Collaboration: one of the big buzzwords in today’s business world. Business Dictionary.Com defines collaboration in two ways:
- General: Cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly towards a common goal.
- Knowledge management (KM): Effective method of transferring 'know how' among individuals, therefore critical to creating and sustaining a competitive advantage.
Why is it that so many companies struggle to get everyone working together towards common goals? It’s one thing to understand what collaboration is and another entirely to get your people and your teams to do it.
The simplest way to “collaborate” is through e-mail. E-mail is an effective form of communication, but not a very effective form of collaboration. Most people agree that e-mail is overused and that it’s hard enough to stay on top of the inbox. Important information is easily lost, deleted, or simply not read. The older the e-mail, the harder it is to find. There is no central storage of important information in this format. You are at the mercy of the sender/recipient(s) as to how well they manage their e-mails and file them away for future reference. There is no follow up method to ensure that important messages get a response or action.
Another approach often involves setting up a collaborative workspace. This is a central location where documents can be stored and shared, groups are created to work on projects, and teammates can communicate in a central, shared environment. This is certainly a better approach to e-mail, but often falls short of expectations. The challenge with this method is collaboration actually becomes another task in a person’s day. They have to go somewhere outside their normal workflow and processes in order to “collaborate”.
The Secret to Effective Collaboration
Collaborative work models can be achieved by integrating collaboration into the workflow of the team. This approach makes collaboration an integral part of the daily routine and actually serves to save time and gain efficiencies throughout critical business processes. It sounds simple, but in order to achieve this you have to have collaborative tools built into the business systems that the team uses every day. A second attribute of a successful collaborative model is to automate the process whenever possible.
An OverDrive Solutions Example of Collaboration
Every area of your business can benefit significantly by integrating this successful collaboration model. Facilitating communication and cooperation across business units becomes an achievable goal when the right methods and tools are employed. Let’s take a look at one common challenge where most companies struggle – getting the sales team and the purchasing team to work together.
In this example we will look at how Buyers in the Purchasing department communicate back and forth with Sales Reps out in the field, and vice versa while working in two applications that are part of the OverDrive Inventory Management Suite: Demand Planning and RepLink.
1. The ALERT
A customer buys an item for the first time in their history. The Demand Planning application automatically recognizes this sale as unique and generates an alert to the customer’s sales rep. The sales rep will see this alert when she logs into the RepLink application, which she does every day in order to look at other sales information such as her current open orders or yesterday’s invoicing for her territory. The sales rep is given a number of pre-defined options to respond to the demand alert. If they don’t know why the customer bought this item, they now have an opportunity to call on the customer.
2. The RESPONSE
In this scenario, the rep is aware of the customer’s intent to continue buying this new item, and she even has an idea of what the monthly demand will be for this customer/item ongoing. She selects the response option indicating that the customer will continue buying this item. The RepLink application then prompts her to enter in a monthly forecast number for the customer. After entering the forecast numbers, she hits a submit button.
3. The INTEGRATION
Back in the Purchasing Department the buyer for this item receives an alert when he logs into Demand Planning, which he does every day in order to run and review replenishments for the items he buys. In reviewing the alert, he sees that the rep has submitted a forecast for a particular customer and item. He reviews the numbers and accepts them. This forecast is now automatically entered in Demand Planning for the customer, and is integrated with all other forecasts for this item.
4. The INTELLIGENCE
Finally, all of the activity described above is saved as time stamped notes on the item. Anyone looking at this item or reviewing it during replenishment will have access to information describing what happened, when it happened, who was involved and the actions taken. All of the information is centralized so that everyone up to management has the history immediately available to them.
Effective collaboration will make your organization more responsive to customers’ needs and will make each team member a little more “intelligent” about what goes on in your company from day to day. Key elements in successful collaboration models include workflow integration and automation whenever possible, which is best achieved when these elements are part of the design of the systems and tools your team uses every day.
OverDrive Solutions emphasizes the inclusion of workflow integration into all our applications, allowing your teams to truly collaborate with each other while they work. If you are interested in these concepts or would like more information, please contact Mike Parolini at MParolini@overdrivesolutions.com or call 702-476-0878.