they aspire to be successful in their chosen market.

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is an operational method where individuals or groups work together to realize a shared business purpose. Collaboration can be performed in a synchronous manner, where all of the parties involved engage in real-time interaction.  Asynchronous collaboration is another option where the interaction is with a document repository or shared workspace.

There are some concepts and behaviors that need to be adopted and groomed by the participants in a collaborative effort for it to be effective. One is an awareness of an individual’s place in a structure designed to achieve a greater shared purpose. Motivation and participation are expected of all entities involved in the collaboration. Sharing of information and ideas is presumed to be on a reciprocal basis. The ability to consider alternatives and remain open to new initiatives is critical to viable collaboration.

Benefits of Collaboration in Business

Organizations that promote and foster collaboration among their employees and business groups stand to reap substantial benefits that can result in competitive advantages and a more vibrant workplace.

  • Building trust and relationships – Working in a collaborative environment encourages the individuals comprising the team to form relationships and develop trust between themselves. Problem resolution becomes a team-oriented rather than a management responsibility. The stronger interpersonal interactions will benefit the organization in other ways not directly related to the specific business goals of the team.

  • Providing greater organizational flexibility – A team made up of employees from different parts of an enterprise can result in more flexible and timely problem resolution. Having diverse points of view available to address an issue simultaneously can be more beneficial than querying the same parties sequentially.

  • Promoting innovation – A collaborative team environment should promote the free exchange of ideas with the intent of devising innovative solutions to the problems facing an organization. A productive debate can hone the original ideas into concrete methods that contribute to the health of the business.

  • Improving employee morale – The increased role in decision-making afforded to employees who are members of a team can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and a greater sense of responsibility for the organization as a whole.

  • Encouraging intelligent risk-taking – From within the safety of a team environment, individuals may be more likely to introduce unorthodox solutions that they might be reluctant to promote by themselves. Convincing the team to back a new idea makes it less risky for the originator if it ultimately fails. Taking intelligent risks can help a business stay ahead of their competition.

As you can see, there are real benefits to be accrued by organizations that promote collaboration. The connected world in which businesses operate offers the foundation upon which robust collaborative initiatives can be built.

Connectivity and Collaboration

High-speed networks and wireless technology have permanently changed business communication. It is no longer necessary to gather team members together in a physical location for them to engage in live, interactive activities. Providing employees with connectivity options like smartphones and laptops can result in a competitive advantage for the organization. Enabling the team to collaborate with no geographical restrictions opens up the potential for cooperation throughout the enterprise, no matter where key individuals are located.

Precautions must be taken if employees are allowed to use their own devices to access company team rooms or collaborative projects. It is difficult to enforce security measures on an individual’s device. It may be worth considering the capital expenditure to furnish employees with company approved equipment with which to conduct team activities.

Collaborative Business Tools

As organizations become more complex, collaborative business tools are becoming increasingly important. Data-driven organizations in particular are introducing greater degrees of collaboration throughout the enterprise – from collaborative data modeling, to collaborative data governance.

Collaboration requires a shared language to be effective. Speaking in different tongues does not contribute to the ability of a team to come to a consensus regarding the issue they are addressing. Data governance is a strategy designed to help an organization maintain a common language regarding the data that drives their business. Developing a data governance program to assist with collaboration throughout the enterprise is, in itself, a collaborative effort.

IDERA’s ER/Studio Enterprise Team Edition offers a tool for collaborating on the data definitions and models that form the basis of a data governance initiative. It provides a comprehensive platform from which to create the building blocks necessary for effective collaboration across business lines. Creating a common lexicon that has been jointly developed by all stakeholders increases its utility. Differences in understanding or interpretation of terms can be resolved collaboratively rather than being dictated by a single entity. This increases buy-in across the organization and will lead to more productive collaborative efforts going forward.

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