Is Unstructured Collaboration the Key to Business Agility?


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According to a report by Microsoft it is (geared towards the manufacturing industry). Towards the end of last year Drew Gude, (Director, U.S. High Tech and Electronics Manufacturing Industry Solutions for Microsoft) wrote a report in which he said that “unstructured collaboration is going be the key to increased innovation and business agility in 2010.” Here’s the most relevant quote from the article:

“In 2010, manufacturers will adopt social collaboration tools as they look to integrate social computing tools and platforms into their business processes, linking internal communities and external communities.”

While I’m a bit skeptical on the time frame I definitely think this is the direction we are moving in and not just for the manufacturing industry. Drew cites the largest challenge as being able to integrate tier 1 business applications such as ERP, PLM, and CRM systems; something I’m sure Ray Wang from Altimeter Group is more suited to address that. Interestingly enough though, Ray recently wrote an article stating that tier 1 solutions are harder to justify and that it would make more sense to go with a two-tiered approach, but I’ll let Ray handle all of that.

Back to unstructured collaboration.

Drew highlights three key areas where he believes online collaboration will take off in 2010:

  • Innovation
  • Customer Self-Service
  • Partner Self-Service

Again, it’s important to note that the term “enterprise 2.0″ was not mentioned anywhere in the article (E2.0 usually refers to internal collaboration) as collaboration in this case refers to external facing customers (in addition to internal collaboration). What Drew touched upon in the bold quote above is the very basic premise of a social business; the ability to link and collaborate both internally and externally and to have that information flow both ways.

Drew also goes on to say:

“To ensure the level of business agility necessary to compete in 2010 and beyond, high tech enterprises must adopt an unstructured collaboration platform and integrate it with the structured, transactional applications to ensure their competitiveness.”

Sadly, this is again a tool-centric approach and not the right way to go about solving either innovation, customer service, or partner service challenges. The ability to compete in 2010 and beyond largely rests with change management and not with the platform that a company decides to integrate. I’m sure Drew didn’t mean that tools are more important than the people but I just wanted to make sure that is called out.

If you have a few minutes I highly recommend that you read the report from Drew over at Microsoft and let me know what you think.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. Jacob
    I agree with your point that it’s a tool centric approach – but he is from Microsoft so we shouldn’t expect too much consideration for the bigger picture.

    Your point about change management is a very good one – I’d go further and suggest it should be a change management program focused on cultural change. One of the biggest impediments that I’ve seen has been from business leadership, where CEO’s are failing to grasp the opportunities in front of them due to fear and a lack of desire to learn and change. The change has to start at the top and the business leaders must be prepared to lead a change in culture if they are to succeed.

    Mark Parker
    Smart Social Media

  2. Mark: what you’ve described is emblematic of a larger problem in American industry: successes are championed and failures are punished. There’s no problem with rewarding success, but punishing failures creates a disincentive for taking risks that percolates down the organization’s hierarchies.

    On a separate, but related topic: I’m curious about the choice of words “unstructured collaboration platform.” Doesn’t platform connote structure?


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