Monday, August 31, 2009

5 key elements to promote collaboration

I couple weeks ago, I wrote an entry on this blog titled “Promote Collaboration in large Enterprises” where I pointed out I had been requested to present on the subject. I have progressed my thinking since and found 5 key areas playing an important role in building such collaboration. I’d like to spend the next entries to discuss each of those in a little more details, and do hope this can spur a conversation between us on the subject.

But before doing so, let me highlight which those 5 areas are so you have a structure of what I intend to blog about over the next weeks. Once the presentation has taken place, I also intend to give you some feedback on the discussion. So, what areas did I come up:Brule parfum

  • Organization & Finance. Large companies are build around business units or product lines. Does the enterprise architecture, in other words, its organization foster collaboration? How are the budgets set-up and does this push them to competition or collaboration? Where are profits and revenues recognized?
  • Measurement. This is the second leg. How are business units or product lines measured? Are those measurements inclusive of collaboration, or exclusive? Are they pushing entities to collaborate or to compete?
  • Compensation & Recognition. Business Units or Product Lines work through people. How are those compensated and recognized for their success in collaborating with other BU’s?
  • Culture & Leadership. Is collaboration core and center to the culture of the company, or is it a nice to have? How does top management behave? How often is the collaboration subject addressed by management, are they leading by example?
  • Tools & Techniques. Tools support collaboration and make it easier for people to work together. Using specific techniques and approaches, collaboration can be made easier. However, it is a myth that tools & techniques on their own push companies to collaborate.

Actually what I discovered is that none of these 5 key elements can foster collaboration on their own. All 5 are required for collaboration to work across business units. Common vision and objectives need to be established and buy-in by the organization as a whole is required. Collaboration is not something that is established once and for all. A continuous reinforcement and effort is required for it to work within a large enterprise. When the economy works well, it’s easier than when times are hard. This might be a reason why the subject is popping up today. So, stay with me. We’ll look at this in more details.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Cloud Platform for Data Collaboration?

Hewlett-Packard today announced the availability of a Cloud Computing Platform for the Manufacturing Industry on the back of its product recall partnership with GS1. The product recall approach consists in a cloud based service providing access to product track and trace information across the supply chain and is primarily focused at the FMCG and Retail industry. It allows them to collaborate and exchange data across the ecosystem while not having to invest in a private environment to do so. The real interesting part is that, working with GS1, HP immediately secures a consistent identification of the products, as this is precisely what GS1 stands for. Otherwise one could say this has already been done, but not in the cloud neither with GS1.

IMG_6510The benefit for companies is that the service allows a faster and more effective way to identify the products that have to be recalled, resulting in both a cost and a risk (liability) reduction. The service is available on a subscription basis.

Now, could this be a first example of how companies could collaborate in the future? Rebecca Lawson seems to hint that way. I also found a blog entry on the HP site labeled “A Cloud ecosystem for inter-enterprise visibility” that hint into the same direction. What additional services could be delivered, well Mick Keyes hints at counterfeiting efforts and hazardous materials as other areas.

If I understand correctly and the platform consists in a development and runtime environment that provides data, analytics, management and security services, then I can see many opportunities. In a couple earlier blogs I spoke about the need to exchange structured data across companies. This might be the backbone that would allow us to do just that. Let’s dream for a moment and assume we have available a service allowing us to share information across our supply chain without requiring upfront investments, just “pay-as-you-go”. This would allow us to more easily motivate our partners to participate and experience for themselves the advantages of sharing. It would demonstrate how sharing allows to reduce inventory, to optimize capacities etc.

To date it may just be a dream, but definitely worth monitoring how HP will evolve this platform.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Promote Collaboration in large Enterprises

After a good break where I had the opportunity to discover other cultures, I’ll come back to that, I found an interesting challenge at my return in the office. One of my clients want me to present on how to promote collaboration in a large enterprise that has grown through acquisitions. I point this out as each of the business units has its own culture, making things a little more interesting.

Many large companies are actually confronted with this problem and although many have tried most have failed of really getting things going. The first issue is that each business unit is ultimately measured on its results. When things get though, as in the current environment, business units have a tendency to focus on their own objectives, ignoring anything else. And one can argue that, ultimately, collaboration will give them more benefits than working in isolation, it does not matter, they focus on their own objectives. Dave Packard used to say “Tell me how you are measured and I will tell you how you behave”. He is absolutely right in this. It’s all about measurement and the associated incentives. So, you could say, lets change the measurement and reward everybody on the company successes. Yes, that would work, but would dilute responsibilities. Who is responsible to maximize the revenues from each of the business units.

IMG_5224 Developing the incentives to ensure maximal revenues for each business unit while maximizing collaboration, taking advantage of the “power of the portfolio”, is really an art. It consists in establishing measures and rewards that include both aspects. The use of balanced scorecards may help in this process. But there is another element to take into account. It is not enough to incent teams to work with each other, its also important to ensure they know of each-other and can easily find the appropriate resources to collaborate with. Particularly in large enterprises grown through acquisitions, this is absolutely not trivial. One approach I have seen in companies is the use of a “buddy program” where employees from different business units help each other understand the workings and culture of the other unit. It works effectively to integrate an acquisition for example and it helps harmonizing the cultures.

A more intriguing approach to finding the right resource in a large organization I have seen lately is a program from HPLabs, called WaterCooler. WaterCooler is a social networking tool focused at helping employees find the right resources (information and people) to address a particular problem. It aggregates shared internal social media and cross-references it with an organization’s directory.

As I progress with the preparation of my presentation, I’ll share some more thoughts with you. Feel free to share yours with me. We may be able to find the approach that helps companies to break down the Chinese wall they have between their BU’s.