Culture & Competency

Can Starting with the Technology Be Business Aligned?

In the ideal (or perhaps idealistic) view of the world, the use of new collaboration tools and approaches is solely “driven by the business.” I believe there is a lot of validity in this approach, but I equally don’t believe it is the complete story. One of the concepts I have been talking about for a while now is starting the collaboration journey with “Really Understand the Technology” (the R in the ROADMAP model I outline in my book Collaboration Roadmap). The idea is to look at the features offered in a specific collaboration tool (or a generic collaboration toolset if you are exploring which tool to choose), and think about the opportunities it could create for re-thinking work, driving value, and supporting business operations. In a recent presentation I talked about this as a “bottom-up” approach for collaboration strategy: what are the opportunities available in the tool, what outcomes would this create for our business if these were done well, and what strategies could these drive in the marketplace.

For example, consider the remote meeting capabilities in Microsoft Lync, IBM Sametime, GoToMeeting, and other similar tools. The chain of analysis would go like this (see image above too):

  1. What’s the opportunity? To provide a way of holding meetings with people who aren’t in the same place.
  2. What could this mean for our business? Firstly, it would mean there was a reduced need to be in the office. Secondly, it could assist with faster problem resolution. There are a range of other options too.
  3. Which business strategies could this support? If people were in the office less, and they spent more time with customers and prospects, it would support a strategy of customer intimacy. If it allowed us to resolve problems faster, it could support the strategy of delivering excellence in the marketplace. Clearly there are other strategies it could support too; these are merely illustrative.

Taking such a bottom-up approach to linking capabilities with strategies provides a way of prompting thinking, stimulating analysis of possibilities and potentialities, and facilitating discussion about the value and contribution these capabilities could create. For business managers who are unschooled in collaboration tools, it starts to bridge the divide between tools and their effective use. And over time, as business managers start reaping the value of early moves, they gain increased competence in driving the collaboration agenda.

What is your approach for linking the capabilities in collaboration tools with business strategy? Do you exclusively go top-down (start with strategy), or do you complement this with a bottom-up analysis?