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I wrote previously about the Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise (NGCE) and received a lot of insightful input from many of you. It is exciting to see so much interest and I would like to thank all of you for the great feedback. I would like to now build on the concepts we talked about earlier and share an evolution of those initial ideas.

In this post I am introducing the term that John Chambers has coined, the “Dynamic Networked Organization.” John often talks about how Cisco’s unique structure, built around the principles of collaboration, has helped us recover faster from the recent economic crisis compared to some of our peers in the industry. We believe that the “Dynamic Networked Organization” model helps large enterprises balance operational discipline with broad innovation. I will also share some ideas on how organizations progress toward this future and highlight some practical examples of industry leaders who are successfully making this transformation.

While the concept of a network-centric organization has been well-documented, what takes the model to a new level today are the capabilities enabled by social media applications and intelligent networks. At its core, the Dynamic Networked Organization is the collaborative model for business transformation.

Most organizations, regardless of size or industry, appear to go through three distinct phases as they evolve to become a true DNO. Let’s call this the “collaboration evolution curve.”

The first phase is investigative, in which early adopters (meaning early users) of collaborative or social media technologies are typically addressing a specific pain point with a stand-alone application. In this phase the focus is often on improving individual productivity through better interactions.

Next comes the performance phase. This is where the organization begins to extend collaboration methodically to their business processes. New stand-alone collaborative technologies or applications are combined into solutions and then applied to existing processes and workflows to drive group productivity.

Finally, during the transformation phase, organizations achieve more significant results in the form of high-impact business improvements. At this stage, the combination of a collaborative culture, technology solutions, and new business processes and models has the effect of fundamentally transforming how an organization delivers its products and/or services. There are four key benefits that a Dynamic Networked Organization achieves, namely: speed, scale, flexibility and replication.

Enterprise value from Collaboration

Of course, these three phases I just outlined are not quite so distinct and scientific as they appear on paper. Culture and technology transformation on a global basis is never that simple, as you know. Even within a given enterprise, certain groups may be exploring phase one while the rest have progressed to phase two or three.  And that’s okay because efforts in the earlier phases contribute to later phases. The opportunities are very significant in the performance and transformation phases – but so is the need to focus on the culture and process to cross the “collaboration chasm” and ensure success.

So how do I know all this?  What is this model based on?

Cisco launched a Collaboration Consortium in 2008, with 18 participating members to share experiences and best practices about collaboration. The intent with this initiative is to develop a reference model for enabling business value through collaboration. Over the past two years we have documented our learnings.  If you are interested in the details, check out “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One”. This is publicly available for download on the Cisco Collaboration Community site. There are several vignettes that show how members use collaboration to achieve value. 

I want to highlight just three examples here:

So far, it appears that it doesn’t matter if you provide public services to a nation, or operate within the private sector — the results are consistent. Collaboration is an evolutionary process, value accrues steadily from one phase to the next, and the benefits at the transformation stage are significant.

I hope this pragmatic approach and these examples are useful to you. Let me know if you or your organization has embarked on this journey to become a Dynamic Networked Organization. Love to hear where you are on this evolutionary curve.

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23 Comments.


  1. As technology professionals, we provide tools and environments for employees to operate. It is fascinating to see the ways many will accomplish their tasks with the tools provided. In addition to early adopters you also have people who will find creative ways to use tools. There is much that can be learned from those people not only in the investigative phase but in each phase.

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  2. I am currently working on a project that introduces collaboration to the medical imaging industry. Unfortunately, collaboration is pretty much non-existent in this industry, if I had to rank according to your model it would probably be at the investigative phase. You can imagine how many advancements in the field can be achieved(similar to 3rd example, but with the impact of saving lives on daily bases).I am glad that Cisco is taking charge here for being at the center of collaboration, because honestly there is so much potential to add collaboration to many industries, but so far many of them were just lacking the leadership.

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  3. Any advice on how to become a champion for collaboration in a non-collaborative environment?I tire of being satisfied with mediocre results…..

