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Breaking Down the Value of Collaboration: Four Drivers of Value

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For over five years, I have been talking about the potential for organisations to create value everyday using collaboration. Through the Value Maturity Model, and its application in the Collaboration Value Canvas, I have discussed repeatedly the importance of an understanding of value to users and to the organisation.

Until now, I have left the definition of value entirely to the imaginations of readers. One reason for resisting defining value was to avoid an immediate reduction of value to an ROI calculation, which is both notoriously ambiguous and beside the point. The role of value in this discussion is not to justify investment accounting. The role of value is to shape the adoption actions, the use cases and the norms of the community that an organisation is seeking to create. The second reason for my reluctance is that value means something different to almost every organisation at every time. How an organisation and its people need to create additional value is highly dependent on their context.

In this post, I want to share my key drivers of value creation, which I find useful tools for anyone seeking to guide collaboration adoption in a wide range of contexts. Ability to leverage the drivers of collaboration will help you to identify the opportunities for value creation from collaboration, shape use cases and communicate to individual users about value in a simple way. To explain the path to these drivers, we must talk about what value and break it down to everyday topics of business conversation.

Understanding What We Mean by Value

Value is in economics is a measure of the benefit to be gained from any activity. Vibrant and sustainable organisations create a surplus of value, using their resources in a strategic way to create more benefits than the value of their intial resources. Value add is the difference between the benefits generated and the resources consumed. The goal of most strategy is to sustain and increase the value added by an organisation.

At an individual level employees also want to experience purpose and meaning in their work. They want to deliver greater benefits to themselves and others than simply the time value of their work.

Value can be monetary but it can also come in wider non-economic forms. Therefore as we think about value for individuals and organisations we need to keep in mind:

  • Economic value add – the dollars and cents; and
  • Non-Economic Value – any other meaningful sources of value (i.e. meaningful in the eye of the beholder)

If we break down how both economic value add is created and non-economic value we will find some common drivers. If you are short of time or not interested in the background to my approach, you can skip to the answer in the section entitled Four Drivers of Value Creation below.

Economic Value Added 

Economic value add can be defined for an organisation as the excess of the net operating profit after tax of an organisation over its cost of capital.  An organisation deploys financial capital in its operating activities, that capital has a cost and the activities need to generate more operating profit to be sustaining.

A value driver tree enables us to break these concepts down to more everyday topics of business strategy, activity and conversation in green in the table below. Sales, Cost of Sales, Other Organisational Costs, investment in assets and working capital are key elements of how much economic value added a business creates. If the adoption activities in your organisation are not changing these sources of value in some way, then they are unlikely to be creating economic value, especially after the cost of adoption is taken into account.

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Non Economic Value

We can similarly breakdown some major categories of non-economic value, such as Social, Environmental, Governance and Generational value considerations. Because non-economic value is ‘in the eye of the beholder’ to some extent, this list is inevitably a partial one. There are likely more categories that are omitted, such is the richness of human life as expressed by individuals in organisational communities.

Economists will argue that some or all of these can be captured in or flow through to economic value, but the average person sees many of these sources of value as richer for lacking a direct monetary equation. Many of the sources of value in green are key elements of creating an organisation or living a life that is rich in human potential.

The green categories of non-economic value listed below are those most commonly discussed in any project of adoption of collaboration. These may be the starting points for any project. Non-economic value add is usually critical in the ultimate user and organisation success of any collaboration project. There is however a danger if this value is defined only in terms of these Capitalised nouns and they are not translated into specific measures of success and intiatives that users and the organisation can embrace.  Projects that set out after the mystery of ‘Culture’ or ‘Engagement’ without further support or without considering other categories of value, especially economic value, will likely fail because users rightly question their point.

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The Four Sources of Collaboration Value

At the beginning of my career in financial services we had a simple mental model, derived from the Cohen Brown Sales framework, of how we delivered value to customers from the vast array of products and services that a large diversified financial services organisation offered in banking and wealth management. That model was “Save Money, Make Money, Save Time or Protect Money”. Reducing the complexity to these four options guided bankers and other advisors through a great deal of complexity.

As similar guiding structure can be used for value creation generally. When we look at how collaboration can deliver value to each of the green elements of value in both economic and non-economic value we find that value is created by four key drivers. In simplest terms those drivers are:

  • More: Growth – how can we have a bigger impact? how can we help more people? Many organisations want to grow in customer relationships, in scale of operations or in other ways.
  • Better: Effectiveness – how can we ensure we do the most we can do? how do we do more of the right things? The literature of Lean has enriched our understanding of the value of effectiveness in economic value but effectiveness is also a concept that works for non-economic values too.
  • Faster: Velocity – how can we take less time to do our work and to get to our goals? Time is a valuable and expiring resource. Let’s use it as well as we can and remove the traditional work frustrations of delay and waiting.
  • Safer: Protect – how can we avoid risks and better manage consequences? Risk is a part of any life or organisation. We can however improve our management of risk.

As you can see in the tables above, I have highlighted in amber, how each of these drivers commonly creates value for the elements of value in driver. For example costs and working capital can create value if they are used more effectively or with greater velocity.

Here’s a little more detail on what these drivers each mean in organisational terms:

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One of the advantages of framing adoption conversations in these terms, is that it helps make the value of activities clear to users and senior leaders in simple terms.  The key benefits that they are likely to see are:

  • Individual and Organisational Growth
  • Increased Individual and Organisational Effectiveness
  • Improved Velocity in activity, opportunity and leverage of potential, both in an employee and organisational view
  • An environment where individuals and the organisation have better Protection against risks

We Create Value Because We Are Human

If we are to make work more human and more rewarding through shared leverage of human potential in collaboration, then these key drivers should guide our projects and guide our value conversations with stakeholders. We should set our metrics and our use cases around these drivers so that we have the widest impact on value creation. If we need to increase value creation we can come back to these drivers to search for a way forward for users and the organisation.

Every organisation and every user needs to define the value of collaboration to see effective adoption. Understanding value is critical for anyone seeking to accelerate adoption of collaboration in organisations. The four drivers of value can help us to keep conversations and the actions focused on how collaboration can have its greatest impact on value.

Appendix: Recapping All Value Creation Together

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1 Comment

  1. […] publishing my recent post on the four drivers of value creation in collaboration, I chatted with Anna Chu about how these concept is applied. The conversation highlighted to me […]

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