How Collaboration Leads to Better Outcomes

We started the global SMART Global Collaboration Research study in 2013. Why? We didn‘t know of any data that existed on the business outcomes of collaboration. And as a company that obsesses with collaboration outcomes and improving productivity, we felt it was vital to find out what the key drivers of success are.

We started with 300 responders and now we’re up over 3,000 and the database grows every day. It’s a cross section of industries, business sizes, geographies and job roles. It’s by far the world’s largest database of collaboration practices and business outcomes.

The main finding in the study is that collaboration can be viewed as a maturity model, with each organization being placed into one of five phases, and given an overall score from 1-100.

The hard reality is that the average score is a paltry 19.7 out of 100. Clearly a failing grade for how we are collaborating together as businesses across the globe.

But this probably isn’t a surprise to you. Most people, when asked, predict a very low score. As you might suspect, collaboration is clumsy, complicated and frustrating for far too many workers.

These five phases are fairly intuitive. One sobering note: a key profile of the first two levels (unsupported and non integrated) is that they have no strategy whatsoever. That’s right, in a multi-billion dollar UCC industry, 75% of companies have no strategy.

But there’s hope. The companies in the top two maturity levels are getting incredible business value! So, how is value defined? What the following chart tells us is critical to understand: companies with high levels of collaboration have higher rates of innovation, lower risk, and faster decision-making. In today’s business environment, that’s everything.

You may think that saving money on travel costs is the top benefit. Actually it’s the last on the list (although still significant at 1.6 times the savings as companies in the lower 3 maturity levels).

I often get asked, “How do we improve? What are the top practices?”

While each company is different, we found that these five practices (out of the 32 we researched) have the strongest correlation to business success:

Collaboration Best Practices

  • Implementing a collaboration strategy
  • Having a setup that participants can walk up and use
  • Enabling remote participants to easily access and join meetings, and contribute as if they were in the same room
  • Having a setup that makes meetings easy to administer and manage
  • Establishing informal, structured, formal and dispersed collaboration environments

In terms of best practices, top performers score highest on best practices that support the fourth dimension.

Another key point that surfaced is that great collaboration lives at the intersection of these three functions:

As we all know, technology is not a silver bullet on its own. Culture/HR and facilities/real estate play a critical role.

Some of the most advanced companies with high maturity scores have a person (or team) who is the “collaboration champion” who, despite the title on the business card, can speak fluently about all three of these facets and understands how to bring them all together for success on behalf of the organization.

Does your company have a collaboration champion? Or, how would you rate your organization’s level of collaboration? I’d like to invite you to take this assessment and find out.

This assessment shows you how far along the collaboration maturity continuum your organization is and provides you with some recommendations to help you along the path to achieving truly inspired collaboration.

Neil Gaydon
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About Neil Gaydon

Neil Gaydon is President and CEO of SMART Technologies. Prior to joining SMART, he was CEO of Pace plc, a technology developer for pay TV and broadband service providers. During his tenure as CEO at Pace, he led the company through a major turnaround resulting in a ten-fold increase in revenues to become the world leader. Throughout his career, his hallmark has been defining and executing strategy, creating effective structure and changing business culture on a global scale. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School in the Advanced Management Program.

One thought on “How Collaboration Leads to Better Outcomes

  1. Excellent article on how the collaborative learning is used in the real world. After high school, collaborative learning and in general collaborating with other people is unavoidable.

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