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  4. Nicely written… Every organization speaks of collaboration and few truly implement. No offense, but Cisco can do it, Apple can do it… the challenge will be to make that mainstream in SME space. Employees tend to be protective (collaboration often seen as invasion of one’s comfort zone) of their territories and cause hindrances for true collaboration. Some individuals or small teams really adopt the collaboration culture, but at an organization level most stop at the investigate”” phase.”

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  5. It is not always true that for investigative work, an inexperienced fresh look gets the work best started. Sometimes an experienced catalyst worker – perhaps having learned from other prior cycles of performance and transformation — can improve the prospects for success. Early adopters/users of collaborative or social media technologies must be truly open to learning the broader ecology of multiple factors and viewpoints. This helps in qualifying the true specific pain point — and perhaps other similar pain points as well. Then the NGCE won’t waste bandwidth on a stand-alone application, but will nurture and orchestrate a nuanced understanding: What has been; what is now (selfish ego aside); what can be best attempted given budget. Bandwidth goes to a quick prototype or detailed description of feasibility and fit. Cisco is an a great position to use its network for this.The catalyst has levels of experience but no ready-made answer. The DNO augments the knowledge and experience of the catalyst. The catalyst has a primary mind-set to make his/her team succeed. In my experience, this often yields some surprise results when mixing a synthesis that blends an extended team’s inputs.If well done, the speed, scale, flexibility, and replication that emerges is optimum — not perfect. An organization should not look to reduce expenses by discarding an experienced catalyst with proven past results. (IMHO) Thanks!

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  6. Thanks for pointing this document Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One””, this must have be filled with good examples of collaboration put into action.”

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  7. Thanks for pointing this document “Making Collaboration a Reality: Insights from the Collaboration Consortium, Year One”, this must have be filled with good examples of collaboration put into action. nice good..

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  8. i like this statement Most organizations, regardless of size or industry, appear to go through three distinct phases as they evolve to become a true DNO. Let’s call this the “collaboration evolution curve.”in my opinion, sometimes when build up the company, it’s hard to collaborations for new technology or evolution of organization”

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  9. Great article; and it is so true to point. Collaboration sounds good on paper, but unless companies go through the steps as you are outlining, the true rewards cannot be achieved.The territorial boundaries as seen in many companies are working against innovation, quick market responses, and building internal/external relationships.The acceptance, that as collaborators we can achieve more, must be promoted from top leadership to all constituents in realizing the tremendous benefits collaboration can afford.

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  10. Great site. I will spend more time here

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  11. Its fascinating to see the ways many will accomplish their tasks with the tools provided. In addition to early adopters you also have people who will find creative ways to use tools. There is much that can be learned from those people not only in the investigative phase but in each phase.

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  12. Excellent effort on part of Cisco and others who are going through this curve. I say excellent because collaboration is one thing which needs you to open up to others and which makes you let your guards down and that is where it proves to be the toughest ride and that is where I believe some coaching is required.

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  13. As they say he whole is greater than the sum of the parts”” and this is why collaboration is such a positive thing to promote. When people collaborate, whether face to face or via technology based networks, they have the opportunity to create something bigger and better than any one person could do on their own.”

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  14. Initially overall compelling case for adoption; from my experience and the documentation above, collaboration appears to be an important strategy to consider incorporating.My reservations, however, revolve around whether to consider collaboration a basic way to organize businesses, e.g. hierarchy vs collaboration. While collaboration undoubtedly improves performance I am mindful of Russell Ackof’s (and Spike Lee’s) approbation to ‘do the right thing’ vs. ‘do things right’. Doing the wrong thing better is not helpful. So I think collaboration is very important, personally rewarding and, wisely used, can significantly improve performance, but I also think there may be some more basic purpose that organizes the business to do the right thing.

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  15. You really need to spend less time thinking and more time watching NASCAR races. The former is how Europe reached it’s decline, the later is how America really works–it’s more about the race than the process.

