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Collaboration Use Cases for Executives

Posted by on October 9, 2012

A few days ago my friend Karthik (who works at Salesforce) called me up to get some ideas and advice on collaboration use cases for senior executives.  In other words, why would any C-level leader see value in supporting and using a collaboration platform such as Chatter, Yammer, Jive, and the like?  It’s an interesting and good question because executives in many organizations may support the tools and strategies but oftentimes don’t use the tools themselves.  Here are some of the top collaboration use cases for executives that I discussed with Karthik.

Insight into the ground level of organization and pulse of the company

One of the challenges that executives have is being able to gain insight into how their organizations are operating at the ground level. There is a lot of separation between executives and the rest of the employees which oftentimes contributes to this challenge. We have all seen videos of CEOs who travel to their various company locations meeting with employees and checking on how things are running. Now they also have the ability to get this insight via a collaboration platform, think of it as a digital tour of the workplace which they can take anytime and anywhere. Executives can now gain insight into specific projects, departments, employees, or anything else they need or want to know about. Finally executives can also keep a pulse on the company by seeing the overall attitude of the company, what employees like and don’t like, what issues are being discussed and need to be addressed, and how employees feel about their jobs and the company they work for.

Leverage wisdom of many to validate ideas or show alternate paths

Executives are under a lot of pressure constantly. They have a responsibility to shareholders to make money and save money and so they are challenged with making many tough decisions. The analogy I like to use is that of a chess game (which should come as no surprise). Think of an executive playing a game of chess, he thinks about his move and makes it. However, when other people look at the same position they might see better alternatives or different moves. So an executive now has the ability to leverage the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise of many people to help see alternate paths to achieve the same or better results. Alternatively, this executive may also be presented with several other options which are not as good as the one that he or she originally selected, this helps validate that the original decision the executive made was indeed the best one. This not only helps make the executive better suited to make decisions but it also helps alleviate some of the pressure that they are constantly feeling. Knowing that you can leverage the wisdom of many to help with decision making is a powerful thing.

Align the organization

Executives naturally want to make sure that everyone at their company is “on the same page.” This not only applies to other members of management but also to the entire workforce. Making sure that everyone understands what the company is doing, why it is doing it, and how it will get done is crucial, especially in larger enterprises. Traditionally this is done via newsletters, town-halls, or on-site trainings. Now, executives can make sure that employees have access to the right information and people they need to get their jobs done anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Departments spread out across the world can follow similar processes, new employees can be on-boarded with consisted and update information, and regardless of where an employee is in the world, they will be able to stay connected and “on the same page” as the rest of their departments and the company.

Improve company morale and motivate employees

This may be one of my favorite use cases for executives, just because it can be so simple yet so powerful. Imagine you work at a large company with thousands of employees (or even a smaller company, it doesn’t matter). You share an idea or a piece of content internally with your team or company and a few minutes (or hours) later, you see that someone in senior management such as your CEO, has “liked” what you shared or made a comment on something you shared. Traditionally this would now happen in any enterprise, ever. Now senior leaders have this unique and powerful opportunity to communicate with employees while removing all the barriers and hierarchy in between. If you were that employee mentioned above you would probably feel pretty special that the CEO paid attention to your specific contribution. From an executive standpoint this takes a few seconds and the impact is lasting. An executive can easily leave comments for other employees, “like” their content, encourage employees by posting motivating messages, and provide feedback instantly to anyone at the company regardless if it’s their first day or if they are also members of senior management. That to me is powerful and amazing. Small things making big positive impacts, that’s what executives want right? Then they should do it!

The value for senior executives to use collaboration tools is quite high and there are going to be many specific use cases only applicable to specific companies whereas these are more general.  What other use cases can you think for why executives should use collaboration tools to get their work done?