Internal cross-functional collaboration is one of the holy grails of business strategy, and improving it is regarded as a fundamental element of business success. Knowing this, and understanding why it’s so, however, are two different things.
How exactly does better collaboration internally drive better results or outcomes externally? The answer to this - and most questions about performance and strategy - is to start with the end in mind.
Answering the questions that will lead to change
We spend so much time in the life-sciences industry circling around buzzwords. A current favourite that sees leaders responding is omni-channel. Omni-channel as a concept was originally popularised by retail businesses with both online and offline sales channels. Beloved by eCommerce strategists, it suggests the perfect integration of all physical (offline) and digital channels (online) to offer a seamless, unified customer experience. In the Life Sciences industry, the term has been co-opted to refer to a business strategy which weaves together every touch-point that our stakeholders encounter into one smooth, coherent experience.
Sounds great, right? It’s true: buzzwords like this aren’t all bad. They can inspire deeper thinking, and in the case of omni-channel, they make us think about our organisation more holistically. However, they can also mask the real issues at play, and distract us from asking - and answering - questions which will lead to real change.
So, let’s leave buzzwords aside. Let’s start with the end in mind and think about what Life Science companies have traditionally done in the last 20 years. In a word, this is to attack - and I use that word deliberately - our target audience (stakeholders) from a variety of different angles.
Online and offline, face-to-face or digitally through emails and the myriad other avenues that are used. All this has achieved is to actually take away from the customer experience and create noise. Needless to say, collaborating more effectively in terms of better coordinating this attack will not improve business outcomes…
What is the big picture?
Which brings us back to our original question - how does internal collaboration improve performance? My answer is, it's not just about performance. It's about understanding that with so many touchpoints and interactions happening in isolation of each other, the experience of our stakeholders will always be rocky, even jarring. Bringing touchpoints together in a seamless fashion that focuses solely on what the stakeholder wants and needs to do their jobs better, be more efficient and more effective is the answer. This must always be the guiding light of collaboration, if it’s to really drive better relationships and better results.
How can you deliver that in a seamless fashion that makes sense to stakeholders, and is seen as valuable, or value adding? It starts with investing in the idea that if we collaborate to bring touchpoints together in a way that revolves around making our stakeholders jobs - and lives - easier, then performance improvement will come. Whatever our overarching or overall strategic objective is, success will follow.
Examples abound in the industry of companies who have taken that leap and have organised internally to come together and collaborate so that their touchpoints externally make sense. Their stakeholders are able to view them as partners, rather than a necessary evil of doing their work. These are the companies that are now doing much better at an industry level, and who will continue to thrive and grow.