• Erwan Hernot

“Digital” Doesn’t Mean “Collaboration

There is a widely shared thought that digital would be the key to collaboration. It is naive or … a sales oriented opinion.

Two big players in the game advocate that collaboration happens when people have the right tools to share and communicate :

  1. software, services, devices and solutions vendors

  2. and consulting firms.

Of course, collaboration is strengthened and facilitated by digital tools. But they can’t trigger it because it is a matter of values, beliefs and corporate norms. Or to be short : human factors.

Do you want a single proof of that statement ? Building ONE strong and simple digital platform in your company is impossible. IT aka technology respects silos and even enhances them. Processes (each activity jealously owns theirs) rule supreme and ERP are kings. And the blame game is one of the most played in these territories.

Another proof : survey all your senior managers to see if they share the same vision of digital in the company. You will see big differences and no overarching vision, no governance across silos (even if you have Chief Digital Officers).


Vision 1, Digital 2


You don’t have any ground for collaboration. Collaboration would start by taking in account real values, beliefs and norms and not the usual corporate slogans. People collaborate for some reason (remember how and why we call a “group” a “team”). So collaboration doesn’t start with technology but with a strong vision. And the question that vision answers is “What your company can do for its customers in this new age?” Digital comes second.


Agile fosters collaboration


People live in silos for ages and were groomed to protect their professional identity (the “the others and us” mindset in all departments of big companies) and territory. They don’t naturally know how to collaborate (ie. manage conflicts, communicate efficiently, share experiences, address and receive feed-backs…) Train them to new behaviours : “Agile”, less command an control more test and learn, “Be a better communicator”, “Manage visually”, etc.

Only then, train them to use the digital tools : pair millenials and older generations in reverse mentoring and lead by example : senior managers have to be present on corporate social networks.


Include at this step, collaboration KPI in the annual performance interviews.

Right. And for the blame game which -alone  – can kill any nascent collaborative willingness ? Build an atmosphere where failing is OK as far as you fail quick and cheap and that you learn something. Then, people will be less prone to politics and more open to collaboration.

Les techniques managériales ne sont pas neutres...

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