Inside an organization, it implies employees working together toward shared goals and meaningful objectives. Collaborating with customers has come to suggest a process of co-innovation - cooperating around joint problems to the mutual benefit of both seller and buyer.
On the downside, many marketers use the term to convey vague corporate feelgood disconnected from business outcomes.
To cut through the noise of this important topic, I sat down with Elisa Steele, CEO of collaboration software vendor Jive Software. Jive is a public company and one of the most established players in enterprise collaboration.
The conversation with Elisa was part of the CXOTalk series of discussions with leaders and innovators in technology and business. You can read a detailed transcript of our discussion and watch the entire conversation below.
Here are key issues we discussed, edited for length and clarity:
How can collaboration engage both employees and customers?
Value exchanged [with customers] creates a positive business result and brand affinity. Mostly, that value is about helping the customer solve their key business problems. If you can do that in a digital, smart, connected way then they will stay pretty darn close to you.
Everyone needs and wants to be able to work in a better way. Because technology breaks down barriers, the lifestyle we lead every day is what we expect at work now. We don't expect to go home, have our personal life, hang our hat at the door when we walk into work and put on a work persona.
This concept of lifestyle has translated to our work style. If you can create a work style in your organization that welcomes this concept, you're going to get higher productivity and drive employee engagement.
Consider three points:
Company culture should embrace different work styles. There's an important change in the workforce around a multi-generational, multi-location, diversity of thinking. Companies need to embrace those different diverse work styles and provide tools help these groups work together.
Empower and engage employees. It's not enough to just give tools, but help your employees use those tools to make decisions, move things forward and have empowerment.
Engage customers on their terms. The world has completely changed in terms of how brands are managed. It's not about who you think you are, it's who you truly are in the minds of your customers. How they see what you're doing as being of value or not. You have to deeply understand how customers perceive you, and then drive your company strategy and your brand around making sure you have great insights there.
What are the barriers to collaboration?
Successful customers have a leadership orientation around embracing the work style, driving a more transparent culture, making sure that their workforce is aligned to their mission, and driving transparency. which the modern workplace expects today.
You also have to understand people, and how people react and change. Either is the culture is compatible from the get go, or there's a champion in the organization who really believes in the model and wants the culture to evolve. That tends to be someone pretty high up in the organization.
It's always people plus technology; it can never be one or the other.
What does context mean in relation to collaboration?
The context of what content I need every day depends on what role I'm playing at that part of the day. We deliver an experience and content that puts you in those roles, so you can quickly access what you need to get a task done or connect with the right individuals.
[Context means] being able to switch those roles and clearly have access to information and tools that help me get my job done and, most importantly, connecting me with the people I need to be connected with.
How can enterprise buyers improve collaboration inside their organizations and with customers?
Make sure that there is a cultural appetite for changing the way people get work done today.
Your employees will want this so work with a team or a company that has been through this and knows how to guide you through the journey.
Find the passion points for employees around what needs to change and let them work on it with you. When employees own the changes, they go faster. they go better. It's a benefit to everyone.
Same thing on the customer side. Together with your customers, find your biggest issue and ask them to help you solve it. Letting customers Interact with each other, suddenly it's not a problem, but something people work on together. It's going to get solved faster and create very meaningful relationships along the way.