Collaboration and Culture Analytics: Answering Key Questions During a Merger or Acquisition

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Two of the scenario areas that Dorje and Sam covered in the recent ClearBox Consulting Intranet Analytics report were Collaboration and Culture. These are described as follows (on page 10):

Collaboration is often a major strategic goal for organisations. This scenario asks whether the analytics tool can be used to provide a collaboration dashboard for the senior leadership team. Can the dashboard support better collaboration going forward by revealing the names of teams which are exemplars of collaboration and teams where more action is required to improve practices?

Measuring culture is not straightforward. How do you define culture? And even if you have an agreed definition then the numbers associated with it are often indirect and open to interpretation. However, measuring culture change remains a common goal for analytics. In this scenario we imagine an organisation which is trying to improve their staff engagement so a yearly survey is carried out. But can your product help the HR manager see changes in staff engagement on a weekly or monthly basis?

These two analytics areas were of particular interest to me in light of a recent conversation with the collaboration manager from a global firm. His firm is a SharePoint and Office 365 customer, and his firm has just been acquired by another firm that is also an Office 365 customer. Going through the decision process on which messaging and collaboration tool to use after a merger or acquisition has a long and storied history in the industry, but at least on the face of it, since both are using Office 365, the path forward is simple.

And yet there are some significant areas to think through. For example:

1. Does the acquired firm simply migrate their tenant to the tenant of the acquiring firm?

2. In this case, the acquired firm has been using Office 365 for longer than the acquirer, and according to the collaboration manager, is using Office 365 better than the acquirer. The acquired has more maturity in collaboration practice than the acquirer.

3. In this case, the level of activity in certain Yammer groups is more advanced in the acquired firm than in the acquirer.

4. In this case, the acquired firm has better content organisation and practices in SharePoint than the acquiring firm.

Notwithstanding the technical challenges of merging Office 365 tenants, or migrating content from one to the other, there is a great need for good collaboration and culture analytics under this scenario to answer the following questions:

1. Which teams, groups, and communities are exhibiting the best collaboration and culture in the systems they are using currently?

2. What is the relative positioning of their best collaboration and culture practitioners compared with ours?

3. Looking at the totality of knowledge content and collaboration practice in each Office 365 tenant, which tenant is the stronger one to bet on going forward?

4. I imagine a future when part of the due diligence of acquiring another firm means getting a collaboration and culture analytics report on its usage of Office 365. The acquiring firm has the right to run an analytics engine over the tenant of the acquisition target, and summary analytics data is presented to highlight areas of strength and weakness.

In today’s knowledge economy where much of the value of a firm is in the collaboration, culture, and knowledge practices of staff, breaking those practices by enforcing a poorly scoped strategy of getting everyone at the acquired firm to start again in the new firm is a recipe for value decimation. We need real, solid data on what is working well – not just for the sake of generating pretty dashboards and giving ourselves a pat on the back – but because ongoing business depends on it.

On the culture analytics area, my interest in this dates to 2006 when I started an doctoral program that morphed into a focus on the use of speech acts in discussions. In today’s language I would say that I was looking for a way of making explicit the cultural quality of collaboration. I had to give away my doctoral studies so never finished the program, but I think this area still offers a fruitful avenue for exploring culture through analytics.

Interesting times. For more on intranet analytics, make sure you check out the Intranet Analytics report from ClearBox Consulting in the UK. And if you are involved in a merger or acquisition, consider how you might use analytics information to bolster your assertions about the power of collaboration and culture in your firm.

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