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  16. I want details about study of collaborative environment. I am frustrated with this

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  17. The nature of collaboration is changing, it is valuable to adopt social networking type approaches to collaboration – particularly in multi-site global organizations – to make expertise visible and to allow opportunities to collaborate to emerge at low cost – without constant meetings, report and emails.At the same time we find it is often necessary to reduce traditional forms of collaboration – there are far too many meetings and conference calls where topics are irrelevant to participants – up to a day per week of unnecessary sharing in many companies.The challenge as always is sharing where it adds value and not drowning under a deluge of irrelevant information sharing.By the way I do not agree Sreeni that this is harder in SMEs, the technologies are cheap and easily available on the web and SMEs are able to move much faster than large organizations —it depends on the attitude of the leaders of the organization.

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  18. Excellent effort on part of Cisco and others who are going through this curve. I say excellent because collaboration is one thing which needs you to open up to others and which makes you let your guards down and that is where it proves to be the toughest ride and that is where I believe some coaching is required. Thank you…

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  19. Nice Post.I agree with most of your thoughts/findings in the article.I believe, DNO (or whatever else we want to call it) is waiting to happen exponentially.This is essentially pointing to organizations who mature in technology adoption & that too with the right pieces. A big aspect of this transformation is hostage… to lack of education & exposure from the principal solution vendors. We are trying to help customers with some of the same missing pieces & help promote a homogeneous business solution in the current heterogeneous environment.I also think, we have’nt helped most organizations get curious enough and enter the ‘investigative phase’ which to be is a big stumbling block & devoids the user with any feel for what is instore.The above might be a mix of fear-of-unknown, busy-with-things-on-plate, appears-amateurish-experiment, cant-see-how-it-helps will-legal-clear-this & many such reasons, which has put most of them on back-foot & hence the topic on back-burner.If we can help advice,mentor firms to cross the big hurdle & get them into the ‘investigative phase’, then other things should fall in line..as per general business logic.Having said all the above, i think the concept is great and its a question of time before it hits freeway.

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  20. Padmasree,Great post. Your tweets are very useful, but this one took the buscuit. The accompanying documents are very useful. As I read some of them, I can only empathise with the challenges we face daily with trying to work with clients wanting to move from adoption to Permformace stage. Thanks for sharing. Vinesh

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  21. It’s a hard period for every economy in the world and the competition is tighter, so the difference is made by how the company delivers it’s products or services. Collaboration and technology can make the difference between companies in the future.

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  22. Padmasree Warrior
    Padmasree Warrior

    Wow, this is collaboration in action – thanks for all the feedback! Many of you noted the importance of catalysts and other role models during all phases of the evolution curve, and not just in the investigative phase. I agree 100%. Many of you highlight the importance of incentives and rewards to support a collaborative culture. Associated with that is the need for personalization and context capabilities to ensure that the most relevant information is visible to the individual collaborator. I agree with Sam’s comment that there is significant opportunity to advance the maturity of collaboration practices in many industries, including healthcare. Dennis, appreciate your race analogy, but I would argue that if NASCAR didn’t have processes to support their teams and their impressive marketing engine, it would not be the success it is today! Sandeep, there are many online case studies and recent books on the topic of collaboration and Enterprise 2.0. Also, please see the two links embedded in the blog – those sites contain some insights on collaboration that might be helpful.Joel raises an interesting question regarding how central collaboration should be in driving a company’s organizational model. Of course, the answer to a large extent depends on what business you’re in and what products and services you offer. I can tell you that at Cisco collaboration is absolutely core to our business and it fundamentally shapes how we interact with customers to deliver value. Like every other company out there, we are on a journey to become a fully mature DNO. Perhaps this should be the topic of my next blog!

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  23. Great post. Your tweets are very useful, but this one took the buscuit. The accompanying documents are very useful. As I read some of them, I can only empathise with the challenges we face daily with trying to work with clients wanting to move from adoption to Permformace stage. Thanks!

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