Cisco are releasing a 58 page report which details their 900 percent return on investment in collaboration and social networking and which details how they have successfully increased productivity, innovation and growth.
The Report, 'Creating a Collaborative Enterprise: a Guide to Accelerating Business Value with a Collaboration Framework', shows how their best practices saved them US$691 million and increased productivity 4.9 percent in fiscal year 2008 against technology investments costing US$81 million.
The framework, interestingly from a company with no skin in the social software sales game, provides a portfolio of structured methodologies that aims to strategically harness the rapidly expanding array of Web and Enterprise 2.0 technologies.
Cisco warns that 'organizations need to make use of new collaboration possibilities or face significant disadvantages' - competing with faster moving companies who are better equipped to make decisions drawing from a deeper base of information and able to operate across time and distance barriers more efficiently.
Cisco defines collaboration as 'the act of people working together to reach a common goal', noting that the human factor - accessing the tacit knowledge 'stored' within employees, partners, customers and the broader public is the differentiator from past generations of IT change.
The Collaboration framework is based on contributions from the Collaboration Consortium, established in July 2008 and drawing on member insights and experience with a goal of developing a business management model applicable to any type of organization. Cisco's lessons learned and best practices are a major part of the framework - improving collaboration across a now $US40 billion+ business is vital to their continued success.
Cisco are aligned around one large operations organization for the vast majority of their 80,000 employees. The more effectively everyone works together and the more transparent their communication, the more speedy, agile and effective they will be.
Essentially, Cisco recommends organizations must carefully cultivate the three components of collaboration: people, processes and technology (something my colleagues and I have also been evangelizing for the last year).
Cisco's collaboration framework prescribes three phases of collaboration: first investigative work, then performance process tuning and finally a transformation phase.
The framework aims to guide participants through the three phases working in concert, with a goal of an increasing cumulation of evolutionary benefits from collaboration.
The key, Cisco believes, is developing the right components at the right time to maintain momentum and increase the ROI from your collaboration efforts.
I'm sure when this report becomes public some time next week many will seize on the ROI story of Web/Enterprise 2.0 tools, but in truth the common sense people and processes advice is the great value. There is lots of practical advice packed in the framework, my only reservation is the issue of a large company providing a solution in their own image.
Where Oracle and IBM have arguably crafted software offerings that are mapped to their own internal DNA as collaboration technology products, Cisco are offering the framework that has successfully stitched together the complex federation of acquisitions the company is essentially comprised of.
The fact the framework is not aligned with a path to selling software seats but is instead the road map to building a hugely successful multinational enterprise is however remarkable in its transparency.
Cisco's internal executive collaboration process - C-Change - is an interesting story of an eight year transformational journey from a command and control operation dominated by competing departments to a widely cross functional organization that uses collaborative councils, boards and working groups.
My take on the framework is that it is a great real world based high level tool which will be of considerable use to my C suite conversations about the efficacy of executing to collaboration goals, and helps cut through the noise coming from the freestyle operations crowd who think unstructured grassroots organization is the most effective tactical way of operating.
I'd say this, along with Morten Hansen's book 'Collaboration' is one of the most positive, promising and useful strategic documents I've seen so far this year.