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Collaboration Tools that Support Successful Business Development
March 30th, 2016

Collaboration Tools that Support Successful Business Development

Ian Linton

Collaboration is an essential part of business development. It brings together the knowledge, experience and skills of people inside and outside an organization to develop the best solutions for basic...

Collaboration is an essential part of business development. It brings together the knowledge, experience and skills of people inside and outside an organization to develop the best solutions for basic research, product development, or other strategic projects that take a business forward.

To support effective research collaboration, organizations need tools that let them meet easily, exchange different types of information, and document progress for reference and archiving. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is playing an important role by enabling conferencing on demand and bringing together participants from any location.

But, successful research collaboration requires more than meeting tools. It’s essential to set strategic objectives with measurable outcomes. And, it’s important to identify all possible contributors to increase the chances of success.

Set up a formal collaboration process

Researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management carried out a three-year study into the factors that influence successful research collaboration between universities and business. The study, ‘Best practices for Industry-University Collaboration’ published in 2010, highlights a number of factors that contribute to success.

Top of the list is the importance of defining strategic objectives for collaboration. This helps to prioritize potential collaboration partners and give all contributors clear goals. Sharing the vision for the research project helps to motivate the team and keep all contributors working to a consistent goal.

Long-term relationships are essential. They give continuity to a project and ensure that developments following the initial research continue to meet the original strategic objectives.

Effective communications are a key success factor.  The study recommends holding regular meetings and setting up a regular communication routine to supplement the meetings. It also highlights the importance of building awareness of the research project with the business and partner organizations.

Encourage internal collaboration

Successful organizations set up special multi-disciplinary project groups to drive strategic projects. While these groups lead the process, they also encourage contribution and participation from other employees who may bring knowledge and skills or fresh insight to the project.

A technology company set up a program that encouraged employees to contribute innovative ideas. Employees were able to submit their ideas through various channels, including text, email, Instant message and voicemail.

Project leaders maintain communication with contributors by broadcasting messages or sending personalized messages to individuals. They also hold webcasts to update employees on contributions that are considered for further research or are moving into development.  Regular communications like this help to maintain interest and awareness, and provide the company with a source of innovative ideas.

Recruit outside expertise

Research collaboration can go further by bringing in experts from outside the company. This group could include customers who have clear views on developments that would meet their needs. Involving customers can also help build strategic relationships and ensure that research and development is focused on real-world customer needs.

Universities are a good source of expert input. They can take on projects or allocate experts to join a research project. As well as carrying out or contributing to research, universities may be looking for partners to commercialize or spin-out their own developments.

Suppliers can also make important contributions. They may have expertise in a particular area of product development, for example. They may be specialists in materials, component design or technology.

Industry associations and independent research organizations can provide useful input on industry trends or other valuable data. These associations have special task groups with the organization and experts from there may be useful contributors to your own research programs.

Make collaboration accessible

To bring these diverse internal and external groups together, it’s essential to make collaboration easy.

Meetings are an essential part of successful collaboration, but they can be time-consuming and difficult to organize. VoIP makes it easy to set up meetings. Participants can join from any location on any device, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, conference phones and desktop computers.

If participants are away from the office or based in other organizations, they can join a conference from any location with Internet access. Meeting organizers can check availability by integrating VoIP with calendar applications like Microsoft Outlook.

For urgent meetings or brief get-togethers, they can find out if a colleague is available by using a Presence feature that lets a contact know if they are available or not to be disturbed.

The MIT Sloan School of Management study highlights the importance of regular communications between meetings. VoIP supports this with tools like instant messaging, chat, text and voicemail to keep communications flowing.

Collaboration is good for business

Effective collaboration with contributors from inside and outside an organization can accelerate research projects and deliver practical results that achieve strategic business benefits.

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