I was presenting to a customer the other day that had representatives from three areas of IT: network, voice, and video. As we discussed their collaboration strategies a few things became apparent:
- These functional groups were highly siloed.
- The reporting chains of these functional groups met so high up it was a challenge to come together toward common business goals.
- These functional groups were working together in more a tactical fashion then strategic.
- The different business owners were making product purchases independent of IT.
It was this fourth point that made me say "business owners shouldn't be driving product decisions, they should be driving requirements based on business needs.". This was met with a couple of hearty laughs and a slightly sarcastic "How profound.", as it seems I have an uncanny ability to overstate the obvious. To further emphasize the point it was then shared that the number of redundant applications is staggering. Take video conferencing and desktop sharing, there are three groups in the organization that independently made purchase decisions on three different conferencing solutions. Had each of these groups only operated within their silo, things may not be so bad, but in reality the three groups work together and have the need to hold many interactive conferences. The group that sets the meeting, determines which conferencing product is used. Every client machine now has three different conferencing products that result in additional costs for licensing, maintenance, and support. And this is just one example, the same is seen with; CRM, document management, IM and more.
Many IT people just shrug their shoulders and realize this is just the way it is and much like the group represented try to deal with the redundant products and independent purchase by any means available. Unfortunately it's not scalable and leads to many problems down the road. So what can be done? Cisco has established councils and boards that are cross-functional representatives to drive and decide strategy. This concept isn't new as Cisco and the customers I've spoken with have had virtual teams (also called cross functional teams) as far back as I can remember. The councils and boards approach goes beyond what traditional virtual teams do- it formalizes the concept of cross-functional teams and sets responsibility and accountability that's measured and compensated on success.
This approach would not only help optimize and streamline product purchase decisions based on business requirements, but it would also enable the development of new collaborative business processes that would optimize and streamline the way work is done today. What are your thoughts?
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