The Rise of the Chief Collaboration Officer?

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Mindlink postAuthor’s Note:This blog post was a contribution from Neal Fiske at our partner MindLink. Visit MindLink to learn more about how to better leverage collaboration technologies.

CEO, CMO, CIO, CFO – yes, we know what to expect and who they are. But CCO? CCO, the Chief Collaboration Officer, is a term coined several years ago…but where are all the CCOs in companies? Do you know one? How many can there be found on LinkedIn? If your business doesn’t have a Chief Collaboration Officer yet, it really is about time to start considering the value she or he can bring.

Taking time out from the specifics of our MindLink solutions, I wanted to share some of my own thoughts and experiences in relation to collaboration in the workplace today. What do I mean by collaboration? Put simply, the process by which a team of people interact to achieve a common goal. In this post I’m not going to differentiate between real-time technologies e.g. calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, and “near real-time” e.g. email, portals, social tools.

The CCO – Nice to have? Important? Critical?

Just over three years ago, an article in Harvard Business Review made a case for businesses to establish the role of the CCO – the Chief Collaboration Officer, the “executive responsible for integrating the enterprise”. It wasn’t the first time the concept had been mooted, but it was a notable and very public one. There have been a number of articles and references since, but what is interesting is how few companies have actually embraced the idea and gone on to create a full (or a part-time, or a virtual) CCO role.

Collaboration has become increasingly important to businesses. It underpins daily operations at every business around the world, from managing process exceptions e.g. in manufacturing, or customer support, through to creating value and improving outcomes in more knowledge-centric industries such as Finance and Legal. It leads to greater revenue, improved customer satisfaction, lower costs, increased employee morale and retention. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone in recent years who would say that collaboration isn’t important to their business. But maybe it isn’t yet seen asbusiness critical, and I think in large part that is down to current experiences.

There are great and diverse collaboration technologies out there today. But:

  • One size does not fit all e.g. the collaboration requirements of your Sales & Marketing team could be very different to those of your Customer Support team. What works in some parts of your business just may not work, or be successfully adopted and exploited, in other parts.
  • Providing too many options is not a good thing. In my experience, presenting many overlapping choices can lead to the resumption of “email for everything”, because “it works”, particularly when users are under time pressure. Well, it’s very easy to send email, but hard to efficiently consume it. “Email overload” is a problem still not yet solved in many businesses.
  • Technology vendors will often talk about the culture change that their solution brings (or sometimes needs) – but how does that sit with the changes required for other technologies? Are those changes similar, or even compatible?
  • Collaboration strategies should not be about having slightly better / easier / faster / cheaper technologies e.g. it is perfectly valid (and desirable) to implement a new Unified Communications platform to reduce call costs – but that’s a cost- saving strategy, not a collaboration one.

Influences – what you need to consider?

Collaboration strategies are at the mercy of many, many influences, both internal and external. Today, anyone taking a holistic view of collaboration and creating a compelling strategy needs to take into consideration a complex mix of business requirements, technologies and strategies, including (but definitely not limited to):

Customer communications, Email, Security, Social, Mobile & BYOD, Compliance, Portals, Risk, Document Management, Unified Communications, Legal Hold, Cloud, Archiving, Technology Innovation, Supply Chain, Desktop, Channel.

Ownership

Individually each of these will – I hope! – be owned by someone in your organisation. Perhaps several will be owned by the same person. But I’d put money on it that yours is like most organisations today in not having someone with both a complete picture of the situation and requirements today and a vision for moving forward, for putting collaboration – and the fantastic value it provides when delivered well – truly at the heart and in the culture of your business.

Ready to appoint your Chief Collaboration Officer? Read this guide to get more insights

About Maria Stockham

Maria Stockham is a Senior Enterprise Product Marketing Manager at BlackBerry focused on unified communications and collaboration and responsible for marketing enterprise applications (corporate and 3rd party including iOS and Android apps securely wrapped for deployment in Secure Work Space). Maria is a full time telecommuter based in Minneapolis, Minn. She understands how technology can enable the successful proliferation of virtual, global teams as well as the productivity and collaboration benefits it can provide. Her software industry experience spans over 10 years in digital imaging and telecommunications verticals. With a degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, Maria has held various positions in Product Management as well as Product, Program and Channel Marketing.

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