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The changing face of business collaboration

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Collaboration remains an often-untapped key to competitive advantage, buried in enterprises’ organizational “backyard". A Unified Collaboration framework that takes culture and human behavior into account, and drives technology decisions with a clear focus on business outcome, can deliver significant impact.

The days of collaborating with colleagues in the conference room, over the cubicle wall, or through long email streams are not gone, but these traditional models of collaboration can’t solve today’s complex business challenges. Many companies are discovering the untapped benefits of harnessing collective intelligence. By adding collaboration tools that neatly overlay existing technology stacks, these businesses are boosting productivity, speeding process cycles, and vastly increasing the organizations’ ability to respond to customer and market demands quickly and effectively.

1. A new approach to the modern workforce

Job requirements today often result in a mismatch between the demand and supply of specific skills. Scarce young analytical talent and retiring industrial engineers are two faces of the same coin. As the workforce evolves and automation or cost makes some skills obsolete, businesses may need to staff their operations from various global locations in order to obtain critically needed skills and talent. Human Resources (HR) executives believe that in the future there will be more part-time, temporary, semi-retired, work-from-home, and offshore resources.

To support this reality, businesses must facilitate an “extended enterprise” in which critical collaborative interactions happen effectively not only between individual employees and internal teams but also with partners, outside agencies, customers, and prospects who may be located anywhere. Cross-border and team collaboration requires rethinking of core business processes in order to effectively manage and leverage a more diverse and distributed workforce. Tools and operations structures that support cross-border and team collaboration are now crucial.

2. Complement—don’t replace existing technologies

Organizations seeking an easy method for moving to next-generation collaboration tools need a “system of engagement,” a layer that enables a more productive and seamless work environment. Effective collaboration tools complement the underlying technologies already in place within the enterprise for managing security and data: firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), enterprise resource planning (ERP), single sign-on (SSO), Microsoft Exchange, etc. Collaborative tools provide unified access to existing data and expand the organization’s ability to share knowledge without compromising security or forcing a complete overhaul of existing systems.

Most organizations tend to look at the value of collaboration in terms of the transactional benefits derived from a simple application of technology—for instance, replacing an in-person meeting with a video chat. However, much greater value comes from understanding the nature of human interactions. Powerful tools such as social network analytics can discern “hidden signals”: The traces that people leave through online actions such as deciding when to connect, how, and with whom. This reveals insights into the functionality of groups in large organizations and how groups can be made more effective through collaboration. This knowledge, in turn, helps the enterprise refine the tools and gain the greatest value.

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3. Collaboration drives business impact: Case studies

A combination of effective change management and well-chosen collaborative platforms drives immediate tangible benefits. By carefully managing employee expectations and encouraging the use of collaborative tools such as real-time document and screen sharing, chat, video conferencing, and collaborative forums, the enterprise can clearly chart a path toward significant benefits derived from closer teamwork and faster resolution of issues.

The following examples demonstrate how a unified collaboration framework can create significant business impact for large global enterprises.

4. Enterprises should not overlook this untapped competitive advantage

The collective intelligence and talent of a diverse, globally distributed workforce must be leveraged to fuel agility and innovation as well as increase efficiency. Organizations must also become more effective in collaborating with their partners across enterprise boundaries. However, too many enterprises lament poor results that mainly stem from limited adoption. The key to more effective collaboration lies in understanding the most powerful use cases, choosing and configuring specific—not generic—collaboration solutions, and focusing on adoption through data-driven and people-centered programs.

For more information, contact unified.collaboration@genpact.com

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