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Measuring collaboration success

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The challenge for Martins was to collapse problem resolution delays from months down to days. To get there, he leaned on a concept known as "spontaneous association," which he defines as the capacity that a group of individuals with multiple skills has to spontaneously combine their skills to respond to a problem without direction.

By applying this concept that empowered workers to self-organize and address issues, along with enterprise social software to facilitate interactions across organizational boundaries, Martins fundamentally changed the way his company responded to crises. They could identify issues more rapidly, bring responders together without meetings and work across organizational boundaries.

In the final analysis, Martins' efforts drove time-to-resolution of major issues from a high end measured in months to an average time measured in days. More importantly he set a standard for addressing problem resolution through spontaneous association that could be applied across all parts of the business. He attributed the results to the ability to move from a traditional response system to one based on collective action.

Broad adoption

Each of the cases involved a deep relationship between IT and the business that stood to benefit from working in a more social and collaborative way. Each had a baseline understanding of process inefficiencies that could be addressed through new collaborative processes. Each was addressed as a distinct IT initiative or a discrete part of a broader collaboration and social agenda.

However, the inefficiencies identified in each of the process maps, including the inability to find information and expertise, drive collective action and avoid travel, are common to many, if not most, knowledge worker processes. Given that assumption, once the value of social business and collaboration has been demonstrated to one or more business units in a limited fashion, the key metric to focus on becomes broad adoption.

Defining the business value of social business and collaboration by measuring general knowledge worker efficiency is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. The nature of the work is simply too ad hoc. Focus instead on known business processes that can benefit from better access to information, expertise and collective action. Do that by defining areas of human latency in the processes, assigning costs to those areas, and defining new social and collaborative processes that remove the latency and/or drive better results.

Any process in which a motivated business leader will work closely with IT to drive the initiative is worthy of consideration. The partnership and commitment from both sides is more important than picking a specific process. At the end of the day, most knowledge worker processes are more similar than different and take advantage of being more social and collaborative. With that in mind, make the effort to define and measure success once to prove the value and then focus on broad adoption. 

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