Workforce collaboration

I find that many reports from large consulting firms are like pablum; no grist and easy to swallow by the masses. However, this McKinsey Report on Using technology to improve workforce collaboration actually held my attention.

The authors describe how companies can see large savings by using web technologies for collaboration (not a new concept). For instance, Cisco saved $100 million by mandating the use of web technologies which reduced travel and the need for face-to-face meetings. P&G increased its use of collaborative web technologies and in addition mandated that 50% of new product development come from outside the company. This resulted in shorter product cycle times and increased innovation. Good examples from very large firms.  You now have two more data points to throw into an ROI discussion.

The report includes an interactive graphic that shows profiles of typical knowledge worker roles and then suggests collaborative tools for typical tasks.  Some of the key tools include shared workspaces, wikis, and document sharing [I’m not sure why the fax was included as a collaborative technology though]. There are 12 role types described but I think we will see more hybrid roles such as community manager, which would be an amalgamation of aspects from several roles: instructor, manager, counselor. The graphic is a good model to start discussions but I would not recommend being limited to the 12 roles without further research and observation of your own workplace.

The report also discusses waste in collaboration, and while it is important to understand the potential costs, I wouldn’t want to eliminate all “waste” or you wouldn’t have any opportunities for what Jane Hart calls accidental serendipitous learning.

Overall, there is much food for thought but the recommendations are a bit too structured and could be taken to a level that actually decreases collaboration. You can get a lot of benefits by just using networked collaboration technologies, without implementing structured business process re-engineering and sucking the life out of work communities.

6 Responses to “Workforce collaboration”

  1. Shannon

    All of the information you provided is wonderful. I agree, if we do not manage the process and information flow, it is a waste. There is such a fine line between productive collaborations and wasteful communication. If we can thread value learnings into internal wikis and various “sites”, we expand our knowledge base and really learm from other’s experienves and perspectives. These are the details so many loose when only considering “knowledge” based e-learnings. What can we learn from each other?

    Reply
    • Harold Jarche

      Sometimes we don’t even know that we’ve learned something until much later. That makes it hard to develop clear and measurable ROI calculations, and I why I think they should be used with extreme care when examining social activities like collaboration.

      Reply
  2. Janet Clarey

    What reports from large consulting firms do you read? Such reports usually come at a fee and you’re pretty transparent about your stand on that. Not sure you’ve read any of mine ; )

    (Just a little grist from the mill. Just sayin’.)

    Reply
    • Harold Jarche

      Gee, I never thought of Brandon-Hall as a large consulting firm. Did you just buy out McKinsey or Gartner or Forrester? 😉

      I used to purchase these reports and I have clients who have purchased these reports and I have read these reports after the initial (very high) cost has gone down. Can’t think of any that really impressed me. To be transparent, I have used B-H reports in my work (legally procured) and found them rather useful.

      Reply

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