The Unexpected Value of Business Collaboration

Collaboration is the fuel of any business, whether it is between employees, partners or customers. It is a driving force for continued efficiency among everyday tasks and a necessity for improving the outcomes of many business activities. According to Clinked, 75 percent of businesses say online collaboration tools will be important or somewhat important to their business during 2013. Online tools and platforms have helped reinforce the benefits of collaboration as well as introduce some unexpected value to businesses.

Cultural Innovation

Collaboration in the workplace has always had an influence on the culture of a company, but not as impactful as changing the work environment into a culture of innovation that online tools has helped spur. An innovative culture shares the same goals for the team and new hires, works to change the industry landscape from within by experimenting constantly, even if there is the possibility of failure. Online collaboration has helped facilitate innovative culture by eliminating unnecessary processes, allowing for collaborative discussion and helping to disseminate the values of the culture company wide.

According to Kathleen Davis, an editor at Entrepreneur, a culture of innovation is where dreams and aspirations are invested in and not just the job function. Hiring tools like Recruiterbox, Resumator or Jobvite can help businesses collaborate on recruiting and reviewing candidates that should be invested in for their passions and skill sets that fit into the company culture or that can help move the needle to where the company culture should be heading. These tools bring value to a culture through facilitating it, but the drive to make consistent improvements to the culture are brought about by the employees and leadership of a business.

Original Thinking

Collaboration in the digital age can help spur original thinking with connections happening across locations and departments that couldn't of previously occurred. By nature, collaboration brings different voices, teams, specialties and opinions together to solve an existing problem or develop something completely new. The collaborative tools of today bring major value to innovative thinkers by echoing their goals, thoughts, notes, discussions, documents and brainstorming sessions to an entire company.

Often referred to as enterprise social networking, Salesforce's Chatter or Yammer are examples of a collaborative tools that has helped share new ways of thinking across companies internally to spur the sharing of ideas and thought leadership. Brian Solis says that a majority of employees at companies are disengaged due to lack of leadership or belief in corporate purpose, which is why these collaborative internal social networks are so important. By using these types of tools issues like this can be corrected or avoided since the company is encouraging sharing, the capturing of knowledge, enabling action and empowering employees to become part of the company's future.

Actual ROI

Every business activity should have a measurable return on investment, regardless of what type of value it brings to the company. Popular CRM platforms like Nimble, Zoho or GoldMine allow companies to collaborate and manage their customer relationships but cannot do all the work alone. Consultant and columnist Gene Marks agrees that these tools are terrible if they are not implemented in the right way. Both of these tools have extensive analytics to help measure the success of a company's efforts in building and maintaining relationships but it is up to the business to collaborate to clearly define the way in which each tool will be used inline with its function and purpose.

Through the marriage of effective collaboration and online tools, a business can determine a tangible ROI, and then proceed to reach that milestone accordingly. Stick with the basics and look to clarify the difference in the ROI when collaborating on the functions of the business and when not. A productive and collaborative environment will often lead to a stronger ROI at every level of a business.

What value does your business place on collaboration in the workplace? Sound off in the comments below.