My last column on suppliers (Computer Weekly, 14 March) received a huge response and the watchword, above all others, was collaboration. This is required on three fronts: forming trusted relationships with external partners around a shared vision; forging stronger internal cross-departmental co-operation; and finally, never forgetting that clarity of purpose begins at home, and that we must ensure that our own teams in IT work well together.
Great stuff, but how? First comes external collaboration. Last time I discussed shared values, and I have often written about powerful ways to build rapport and reach shared understandings of other people and teams. The most effective of these is to understand what the other party wants and help them to achieve it.
With this in mind, these are the top requirements that external suppliers need from their customers, and vice versa:
- Endorsements from customers
- To be paid on time or, as an incentive, to be paid early if the work is completed early
- Clarity of role and purpose
- To be valued, and involved in the decision-making process.
And customers want, again, in this order:
- Freedom, to fly by their own wings and transfer skills
- Trust, honesty and integrity
- Information and advice on the market
- Flexibility in service support and supply.
Next we turn to internal collaboration. Many organisations I go into are at war with themselves. They are more intent on one-upmanship against another department, or more frequently, a particular individual, than on achieving a common purpose.
This is a huge topic, but it provides IT with an opportunity to be at the heart of the company by becoming a facilitator, bringing together all relevant departments for a project. This does not mean taking over, but it does mean getting all the relevant groups together from across the organisation, and taking an active role in helping the group to move forward. I have seen this work, powerfully, and often.
One critical success factor is to ensure you all work to an agreed, common purpose.
Finally we look, once again, at internal cultures, a subject that is in vogue at present. There are three main ways to foster a spirit of unstoppable teams:
- Ensure that your vision and purpose is the same as that of your organisation (if your company's purpose is to be the world's most successful car rental company then your's must be too
- Embark on a programme of cultural transformation around a clear set of values, the strongest of which, by far, must be openness
- Recognise and value the unique strengths, differences and personalities of individuals, and encourage them to be free, within a clear framework for success, and common purpose.
Whether the economic climate is good or challenging, close collaboration and working together are critical.
You are at work for your organisation, and for your department, but those are entities without personality. Take on a belief that you are fundamentally doing what you do for each other, and co-operation will happen.
David Taylor is president of IT directors association Certus