The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise
As we enter a new decade, it seems appropriate to reflect on the transformation of the “Enterprise.” No, I am not talking about the starship!
I am referring to the organizational framework that has been the mainstay of business structure for the past couple of decades. Historically many models of enterprise structure have emerged: functional, divisional, centralized, decentralized and matrixed, to name a few. Rather than debate the merits and demerits of these, let us envision what the future model might be for a successful enterprise.
What will the next generation business enterprise look like?
Well, there is no crystal ball to give us an exact answer for sure. However, we can certainly call out some of the key characteristics of the next generation enterprise. These include: a geographically distributed workforce; the innate ability to embrace innovation both inside and outside the organization’s boundaries; flexibility in business processes to include customers, suppliers and partners; and perhaps most important, a culture of openness and shared ideas. Yes, I am talking here about the Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise (NGCE).
By the way, it is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity. Quite the contrary! Collaboration encourages clusters of experts with diverse skills to make decisions quickly. The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise allows experts at any level to propose, create and execute without hierarchical or geographical constraints.
The decade ahead will see the emergence of the Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise that will leverage innovation and operational excellence without boundaries.
Now picture this. Priorities are set by clusters of experts that make decisions. Decisions are communicated real-time through social media applications. Work is shared on a secure collaboration technology platform. Individuals are able to apply themselves to the work based on their skills and availability, regardless of their geographic location. Expertise outside the Enterprise is included ‘on-demand’ to bring necessary knowledge to bear. Funding is directed based on milestones. Direct accountability is embedded into the social network. Finally, organizational functions become less relevant and ‘Re-orgs’ become obsolete. Leadership is defined as the ability to influence, envision and execute ― rather than the authority to command and control.
Sounds like a great vision, but is it practical?
As I often say, vision without execution is just a dream. To enable this scenario, many capabilities are required to transform how an organization operates. From a technology perspective, the enterprise collaboration platform must make it easy for an individual to access and share information with other experts. This collaboration technology architecture incorporates mobility, security, synchronous and asynchronous communication, personalization, community, team spaces, borderless networks, and rich interactions ― and we will likely create additional functionality that will evolve over time.
Although I’m a technologist at heart, we all know collaboration is not just about the technology. It is about how you apply it to workflows and processes to achieve business value. It is also about how you embed it within a corporate culture to maximize and sustain that value. It is Cisco’s thinking about how process and culture contribute to a collaborative enterprise that I want to share with you in some detail.
From a culture and people perspective, we describe the NGCE as a virtual organization that dynamically forms and executes against a company’s priorities. It also captures global opportunities, while eliminating the barriers of time, location, culture, and language. The characteristics of this next-generation workforce include:
- greater importance on an individual’s visibility and reputation;
- schedules that occur any where and at any time based on working moments;
- rewards and compensation based on value of contribution and expertise;
- managers who act as coaches to ensure the right skills and resources are applied to the right priorities;
- communications that use richer mediums, are multi-lingual and require new behaviors; and
- organizations that are formed based on business priorities and are staffed from a global marketplace of talent.
From a business architecture perspective, integrated global processes are designed to deliver predictable business results. The NGCE architecture must address processes that cover strategy and planning, delivering value to customers and partners, human capital, innovation and design, manufacturing and distribution, marketing and messaging.
The question to ask yourself as you enter a new decade is: how can you lead your own organization through this journey? I believe Cisco is well on its way to becoming a true NGCE. Cisco released an Executive Guide (.pdf document) last summer that documented how an organization can achieve value from collaboration by focusing on process, culture and technology as part of the Cisco Collaboration Framework. We invite you to join us in creating this future.