Why IT Teams Must Collaborate and How to Foster This Collaboration
IT collaboration boosts creativity and engages employees. It can be achieved through redesigning offices, reorganizing and training staff, and hiring the best.
IT teams face many challenges, including cybersecurity, the rapid evolution of technology, and the need to work more closely with other departments within the business. On top of this, many IT departments also are downsizing, and IT employees must learn to share knowledge. All these factors make the productivity of IT professionals even more critical to business success. The key to a productive and well-functioning IT team is collaboration.
Collaboration is more than just cooperation. Merriam-Webster defines cooperation as the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for. Collaboration, on the other hand, involves shared goals and shared accountability.
Benefitting from Collaboration
Collaboration benefits an IT department, and the entire company, in several ways.
- It allows the team to respond better to the need for faster innovation. This allows the company to keep or gain market share.
- It creates space for more creative problem-solving because collaboration brings together individuals with different skills and perspectives. The team sees the problem from different angles and can examine all sides in developing a solution.
- Employees remain engaged and invested in the company. A Gallup poll has found that those organizations that make employee engagement a central part of their business strategy experience 59 percent less employee turnover than those that do not value engagement. Engaged employees also perform at a higher level, the poll found.
To stay competitive, then, companies need to create and nurture a collaborative environment organization-wide. From the CEO down, the company establishes its overall goals and communicates them. The company focuses on improving relationships between departments, hires collaborative leaders and team players, and uses technology that aids collaboration. In a collaborative company, incentives and structures all revolve around the achievement of common goals through teamwork. Companies operate and allocate resources horizontally (across disciplines, as in a matrix structure) rather than vertically (as in a traditional hierarchy).
Collaboration within an IT department is achieved similarly. For example,
- IT projects, and the company’s overall business goals are linked. IT departments become transparent, and technical talent is trained in soft skills such as interpersonal skills and good communications.
- Staff structures are examined and potentially reorganized. For example, an IT operation that previously functioned as several regional departments may be made one global team to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and to avoid duplication. It also evolves from being hierarchical to being a matrix. In international organizations, employees are encouraged and equipped with appropriate technology to join meetings remotely, so they do not have to return to the office at odd hours to meet with colleagues in different time zones. Employees who collaborate are rewarded.
- Documentation is stored centrally, where anyone on the IT team can easily access it. One large New York hedge fund company did this through the use of a wiki and established a reward system for those who contributed.
- Offices are redesigned to promote collaboration. This may mean removing cubicles and office doors and replacing them with large open areas. Kraft Foods not only removed the cubicles but also eliminated assigned seating. Workers keep personal items in lockers and files on rolling stools. Instead of being closed up in officers, managers are out on the floor with employees.
- Managers hire the best. Talented employees placed in an environment that challenges them will want to work together, both to improve their knowledge and to innovate as a team. Managers can further foster this environment by being alert to the gifts and passions of each team member and matching tasks to these gifts and passions.