Study: new work and technology approaches that give outperforming companies the edge

An IBM survey of 275 senior executives finds outperforming companies tend to be greater adopters of collaborative and networking approaches.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

"It pays to work smarter not harder."

How many times have you heard that expression? Now, a new study by the IBM Institute for Business Value confirms that organizations that are significantly outperforming their industry peers also are more likely to be adopting newer technology-enabled approaches to work, such as networking and collaboration.

IBM's survey of more than 275 senior executives, put together by Michael Holmes, Tami Cannizzaro, and Kristen Lauria, confirms that leading organizations use smarter working practices -- employing analytics, business activity monitoring, service oriented architecture, and collaborative spaces -- far more extensively than their lower-performing peers.

IBM separated the "outperformers" from the rest of the pack by identifying those who indicated their companies were significantly outperforming their industry peers (16 percent of the total sample). So what do "outperformers" do so differently from their less agile counterparts?  The researchers say that special 16 percent -- outperformers -- are far more likely than a average companies to employ the following practices:

  • Develop capabilities that enable rapid adjustments to change. They are more than twice as likely to be able to be able to quickly identify and build needed skills within their organizations.
  • Establish work methods that facilitate and encourage collaboration. They are twice as likely to ensure business process documentation is visual and well understood by key stakeholders. They are also more than twice as focused on directly embedding collaborative capabilities within processes to improve the speed and quality of their decisions. In addition, they are three times more likely to enable users to rate and comment on the information they are using.
  • Bring together disparate data for decision making. Nearly 30 percent report integrating different sources of data to a significant extent, which is 3.5 times more than their lower-performing peers. They are also using real-time information for decision making 2.6 times as often as other organizations.

As suggested in the third bullet point, technology is a major enabler of these smarter working practices. However, the researchers note, there's still a lot of work to be done to realize these capabilities. For example, they note, while 70 percent have implemented analytics and data visualization technologies in selected areas, they are not yet taking full advantage of process automation and service-oriented architecture, initiatives that can help achieve greater agility. Only 55 percent and 36 percent, respectively, have partially adopted these technologies.

The study's authors observe that outperformers are far more likely to be embracing these technologies and approaches than their less-performant peers:

"When we examined the technology profile of the most dynamic, most collaborative and most connected organizations – those that had the broadest implementations of smarter working practices within each dimension – we saw a different picture. Nine times more of them were using service-oriented architecture extensively. Nearly four times as many of these companies had widely adopted collaborative spaces. In fact, across every technology area tied to working smarter, their adoption rates were higher than their peers."

Here are some of the distinctions seen in business technology and methodology initiatives:

Business activity monitoring (e.g., dashboards):
Outperformers: 41%          Others:     17% (2.4x difference)

Unified communications (i.e., voice, video,instant messaging, video conferencing):
Outperformers: 40%          Others:     26% (1.5x difference)

Outperformers: 37%          Others:     14% (2.6x difference)

Data visualization:
Outperformers: 32%         Others:     9% (3.6x difference)

Collaborative spaces:
Outperformers: 30%         Others:     8% (3.8x difference)

Service-oriented architecture:
Outperformers: 27%         Others:     3% (9.0x difference)

Process automation and modeling:
Outperformers: 25%         Others:     12% (2.1x difference)

(Photo: New York World Financial Center. Photo by Joe McKendrick.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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