Why Technology Alone Will Not Solve Poor Collaboration

Anthony Leaper

There is little doubt that a range of digital and social trends are influencing how people share information, sharpen ideas, and leverage expertise. In the tech world, such capabilities are commonly wrapped into a neat little box called “collaboration.” But no matter the label, most companies are still in the dark about how to manage it.

According to the Oxford Economics study, “Leaders 2020: The Next-Generation Executive,” sponsored by SAP, approximately half of workers believe mid-management (48%) and senior management (58%) are proficiently facilitating internal collaboration. Perhaps more disconcerting, confidence in a business leader’s ability to engage externally is just as low.

The problem is not a lack of collaboration technologies in the marketplace. It’s certainly not the lack of adoption as proven by the revelation in McKinsey research, where 93% of executives claim to use at least one social technology. What’s really happening is a misunderstanding of what collaboration is: an intensely human activity. No tool – no matter how ground-breaking and well-adopted – can resolve poor collaboration on its own.

Cutting through the hype to deliver on the promise of true collaboration 

There are many reasons to applaud the increasing importance of collaboration technology. It represents an opportunity to cultivate a workforce that is informed, engaged, and impactful. By fostering a community built on the power of expertise, information, timeliness, and trust, employees of all roles and responsibilities are empowered to exceed expectations, become lifelong learners, and drive the business forward with insight-driven, outcome-based decisions.

However, the dramatic rise in collaboration overload and limited time and mindshare across the workforce are detracting from the incredible value of collaboration tools. Just take a look at a typical work week. How much time do you spend in meetings, on the phone, and with emails? At many companies the percentage of wasted time hovers around 80%, leaving little time for critical work. Performance suffers if you’re buried under an avalanche of requests for feedback and advice, access to information, and meeting attendance. And to keep up with daily responsibilities, you most likely take assignments home, leading to increased stress and burnout.

Despite the risks, most business leaders are not doing enough to fix poor collaboration. In the Leaders 2020 study, Oxford Economics reported that only 27% of executives cite collaboration as a top technology priority – with streamlining processes, promoting innovation, providing data analytics, and improving customer experience not too far ahead. When you consider that an overwhelming majority of executives (96%) blame ineffective collaboration and communication as a primary source of failure, it is surprising that many companies have yet to scratch below the surface of the possibilities.

Uncovering the real value of collaboration technology

The balance sheet isn’t the only reason why collaboration is good for business. Different organizations and regions have different resources and talent with perspectives and insights that make for better results. By transforming business processes, extending information access, and nurturing a culture of openness and sharing, the full advantage of collaboration technology can be realized.

The use cases are endless and varied, but in every single scenario the value delivered by effective collaboration is evident. For example, among the numerous customers I have met over the years, I have seen outstanding results such as 20% increase in bottom-line sales, 19% reduction in complex project costs, reduced sales cycle times, and much more. More recently, I encountered a company that uses collaboration technology to manage complex mergers and acquisition processes – potentially saving millions through reduced costs, improved due-diligence processes, better information for decision making, and smoother post-merger integration.

When done right, collaboration gives the entire business everything that’s required to compete in the digital economy: rapid innovation, mature expertise, comfort, expectations for digital work, and real-time, data-driven decision making. Isn’t it time for your business to redefine the value of collaboration and empower your organizations to connect with each other better and execute faster in a more informed manner?

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About Anthony Leaper

Anthony Leaper is senior vice president of the Enterprise Social Software Business Unit at SAP. He is responsible for worldwide business development of SAP Jam social software. Anthony is focused on developing market opportunities for social collaboration platforms that enables SAP customers to connect more with their customers, partners, and employees through digital, socially inspired, interaction models.