Integrate, not separate

Published on
April 18, 2013

Business scholars are almost universal in their view that internal collaboration is good for an organisation. Business leaders regularly challenge employees to break down silos and work together in cross-unit teams.

While such initiatives are sometimes met with resistance from individuals given concerns about the extra workload this entails, the potential benefits of collaboration are significant for any professional services business. These benefits include improved innovation, increased learning and best practice sharing and reduced project delivery times.

As manufacturers learned through advances such as lean production methods — improvements in internal collaboration can create tremendous value for professional service companies and their clients.

The challenge is to give managers a systematic way to question basic assumptions about how a service is defined and delivered and to see the opportunity to achieve dramatically better results.

A book by Professor Morten Hansen (University of California, Berkeley, and INSEAD, France) Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps and Create Unity, and Reap Big Results provides a compelling argument for a strategic, organisational emphasis on collaboration.

Professor Hansen predicted that the possible impact of effective disciplined collaboration on a US$1 billion company could be a 25 per cent increase in Return on Equity.

Evan Rosen, author of The Culture of Collaboration and executive director of The Culture of Collaboration® Institute, advised in a Bloomberg Businessweek article the five steps to smashing silos include:

  1. Eliminating needless formality and hierarchy
  2. Providing easy access to all experts within an organisation
  3. Designing dedicated spaces for collaboration
  4. Adopting common systems and processes
  5. Establishing cross-functional mentoring.

Rowland has spent several years tracking innovations in the professional services sector, as we investigated the best approach to substantially redefining our service delivery model.

From our perspective, cross-practice collaboration meant practitioners from different areas of the business working together on a common project or providing significant help to each other, to deliver the best outcomes for our clients.

Rowland was keen to explore opportunities to create a more structured approach to cross-practice collaboration because many of our clients required a comprehensive strategic communication approach, encompassing multiple practice disciplines and approaches.

We have seen the real benefits of integrating government and public affairs, marketing, media relations and community relations in meeting our clients’ business goals. One team can collectively understand the objectives of the business and provide creative solutions in public relations, government and public affairs, and stakeholder engagement. All the solutions are tied together in one integrated response.

For our clients, this approach has meant time and cost savings as they only need to brief one team, rather than multiple consultants while delivering innovative communication solutions.

Our integrated service offering means we can deliver tailored solutions to challenges and opportunities facing organisations, such as gaining a competitive advantage, securing a social licence to operate, achieving long-term business sustainability and building reputational resilience.

View Rowland’s integrated campaign for Sibelco.