Is Collaboration the New Competition?

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A blog article on this topic was recently created by Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities and subsequently critiqued by Dawn O’Neill AM and Kerry Graham. The contention being that collaboration, instead of slowing down the business of implementing social change, could actually speed it up.

My respective take on this is from a technology perspective and taking Dawn and Kerry’s observation regarding the corporate world’s use of technology to assist them in their collaboration efforts. It is very true that many private enterprise for profit organisations are seeing tremendous value from enhancing their ability to effectively collaborate. To quote Paula Young of PWC. “To provide one common social networking and collaboration platform that accelerates our ability to connect with each other and collaborate together to create value for ourselves and our clients”.

If there is to be effective collaboration between agents of social change, ie “not for profits” and other social enterprises there must be a technology platform that enables it. The availability of social business software (SBS) is now widespread, both in terms of functionality and cost, with many options available for zero licensing cost and minimal consulting/services cost to implement. Gone are the days when not for profit organisations had to build an infrastructure to support an initiative that would involve participating partners from outside of their organisation.

Today’s social business software is readily available via Cloud based implementations, meaning that expensive hardware, special communication gateways, security handshakes and so on are not required. There has never been a better time for not for profits to embrace advanced collaboration through the use of social business software. SBS , when delivered via a Cloud medium it is updated much more regularly and is more directly linked to customer needs.

Current vendors of SBS facilitate not only collaboration behind the firewall but through it as well. This is a most important aspect of any collaboration platform as the key to a not for profit benefiting from it’s use is to reach out to its often large and distributed community.  In the USA an organisation by the name of Cerner, a global provider in the health industry needed a new way.  To meet its strategic challenges, Cerner executives stepped back and asked themselves: what do we need as an industry and what do we need as a company? How can Cerner not only improve its business outcomes but the outcomes of its clients? Short answer: a social networking platform that transcends Cerner’s extended enterprise to include not only partners, clients, and associates but invited guests—researchers and industry experts, for example—who make critical contributions to the healthcare industry as a whole.

Healthcare is a highly complex, constantly changing business that is delivered differently in every country. Before embracing social business imperatives, Cerner and its diverse global client base met face-to-face throughout the year to exchange ideas and information about healthcare issues. Between these meetings, information critical to improving healthcare practices was previously locked down in disparate systems or lying fallow in the minds of innovators. Cerner wanted to turn the crank faster on their ability to surface clinical innovations, gather requirements, and leverage new clinical practices and technology. The big idea: go social to leverage mass collaboration and reduce time between discovery and adoption.

These and countless other examples demonstrate that by thinking strategically, executing operationally and reaching out to the extended community can bring about rewards not previously considered even remotely achievable.

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