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Working within: How to kickstart internal collaboration

Connecting the dots between departments could improve innovation for your organization.

In order to optimize R&D investments and create more sustainable value, companies should focus on improving internal collaboration across traditional boundaries within the organization. 

Without a significant and drastic change in the traditional way companies are operating and managing their internal communications, increased innovation and productivity is an improbably outcome.

What could internal collaboration bring exactly?

Internal collaboration brings a great deal of business benefits directly supporting the company’s key business objectives. From streamlining the company’s operation processes, to providing an incubator for innovation to prosper, to achieving an organization’s sustainability goals; all of which could positively affect the bottom line. Let’s take a closer look at what internal collaboration can do for your company:

  • Decrease discovery time and cost
  • Reduce development time and cost
  • Increase product revenue
  • More efficient use of fewer resources
  • Reduce rework due to a better understanding of products and internal processes
  • More effective knowledge sharing
  • More focused R&D programs
  • Lower attrition rate in late stage development
  • Reduce chances of products and services failures
  • Better understanding of products Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

According to Johnson and Filippini in 2009, "Internal integration, which consists of traditional cross-functional management practices, directly influences a firm’s innovation capabilities. The link between internal integration practices and performance as measured by both time and product success depends on the creation of these innovation capabilities."

What are the barriers to internal collaboration?

Great — let’s collaborate. But how? To successfully foster an internal collaboration process or program, we will need some support. Let’s take a look at some barriers and hurdles we might need to jump through:

  • Lengthy managerial approval processes for resource allocation
  • Different departments and job functions may have their own objectives; many may feel that it is a waste of time to focus on issues not directly related to their work
  • Policies that make it difficult for employees working in different departments to communicate and collaborate
  • Lack of clear and commonly understood goals across the organization encourages an individualistic mentality that ignores opportunities for collaboration
  • A lack of technologies used to facilitate communication, the incubation and prospering of ideas being, innovation and knowledge being shared
  • A disconnection or lack of a standard database
  • Poor or inadequate data security procedures or tools to ensure the collaboration process is able to be protected and the competitive advantage remains
  • Lack of buy-ins from senior management or from global markets within the organization

Collaboration: How, where and when?

To better understand how collaboration can help companies innovate, the first is to assess the adaptability and readiness of your own organization to evaluate the starting point.

Here are some questions that can kick start your evaluation process:

  • Is there already a collaboration process or platform in place within your organization?
  • How do your current departments or Operating Companies (Opcos) exchange knowledge?
  • Where do individuals go for direction and answers to difficult questions within their own disciplines? Outside their own disciplines?
  • How easily can employees express their R&D ideas? Is there even a place for such?
  • Is there a central location where employees can save time and avoid "reinventing the wheel" when it comes to internal processes wherever/whatever that might be?
  • How is the company archiving and storing past, current and future activities to achieving a common goal? How are initiatives and projects being piloted?
  • What incentives, if any, does the organization provide to promote participation in internal collaboration?
  • What technologies are provided to enable internal collaboration? Are the technologies widely accepted by employees? What challenges have they encountered in using the technologies?

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