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Collaboration is Hot … Very Hot: Deployment

How do you get started deploying collaboration?

In my meetings with Cisco customers, I find that companies have moved beyond asking “what is collaboration?” to “how do I get started?”

Corporate executives at the most senior levels are at a point where they understand the value of collaboration, how this will transform how we work and how IT really does deliver “services” (I’ll fully address the value proposition of collaboration in a later blog – stay tuned for that).

When it comes to actual deployment, I’ll use Cisco as one example.  From an IT transformation perspective, our goal was to accelerate productivity, growth and innovation.  We moved from sequential to agile development, from a rigid product life cycle methodology to one with rapid prototyping, from a “my way or the highway” approach to one of “wisdom of crowds,” and from a local, internal view to one that was global and will address the entire workforce ecosystem.

We identified six steps to transformation:

  1. Develop and communicate a shared collaboration vision for your company.
  2. Develop an enterprise-wide architecture approach.  Collaboration has to be for the enterprise as you can’t collaborate across fragmented technologies.
  3. Identify which business pain points you are trying to solve:  what are the key cross functional business opportunities?
  4. Develop an integrated technology roadmap.
  5. Deliver “mash – up”:  workforce services that will surprise and delight your business.
  6. Communicate, communicate and communicate.

It was critical to involve all functional areas in our collaboration deployment – this was not just about IT, but about all areas of our company, including various business units, finance, HR, legal, sales, corporate positioning, marketing, engineering and corporate communications.  The goal is to ensure that our collaboration solution reflects everyone’s requirements. Our Communications and Collaboration board has accountability and governance for how we’ve developed our integrated workforce experience (IWE).

We found that there is a tremendous amount of change management and communication required for deployment.  Anytime you try to change employee behaviors – even in a fast-moving company like Cisco where our employees are generally savvy about technology (in fact, many are early adopters) – you have to counter entrenched habits.  So continuous communication – from face to face meetings to virtual meetings to video, video, video to formal company announcements and forums – have been part of our overall effort to communicate and educate the company about the IWE vision and specific calls to action.

So far, we have about 60,000 IWE users out of 110,000 total employees and contractors worldwide.  About half of the 60,000 are heavy users, the other half more casual users.  We move to a full enterprise deployment to all 110,000 employees and contractors on November 12 on Cisco Quad. So, as you can see, we still have a way to go in our communication plans.

Next week I’ll address the topic of collaboration as not just about the technology but also as one that must include business process and how important the culture is in making the transformation.

Happy collaborating!

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1 Comments.


  1. Apt advice – as is that found in the very smart book by your colleague: Do Both. From my work with companies and other organizations that are starting to take collaborative initiatives I find that often collaboration starts as a result of a current pressing need or interest facing one part of the organization. They try one method of collaboration – say crowdsourcing (as Cisco has done successfully, perhaps most notably with the iPrize that also motivated Ireland to emulate the contest) or a self-managed project team. Thus a bottom-up effort in a company, if successful, is as likely as a top-down initiative to become more collaborative across the enterprise.

    A vital additional element for an organization to become more collaborative is to give guidelines of the situations in which they encourage it and the methods they support.

    As Morton Hansen found from his research, bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration. Workers at all level have to believe that taking certain actions towards being collaborative will be recognized and rewarded.

    Cisco has exhibited a triple level of collaboration: internally, for and with their customers and illustrating scenarios for individuals consumers to accomplish greater things – with others in their work and social life.

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