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Planning is the Best Way to Getting Ahead of Today's Dynamic Business Climate
Karthik Padmanabhan
Monday, May 3, 2010
The planet may be getting smarter, but it is also getting more dynamic and harder to predict; particularly the business world. Everything from swings in markets to increasing global competition to new consumer expectations is changing at a furious pace. How do businesses evolve to adapt and respond dynamically?

We also live in a time when people want to communicate in realtime, anytime, anywhere. Information and expertise abound, but gaining required insight from them is harder than ever. Workers want to use new tools and personal technology to accomplish their goals. How do people collaborate to maximize effectiveness?

Businesses must embrace change by creating a more agile, collaborative, and connected business environment. Setting a collaboration agenda can make a company more profitable and productive, while giving people a better quality of work and life.

Asian Paints is a great example of a major company that embraced a collaboration agenda. The company deployed IBM Lotus Notes Enterprise Messaging, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Lotus Sametime software for realtime team collaboration, IBM Domino Messaging for Blackberry Enterprise Service, and Lotus Traveler. Today, this platform connects and helps approximately 4,000 users collaborate from 130 locations across India.

A collaboration agenda differentiates your business by redefining the way your people work. It’s about cost effectively building and deepening connections among people, systems, and processes in and beyond the boundaries of an organization. Collaboration helps the organization by discovering and combining expertise and information in time and in context, and tapping in to world-class expertise from anywhere. It can be structured without delays and distractions or high costs. Collaboration can also contribute to better product development by connecting people to drive insight and deepen relationships to collaborate on new products and approaches.

The world is becoming more connected economically, socially, and technically. In this process, humans are key to systems becoming instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent. People are the ultimate sensors where latency in business processes still exist, and where data is used to make decisions. As a result, we also have to focus on enabling people to work more naturally and efficiently, essentially without obstacles. Business leaders can solve challenges and address opportunities by better enabling people important to them, both inside and outside their organizations, around established business processes, and by industry-specific roles and patterns. First, it's critical to define challenges, issues, and risks across the roles and patterns within a particular business area. Then, it can be determined how collaboration can solve those challenges and improve real business results such as increased revenue, decreased cost, reduced risk, and raised customer satisfaction among other benefits.

Begin looking at business areas and strategic priorities that can be best addressed with investments in collaboration. Where can you make the greatest impact if you could unleash the potential of your workforce by freeing people from the hard-wired organizational barriers that slow them down?

Many other organizations agree that adapting and responding dynamically is the key. According to IBM's Global CEO Study, 98 percent of CEOs say that they will restructure the way their organizations work. The gap between CEOs who expect change and those who have the ability to handle change has widened sharply. And a Harris Interactive Poll shows that two-thirds of people can't find the help they know is available.

Setting an agenda for collaboration is a systematic approach to realizing measurable business value from improving the way people interact specific to their job roles, functional area, and industry. This enables an organization become expertise-based and collaborate across their entire internal and external population ? including employees, partners, suppliers, customers, and even investors - in the context of how they work.

Two key characteristics shared by the top quartile of companies most adaptable to change are: being effective at collaborating and connecting experts, IBM studies show.

In addition, a study by McKinsey & Company in January 2009 shows that those who collaborate and connect experts well reap measurable business benefits - a median reduction in operating costs for core business processes of 15 percent, 25 percent improvement in customer marketing conversions, 17 percent rise in customer loyalty, and a 20 percent reduction in time-to-market for new products and services.

To set a collaboration agenda, businesses should
• Establish a clear strategy that makes fluid connections and interactions across customers, partners, and employees,
• Design a roadmap that balances business impact, adoption, and investment,
• Optimize their organization ? specific role interaction patterns showing how people really,
work together, and
• Define tangible metrics to measure return-on-investment.

How Do You Get Started?

Start by asking yourself tough business questions such as

* Does your organization change effectively when it needs to?
* Do you empower people to work wherever and whenever they need to?
* Can you quickly and easily find the right information and expertise?
* Are you spending time searching for information and not getting anywhere?
* Are you making optimal use of people and resources inside and outside the organization?
* Do your systems take so long to change that they slow business response?
* Are your major business processes stuck in silos?

Answering these questions honestly may lead to the blueprint for a collaboration agenda ? a view of the ultimate organization of the future that is yours.

The author of the article is Karthik Padmanabhan, Country Manager, IBM Lotus Software.
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