Top ways businesses will benefit from collaboration

Azadeh Williams

Innovation hubs, group marketing ventures and social collaboration are rising trends on the business scene – but what does this mean? Simply, it means that businesses can no longer cut it by working in siloes to build a customer base, and their leaders need to understand why – and what to do about it. We speak to business industry leaders to discover the benefits of collaboration in today’s competitive environment and what SME’s can do to help build stronger partnerships and drive more effective business outcomes. Collaboration really is more than a buzzword, and here’s why:

Empowering the knowledge hub

From inside the business, collaboration has huge benefits in knowledge management and employee engagement, customer experience manager of video production company Shootsta, Talina Neal, claims.

“Having seen the knowledge sharing inefficiencies of vertical business, flatter organisations with a collaboration approach have an amazing effect on information sharing, employee participation and sense of responsibility,” she says.

As an example, Neal reveals that last month, the Shootsta crew took a strategy trip to collectively decide the company’s true vision and mission.

“There was a tremendous united voice, which only affirmed our

culture,” she adds. “The trial and error of collaborative work brings teams together giving a sense of purpose, identity and forging problem solving behaviour.”

Driving better marketing outcomes

From a marketing perspective, small business lender Kikka Capital’s CEO David Brennan says his organisation’s collaborative approach has been to partner with other businesses such as financial solutions company FlexiGroup.

He stresses collaboration isn’t just about sharing information, but about continuously refining the understanding of a particular customer problem and working relentlessly to solve it.

“Collaboration with FlexiGroup gives us both the opportunity to learn fast and gain a deeper understanding of our customers, resulting in products and services better matched to the needs of the market,” he says. “The ability to take a joined-up view of customer behaviour across channels and feed that into our marketing and product development also improves our operating efficiencies.”

“The more you know by collaborating with others the better the possible outcomes you can deliver.”

Brennan agrees technology has fueled the need for businesses to be more proactive in collaborating to drive customer satisfaction and remain competitive.

“Technology has accelerated the need for – and access to - real time information about the market, our customers and our competitors,” he adds. “It means that everything happens faster, and customers demand more from brands, so we need to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction and sharing information in real time. That translates into more opportunity to uncover that insight or idea that has the potential to drive growth.”

Founder and CEO of fixed asset management company Asset.Guru, Chris Petersen, agrees, and adds technology doesn’t fuel collaboration, but empowers it.

“We like to think of carefully selected technology being the powerhouse of collaboration,” he says. “Cloud Technology has made a lot of this very real for many businesses. And the evolution of software has seen SME’s gaining access to the types of collaboration tools that only ASX200 organisations could in the past.

According to Petersen, there are three core benefits of collaboration – speed in achieving business outcomes, better decision-making processes and greater customer satisfaction.

“The more you know by collaborating with others the better the possible outcomes you can deliver,” he explains. “Even as a business owner, staying in touch with other tech founders, and listening intently when future clients vent can help avoid costly investments that people don’t need.”

Creating unique and innovative experiences

Within the retail sector, Appliances Online founder, John Winning, believes collaboration can be a key ingredient for helping retailers create unique and innovative user experiences.

“Take Myer and eBay's most recent partnership, which has seen Australia launch the world's first virtual reality department store as a prime example of this,” he says.

But he highlights that collaboration isn't just about partnerships, but it's also about sharing ideas, insights and learnings.

“At Appliances Online we adopt a collaborative approach to the way we do things,” he explained. “We also hold a Leadership Series where employees get the chance to hear from and discuss ideas with creative leaders and high achievers from diverse industries such as business, sport and entertainment.”

Fueling innovation

Collaboration brings together different people and groups with different approaches, ideas, experiences and ways of thinking, chief strategy officer at Naked Communications, Brett Rolfe, says.

“The result is inherently more likely to be innovative and creative than working in less collaborative ways,” he adds. “Implementing collaborative ways of working contributes to a broader business culture with underpinning values like respect, creativity, open communication and being solutions-focused.”

Co-founder and director of Buzinga app development company, Logan Merrick, agrees. He says collaboration is more conducive to stimulating innovation, as it brings greater quality and diversity of thinking to projects.”

“Collaboration itself is the key to constant innovation, and the saying ‘Innovate or die’ isn’t being over dramatic - If you don’t commit to innovation in today’s economic climate, your business won’t be sustainable,” he says. “The demand for tools, systems and structures that allow for collaboration are skyrocketing, because the benefits are undeniable.”

“Forget whether it’s a buzzword,” he insists. “It’s a buzzword because it’s a necessity. People still talk about collaboration as if it’s optional. The reality is, it isn’t.”

Why it’s all about positive collaboration

For CEO of biomass company Leaf Resources, Ken Richards, ‘collaboration’ need no longer be a buzzword, but an essential ingredient in today’s business mix.

“Forget whether it’s a buzzword,” he insists. “It’s a buzzword because it’s a necessity. People still talk about collaboration as if it’s optional. The reality is, it isn’t.”

To succeed in today’s business landscape, Richards believes you need to draw in skills from so many industries and backgrounds.

“Positive collaboration gets everyone working in the same direction, on the same team and is the foundation of success,” he adds. “And technology demands collaboration to make it work. You need the technical skills, combined with the practical skills of the task at hand and an understanding of the consumer mind set to get technology to work well for everyone. Without a positive and constructive collaborative process, it won’t work.”

Azadeh Williams

Azadeh Williams is a former business and finance news editor at Thomson Reuters, Azadeh Williams has written over 3,000 articles in her 15-year international career on business, technology, marketing and innovation for the likes of The Times, CMO Magazine and Fast Business. She has also lectured in business journalism and media law at Macleay College.

Image: Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Flickr Creative Commons License