A bit like “partnership”, the word “collaboration” has become overused and may evoke nebulous, “new age” notions. Experience suggests, though, that there are hard benefits to be had, and there is research to back up this observation.
Aberdeen Group’s recent Next-Generation Communications study found that organizations identifying business collaboration as a top goal had achieved more than seven times the rate of improvement in employee productivity, and comparable results in other key business areas.
When you’re introducing a collaborative tool, it’s important to understand the potential benefits in more detail, and work out which are most relevant to your organization, so that you can make sure you realize them. Here I’ll outline just a few of these benefits.
• Productivity and user self-help. According to a 2012 paper by McKinsey, social tools that speed collaboration and make information easier to find have the potential to raise the productivity of high-skill workers by up to 25%.
We’ve found this to be true. Collaboration across the ITSM team can help increase efficiency: for example, by sharing knowledge and ensuring issues are dealt with quickly and effectively.
However, the benefits become many times greater when you include the effects of collaboration across the wider organization. If end-users can support one another, and access knowledge bases directly, they can usually diagnose and fix many issues for themselves. The remaining issues can be reported via self-service portals.
The effect is to reduce the time the service desk team needs to spend on logging issues and on simple break-fix actions. They can then dedicate more time to problem resolution and user training, for example – projects that lead to ongoing service improvement and are personally rewarding for staff.
• Creating and demonstrating business value. Once you increase the ITSM team’s productivity through collaboration and user self-help, suddenly there’s time to talk to business users about what they really need, and engage in the right projects to meet those needs. As a result, the business can clearly see that IT is creating business value. The dialogue that opens up between business users and IT provides an opportunity to communicate that value.
• More agile business, enabled by IT. Because collaboration enables the ITSM team to focus on business change, it becomes an enabler of business change. There are resources to help implement new capabilities, so that the business can achieve faster innovation and get new products to market sooner, introduce analytical capabilities to support better-informed business decisions, and generally react in a more agile way to change.
These are the “hard” benefits of collaboration, and of the introduction of collaborative tools. Although these are probably the ones that will help you build the business case for the tools, the “soft” benefits are perhaps equally important. They include:
• Engaged teams. With the “grunt work” taken care of via automation and user self-help, your skilled technicians can focus on the work that interests and challenges them. Junior staff can develop more quickly because they can be fixing problems, not just logging them.
• Better staff retention. “Millennials”, in particularly, enjoy collaborative styles of problem-solving – it’s what they’ve grown up with. Both users and technicians will be happier if you help them work this way.
• An end to organizational silos. Once users are collaborating to solve their problems, functional barriers often start to break down, with wider benefits for the business.
In future blog posts we’ll elaborate on some of these soft benefits.