Collaboration within organisations, fuelled by advances in technology is on the increase, but how can you encourage productive collaboration, both internally and externally?

“The only way organisations can provide true value to their customers is by delivering outputs from multiple business units and through efficiencies achieved by different business areas collaborating” states Dr John Glen, Director for Customised Executive Development at Cranfield School of Management. Glen makes the point that most medium-to-large businesses have multiple divisions and that their success depends on how well these divisions work together.
 
“You tend to find that each division is good at creating and executing its own strategy,” says Dr Glen. “There will be good communication, the team know what they are doing and they are aligned to a specific profit and loss target that impacts their pay and bonuses.
"The fundamental key to success is to have individuals who believe in a culture of collaboration"Dr John Glen, Director for Customised Executive Development at Cranfield School of Management
“Where organisations fail is when they can’t execute a collaborative strategy across the silos,” he adds. “The way that different divisions interact directly impacts the service provision to customers so it’s important to get it right.”
 
A recent report in the Harvard Business Review suggests that this is something that many businesses are starting to realise. An article called ‘Collaboration is taking over the workplace’ cited research [1] that showed managers and employees at global businesses spend 50% more time on collaborative activities than they did two decades ago.
 
Dr Glen believes that the secret is not simply more collaboration, but good collaboration. “New technology, processes and management committees overseeing collaboration all help to give employees the tools and encouragement, but the fundamental key to success is to have individuals within your organisation who believe in a culture of collaboration.
 
“It’s crucial that each part of a business is working for the overall good of the company rather than simply what’s best for that division,” he adds. “The right people see the big picture and put the overall interests of the customer, and therefore the company, first.”
 
One business that is reaping the benefits of collaboration is Infinis, the UK’s leading independent generator of renewable power, which has a portfolio of operational waste to energy landfill gas and onshore wind farm sites around the country.
 
Senior buyer Julia Close believes that collaboration – both internally and externally – is an integral part of the business. “Collaboration is part of our culture and it’s vitally important if you want to have an efficient procurement process,” she says. “Our procurement team works incredibly closely with the operations team not only to support them when it comes to procuring the best value components, but also the longer term strategies to realise the business’s needs.
 
“We rely on the technical knowledge of the operations team to help guide the buying decisions, which makes the whole life cycle or change process run more efficiently.”
 
Infinis also collaborates closely with RS to achieve further efficiencies and target or realise additional savings. “We work with RS because they offer us the balance of high-quality parts at a good value, but the relationship is much more than that,” explains Close. “In practical terms, RS is working directly with both our procurement and operations teams to standardise our consumable product range and deliver an efficient purchase to pay process.
 
“We are also trialling an e-procurement system to automate the process to deliver a reduction in processing time for field operatives and head office functions. These improvements should also help deliver supplier consolidation and reduce payment queries to the ordering process and add to the value chain which will ultimately filter down to our bottom line.”