CXO

Overcoming the fear of risk in Enterprise Collaboration

Fear of failure and inability to manage risks are two of the main reasons why executives hesitate to invest in enterprise collaboration platforms and strategies. Here's how to get around that fear.

After conducting a survey in 2011, speaking with clients, and researching hundreds of companies; I've concluded that fear of failure and inability to manage risks are two of the main reasons why executives hesitate to invest in enterprise collaboration platforms and strategies.

So what can be done to help?

In the supply chain industry there's something known as failure mode effects analysis — a complicated term but a rather simple concept. The purpose of the model is to systematically identify, anticipate and mitigate any number of risk factors, as well define follow-up actions should the scenarios present themselves.

Borrowing this model, you can apply it to the enterprise collaboration space when you're looking how to evaluate and mitigate risks. It's important to point out that risks are common; there's risk in everything you do and everything you invest in. However, you can anticipate some of these risks and start to come up with preventive measures or follow-up actions for if and when these risks actually present themselves.

Being able to understand and evaluate these risks is crucial and something that every organization needs to think about. You'll notice in the Figure A below that I included both an internal (employee) and an external risk (customer) just to show that this model can be used for either. The great thing about this model is that it can be used as a baseline that you can adapt and change to meet your needs (like adding other variables). If you want to keep things simple, you can just do all of this in a simple Excel file, or better yet, in your collaborative platform. Here are the steps:

Step 1- What are the risks?

Write down the perceived risks as a result of getting involved in enterprise collaboration. Based on client work, I picked two common risks which are "employees don't use tools" and "negative customer feedback."  I would recommend a cross-functional meeting as opposed to just having someone from PR or marketing coming up with all of the risks. If you have a team that's leading collaboration (ideally comprised of employees with different roles) then this would be a good thing to go through together. Order lunch and spend a few hours together going through this. Enterprise collaboration is led by and impacts multiple parts of an organization, so it's important to understand what those varying risks can be.

Step 2- The priority index

Go through each risk and fill out the first four elements, leave the recommended action and responsibility pieces blank until you decide which risks you are going to address. We'll discuss that in a minute. The numbers you assign to these variables are, of course, subjective so what your organization might perceive as a severe risk, another organization might perceive as a mild risk. This is exactly why it's important to go through this as a team-it lets you develop some consensus.

If we use Risk 1 as an example we can see that the severity level (out of a scale of 1-10) of employees not using internal collaboration tools is an 8, the chances of that actually happening is a 4 and the probability of detecting that risk early on is a 7 (if you are monitoring your collaborative environment and paying attention to feedback, then the chance of early detection here will be high). Multiply these three numbers together to get a "priority index," which in our example for Risk 1, is 224.

These numbers closely resemble those of a global technology company with hundreds of thousands of employees. The point isn't to get to some exact number but to help compare the risks to one another in relative terms so that you can begin to prioritize them.

Step 3- Work through the risks

Go through this process for all of the risks you've identified to get the "priority index" number. Once this process is done, your team needs to decide how many risks it can feasibly address immediately. That might be just the top 5 or 10, and maybe it's all of them. In the example above I selected only two risks. The priority index score will help you and your team decide how to prioritize the risks your organization is being faced with; typically the higher the priority index, the higher up on the list that particular risk is.

Step 4- Accountability

Once you have the list of risks you're going to deal with (say the top 10) you can go ahead and fill out the bottom two areas, which are the recommended actions for dealing with the risk and whose responsibility it is to deal with it. The more specific you can be in these areas the better, especially when looking at who is responsible. For example, it would be ideal to say "Jessica Thomas, VP of Marketing."  The vaguer you are, the lower the chances are that anything will actually get done.

Going through this process isn't very difficult but the value it will provide to your team in terms of evaluating, prioritizing, and mitigating perceived risks should be great. You may also want to consider other factors when adapting this for your needs such as, "what resources are going to be required to for the action?"

This should be a good starting point to help you and your team figure out how to evaluate, mitigate, and prioritize risks associated with enterprise collaboration. Adapt, change, and modify this framework as you see fit.

Jacob Morgan is the principal of Chess Media Group, a management consulting and strategic advisory firm on collaboration. Jacob is also the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Collaborative Organization, which is the first comprehensive strategy guide to emergent workplace collaboration. He can be found on Twitter @JacobM.

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