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How can organizations with distributed operations support collaboration?

Tara Charles
August 24, 2014

Collaboration has been a talking point in the enterprise for a long time, but some challenges have remained constant in this area. One of the greatest issues is finding ways to get workers to collaborate without sacrificing efficiency. Operations can move quickly if companies have workers put their heads down and push through tasks, but that strategy limits the potential for innovation. Collaboration unlocks more opportunities for new ideas and creative thinking, but can also create waste as workers must depend on other employees to handle key processes and pass projects on within a group.

Business process management software can ease many of the challenges in moving processes between users, something that is especially important in sectors with distributed workforces, such as oil and gas and other mining industries.

The growing role of collaboration

A recent Forbes report explained that collaboration isn't just a buzzword. Instead, companies are embracing teamwork as a way to fuel innovation and maximize the value that individual employees bring to the organization. This is evident in research by Steelcase, as the organization found that most organizations build teamwork into the majority of their processes.

A Steelcase white paper analyzed by Forbes explained that 37 percent of organizations have a 60-40 percent split with 60 percent of processes involving collaboration and 40 percent being individual. Approximately 25 percent of companies polled said they have an 80-20 split in favor of collaborative processes. This creates a situation in which 62 percent of participants in the study feature collaborative processes as the dominant part of their work day.

Enabling collaboration in industries with distributed work methods

The Forbes report focuses on how collaboration is changing the way offices are designed, noting that the idea of hierarchical models built around the "corner office" are becoming archaic. However, changing the office around isn't going to help geological engineers performing field work collaborate with scientists using that data to run supercomputing simulations and pinpoint the best locations to drill.

This type of distributed operational model isn't just common in mining and other natural resources industries. Branch offices are rising across the enterprise and field work is necessary across a wide variety of industries. Enabling collaboration is key in all of these areas, but process management must extend beyond the walls of the office to enable success in this area. Solutions like social and mobile BPM software are critical in ensuring operations move smoothly within a team regardless of the location that employees are working from.