In the modern workplace, effective collaboration and communication with external partners is essential in order to deliver good results.
But this is not always easy to achieve. There are many barriers that prevent collaborative working from taking off, which in turn leads to the breakdown of these important partnerships.
In this blog post, we’re going to provide tips on how you can build better relationships with your external partners.
Be open to sharing ideas
Sharing ideas with your team or other departments is easy. Why? Because you know them and they know you. Most people would feel comfortable sharing their ideas in this situation.
So, what happens when you bring people outside of your organisation into your discussions? Most would welcome the opportunity to bring new voices and ideas into the mix.
Others might take a different view. Instead, they close off and be more reluctant to share their views, in fear that they might give away too much information about their organisation.
Obviously sensitive company data shouldn’t be shared. But in reality there are only benefits from encouraging creativity and the sharing of information between organisations.
Even high-level executives think so! According to one study, when CEOs were asked, “What is the skill you most value in your people?” they said creativity, the ability to solve problems, come up with new solutions, and use brainpower to figure things out.
Share decision making
In most organisations, there is usually a strict hierarchy. This is important as it creates a sense of authority and unity.
However, when working with external partners there needs to be compromise. Having lots of people trying to rubber-stamp decisions is not the best idea. As this post by Skills You Need explains:
“Making decisions by committee is difficult. Everyone has their own views, and their own values. And while it’s important to know what these views are, and why and how they are important, it may be essential for one person to take responsibility for making a decision.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t use tools such surveys to canvass your stakeholders to gain their input. You just have to make sure that there is only one person making the final decision, whether that is from yours or your external partners' organisation.
Look after their data
Unfortunately, data breaches are becoming more commonplace in today’s society.
In fact, the Ponemon Institute's 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study Data found that breaches cost UK organisations an average of £2.48 million. Coupled with the fact that GDPR is to be introduced in May 2018, there is now an even sharper focus on the handling of sensitive data.
Whether you collaborate with external organisations in the private or public sector, they will want assurances that any data shared between you both, will be safe and secure.
Before you say it, email isn’t the answer. As tech news site Digital Trends has stated:
“The bottom line is that email as we know it today has never been secure, and the myriad ways we send, receive, store, and use email messages makes fully securing email a very difficult problem. At best.”
So what alternatives are there? Many organisations are utilising the cloud to share information securely with external parties.
To back this up, leading software providers apply great importance to meeting the NCSC’s (National Cyber Security Centre’s) list of essential security principles to consider when evaluating cloud services.
Choosing a supplier that meets these principles is a great way of giving the peace of mind to your external collaborators that their data will be secure.
Break down geographical barriers
Whether you’re working with colleagues or other organisations, you can be certain of one thing - they all won’t be based in the same place.
This trend is set to continue. One survey found that 91% of firms in Britain have at least one employee working from home.
In order to keep up with this, you will need to find new ways of communicating with your external partners. Traditional methods of collaborating such as meetings are no longer viable due to the distance between all of the participants. I think we can all agree, that this travel time can be better spent elsewhere!
The future is online collaboration. Not only is it highly secure, but it can also be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device. Basically, it’s perfect for external stakeholders that can’t make it your office for logistical reasons.