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Collaborating for Success on Technology Projects

Very rarely — except possibly on the most technical projects — is collaborating with the business not a necessity on technology projects.  Indeed, it is the goal of technology to enable the business; thus, technology and business management cannot avoid each other!  Working together towards a goal is a must.

What I learned from more than three decades of working in financial services at the intersection of technology and business is that one management capability normally stands in the way of successful technology projects:  the inability to collaborate.

Collaboration is a necessity of growing importance.  Why?  There are four reasons:

First, business functions are now distributed globally.  Going it alone is simply no longer likely.

Second, decision-making is more dispersed.  More people are involved in decision-making than before because technology’s reach and impact have increased and security is paramount.

Third,  IT consumerization encourages more inputs from a broader audience.   I believe consumerization and social networking are part of the same trend to more involvement from all corners, which is positive for learning and knowledge.

Fourth, Millennials are entering the work force and they’re ultra comfortable collaborating in-person or remotely.  They willingly learn from others.

Because collaboration is a process, what is often missing is the reason for coming together.  Just because there’s a joint project, it doesn’t mean everyone is on board and committed.

During an American Management Association webinar (“The Art of Collaborative Teaming,” by Pauline Larkin), the speaker used a term I’d never considered before:  “The Superordinate Goal.”  What Ms. Larkin said was that for collaboration to be successful, the team must “share an important, valuable goal that transcends personal goals.”

The team’s goal should be so deeply held that it creates strong morale and spirit, allows the different organizations to share wins and successes, opens dialogue, creates a feeling of belonging, and defines success for the whole team.  If you can do this, you’ve built a splendid and effective team that should allow technology projects to prosper.