BASKING RIDGE, N.J. and REDMOND, Wash. - Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company's aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence).*
Those are the results of a groundbreaking study - "Meetings Around the World: The Impact of Collaboration on Business Performance" -- conducted by Frost & Sullivan and sponsored by Verizon Business and Microsoft Corp. The study defines collaboration as an interaction between culture and technology such as audio and Web conferencing, e-mail and instant messaging, and it created a method to specifically measure how collaboration affects business performance.
The study also showed that a global culture of collaboration exists, but that there are regional differences in how people in various countries prefer to communicate with one another.
"The results show that collaboration can positively impact each of the gold standards of performance -- profitability, profit growth and sales growth -- to determine a company's overall performance in the marketplace," said Jaclyn Kostner, Ph.D., best-selling author and expert on high-performance virtual collaboration. "As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It's just that simple."
The "Meetings Around the World" study surveyed 946 information technology and line-of-business decision-makers from a cross section of 2,000 small-to-medium, mid-market and global companies in the United States, Europe (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) and Asia-Pacific (Australia, Hong Kong and Japan).** The researchers created a Collaboration Index to measure a company's relative "collaborativeness" based on two main factors:
- An organization's orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audio conferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging
- The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization's culture and processes that encourage teamwork
The study, conducted in March, found that the high impact of collaboration on a company's overall performance was consistent across the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, and across the six key vertical industries that were examined: health care, government, high technology, professional services, financial services and manufacturing.
"Verizon Business is already facilitating better collaboration with advanced services like Net Conferencing and Secure Instant Messaging," said Nancy Gofus, vice president of product management for Verizon Business. "We commissioned this study to keep a finger on the pulse of the collaboration heartbeat and help ensure that our current and future products continue to address the expanding needs of our customers."
Susan Conway, a senior consultant at Microsoft, said, "At Microsoft, our research has shown that information workers are increasing their use of collaboration technologies to help increase productivity and improve business efficiencies. As adoption of collaboration technology grows, it is crucial to provide information workers with collaboration solutions that take the complexity out of communication. Microsoft is providing information workers with a unified communications experience that breaks down the silos of communications that exist today and brings them together into an intuitive experience that puts people at the center."
In addition to measuring the relative "collaborativeness" of companies, "Meetings Around the World" uncovered general, positive attitudes about collaboration, along with specific preferences and regional differences. For example, among the professionals worldwide who responded:
- An overwhelming number (9:1) see their collaborative efforts as highly productive and believe that collaboration through communication technologies provides a personal competitive advantage, keeps them informed and positions them to take advantage of new opportunities.
- Many like to work with teams (10:1), preferably from home (3:1) and not necessarily face-to-face.
- A majority (5:1) feel that conferencing provides a good alternative to travel.
- Many like to be reached wherever they are (2:1), but not necessarily all the time (9:1), which may be one of the reasons why e-mail is preferred to using the phone (3:1).
As for the regional differences, American professionals were more likely to enjoy working alone, and prefer to send e-mail rather than calling a person or leaving a voicemail message. They are also more comfortable with audio, video and Web conferencing technologies than people of other regions and tend to multi-task the most when on conference calls.
Europeans thrive on teamwork more than their counterparts elsewhere and prefer to interact in real time with other people. They are more likely to feel it is irresponsible not to answer the phone and want people to call them back rather than leave a voicemail message. Professionals in the Asia-Pacific region, more so than anywhere else, want to be in touch constantly during the workday. As a result they find the phone to be an indispensable tool and prefer instant messaging to e-mail.
These differences highlight an opportunity for greater cultural understanding to improve collaborative efforts around the world, the study said.
"Collaboration technologies allow everyone in our company the same level of knowledge, regardless of their location," said David Medland-Slater, product evangelist for Touchpaper, the global provider of software for IT Business Management (ITBM), headquartered in the U.K. "By leveraging such tools as Web conferencing and schedulers, we have increased our speed to transfer knowledge throughout the company, allowing us to better compete world-wide."
Of all the collaboration technologies that were studied***, three were more commonly present in high-performing companies than in low-performing ones: Web conferencing, audio conferencing and meeting-scheduler technologies. Web conferencing was cited by respondents as the most commonly present tool. (High vs. low performance was based on a split for companies based on their performance index, which was derived from items measured in the questionnaire.)
"This study reveals a powerful new metric business leaders can use to more successfully manage their companies and achieve competitive advantage," said Brian Cotton, a vice president at Frost & Sullivan. "Measuring the quality and capability of collaboration in a given organization presents an opportunity for management to prioritize technology investments, encourage adoption of new tools and open up communications lines for improved collaboration."
For more information about Meetings Around the World, visit http://newscenter2.verizon.com/kit/collaboration/.
* Collaboration, a company's strategic orientation and market turbulence were identified as three main business performance drivers. Among these, collaboration was found to have the most significant impact.
** Decision makers were those individuals who held key positions in a line-of-business or in an Information Technology department, with titles such as President, Vice President, Director, or Manager. Ratios are a combination of respondents who said strongly agree and agree compared to strongly disagree and disagree.
*** Technologies represented in the study included email, meeting scheduler, instant messaging, video conferencing, audio conferencing, web conferencing, desktop or wired PC, mobile/wireless PC, PDA w/no web access, PDA w/web access, mobile phone w/web access, pager
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About Verizon Business
Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), is a leading provider of advanced communications and information technology (IT) solutions to large business and government customers worldwide. Combining unsurpassed global network reach with advanced technology and professional service capabilities, Verizon Business delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world. For more information, visit www.verizonbusiness.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. The company's industry expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities. Frost & Sullivan serves an extensive clientele that includes Global 1000 companies, emerging companies, and the investment community, by providing comprehensive industry coverage that reflects a unique global perspective and combines ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics. For more information, visit www.frost.com