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Collaboration Is a Key Driver of Business Performance

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 "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 organisation'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 organisation'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: healthcare, government, high technology, professional services, financial services and manufacturing.

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.

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.)



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