Archive for October, 2009

October 6, 2009

Value in Capabilities

How do you translate such abstract Web 2.0 concepts like connecting, teaming, and sharing into real business value?   First, you have to understand some of the current business challenges many organizations face today.  These include:

  • People – attracting talent, developing leaders, learning, and connecting
  • Knowledge – harnessing, sharing, and finding
  • Lean Processes – functionalization across independent lines of businesses, reducing costs, duplication of effort, time to communicate
  • Focus on customers – enhancing the customer experience and sales force effectiveness
  • Fostering Innovation – across uncoordinated pockets
  • Ethics & Compliance – enabling policy management and strengthening ethics
  • Security – of files and online information

So how will companies meet the business challenges they face?   How will they meet the needs of their employees?   How do you service customers and meet their needs if you can’t connect with them easily?    How do you develop leaders when you can’t find people with the right skills you need or share knowledge effectively?  If you can’t measure the efficiency of a process today because workflows are not audit-able and information is not visible, how can you improve it?  How do you manage risk effectively if you can’t organize your documentation or take the right corrective action at the right time?   How will your organization be able to execute effectively?  

And that’s where a collaboration platform like SharePoint takes center stage.  It provides the capabilities businesses need to optimize resources, develop leaders, learn, streamline operations, and drive profitable growth.   Of course, it’s easy enough to say that SharePoint will lead to efficiencies and resource optimization.   So let’s again ask the question HOW and understand the enabling capabilities of a collaboration platform:

  1. Connect and Develop People.  How?  By quickly connecting colleagues, locating subject matter experts, social learning, and the sharing of informal knowledge.
  2. Reduce learning curves & drive innovation.  How? Through the sharing of ideas, knowhow, and best practices across time, political, and geographic boundaries.
  3. Create efficiencies in business processes.  How? By providing transparency and audit-ability of workflows, and documentation of unstructured work.
  4. Consolidate information and provide visibility.  How? By integrating disjointed back-office application (e.g. ERP, CRM, Project Server, etc..) system data into a centralized and visible dashboard view.
  5. Enable secure teaming. How? By providing a role-based online business context to manage projects, analyze, and act on information & business intelligence.
  6. Focus on customers and partners.  How? By connecting them to employees across geographies in a secure and always available online workspace.
  7. Mitigate risk. How?  Through secure policy management, optimized workflows, and corrective action automation to avoid associated fines or potential loss of contracts.

So there you have them…..7 key enabling capabilities of a collaboration platform.   And this is the true value of connecting, teaming, and sharing….they are capabilities that enable people to execute more effectively.

October 3, 2009

7 Steps to Sell the Value of Collaboration to Decision Makers

UPDATE: The following presentation was delivered by me at the SharePoint Summit 2010 Conference.

One of the challenges in deploying an Enterprise 2.0 platform like SharePoint is first figuring out how to get approval for funding such an initiative.   I’ve read a few articles on ROI of Collaboration and the bottom line is that the bottom line of collaboration is often hard to quantify.  So how do you sell the value of collaboration to those individuals who make decisions within your organization?   It’s often difficult to wrap your arms around concepts like blogs, wikis, or communities and even harder to quantify those in some type of hard ROI.   However, there is a methodology to the madness of establishing value of these collaboration tools.   And that methodology can be broken down into 7 key steps:

1. Identify the current business challenges. These may include innovation, focusing on customers, lean and efficient processes, attracting talent, developing leaders, and sharing knowledge, and of course compliance and security of information assets.   Each organization may have their own unique spin of these challenges, yet there does seem to be a common set no matter what company you talk to.

2. Capture the voice of the customer(i.e. your employees).   Whether you focus on a line of business or functional area like human resources, go out into the business and talk to people.  Find out what their challenges are, what opportunities they see, what pain points they have, etc…  Make sure you start a list of “notable quotables” too.   Capture those catch phases and feedback.

3. Ask the question:  How? How will your organization meet those business challenges?  If you can’t measure the efficiency of a process, how do you know you improved it?  How do you service customers if you can’t connect with them easily?   How do you develop leaders when you can’t find the right people with the right skills or even share knowledge effectively and easily?  How do manage risk if you can’t organize your documentation or take the right corrective action.    With sooo many corporate initiatives going on in your organization, how will all this work get accomplished?

4. Outline guiding objectives. The answer is of course a collaboration platform (e.g. SharePoint).  But it’s not enough to just state that alone.  You need to develop some guiding objectives of what this platform will do and how it will achieve those objectives.   For example, one of those objectives may be to “get work done more efficiently”.   But how?   Well, SharePoint provides a visible business context to analyze and act on information.  SharePoint reduces learning curves, drives innovation –but how?  Through the sharing of best practices and ideas across time, political, and geographic boundaries.   SharePoint creates efficiencies in business processes – but how?  Through transparency, audit-ability of workflows, and documentation of unstructured work.    These are just a few examples of what your objectives might look like.

5. Identify Opportunities.   Maybe there are already initiatives in-flight within your organization that are deploying SharePoint.  Find those existing installations and capture the investment made and benefits they provide.   In those conversation you had with your customers, identify specific potential opportunities.  Then map those to their potential impact they have on driving revenue, reducing costs, developing people, or mitigating risks.   In some cases, the collaboration solution might hit all three.  Let’s look at an example.   Maybe you think an “Internal Facebook” is a good idea.  What value does that really provide in a  business context?   Well, expertise location, networking and employee engagement are just a few ways it adds value.  Now how does an “Internal Facebook” impact revenue and costs?  Well, if you can save time finding the right resource, you just reduced costs.  If you can find that resource and help a customer, then you’ve impacted revenue.  If you find the right resource, they can share knowledge and reduce learning curves and mentor others.

6. Find external examples. Talk your software vendors’ sales rep and find out where a collaboration platform actually benefitted a similar organization with like challenges.  Identify the business challenge, the solution, and of course the benefit.

7. Draw a picture. Try to visualize what this solution will look like and paint the picture of its touch points to other systems like ERP or CRM or Product Development or Project Management applications.   Make sure you incorporate those key objectives you outlined earlier in the picture (e.g. visibility of information, expertise location, social learning, etc…).

And there you have it.  I just gave you the outline for your Powerpoint presentation to sell your collaboration solution to decision makers.   Again the 7 steps are:

1. Identify current business challenges.

2. Capture the voice of the customer.

3. Ask the question – HOW?

5. Outline guiding objectives of the collaboration solution.

5. Identify opportunities for the solution.

6. Find external examples where a like-solution was successful.

7. Paint the picture.