Structured Collaboration: Go With the Workflow

Author: David Mario Smith                                                               Date: May 14, 2015
Topic: Collaboration                                                            Research Note Number: 2015-18

Issue: What are the best practices for managing collaboration inside and outside the enterprise?

Summary: To deliver its full value, collaboration should take place in the context – and the service – of a specific business process, as part of a well-managed workflow. We call this “structured collaboration,” and it is the future.

2015 is turning out to be the year that IT and enterprises acknowledge the centrality of collaboration in business. Even if every participant is a sole proprietor, any transaction is an interaction between people and therefore collaboration. In the real world, all the internal and external planning and negotiating events on each side leading up to the transaction — the marketing outreach, the sales engagement, the strategy determination, the offering definition, the pricing and SLA decisions, the creation of the contract, the closing and execution — are collaborative interactions. A Gantt chart of any business process essentially maps a sequence of collaborations. On a human level, business is collaboration.

The key to adoption of collaboration products will be to the extent of how integrated they can be in a specific business process. Many business leaders use collaboration to support processes such as sales and marketing communications. Industries such as manufacturing and healthcare have been early adopters to support workers in the field or on the plant floor or in hospitals. Manufacturers can collaborate with employees, customers and suppliers globally. Healthcare professionals can extend communications to remote locations such as a patient’s home and communicate with other healthcare professionals in multiple locations to discuss patient issues.

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