In the 21st Century “it is not really important what individuals know on their own, but rather what they can do with others in a collaborative way to effectively add value to the enterprise” . [1]

When you think about how work gets done nowadays it is usually in the context of multidisciplinary project teams rather than business as usual operations.

The importance of collaboration between business and IT

The best business outcomes, be they an innovative new product or service, or a clever way of doing more for less, are achieved collaboratively and usually involve partnerships between business and IT. There are two important aspects to this.

Firstly, “increasingly, it has been recognised that projects, comprising … teams of individuals from diverse organisations with different specialist knowledge … [working] together under time and budget constraints to produce a new product, process or service”, involve significant knowledge processing and are “rich with significant personal learning opportunities” . [2]

Secondly, in an age of heighted competition, short product lifecycles, differentiation and innovation this makes a lot of sense. It is the collaborative way of working suits the needs of the day.

All too often, however, when a business transformation program is set up we don’t take this into account.

The flaws of an assembly line approach

Instead of organising people into collaborative teams that reflect the actual streams of work required to deliver, we fall back on an inappropriate “factory model” of organising. In this factory model, businesses organise people by the type of function that they perform as if they were working on an assembly line.

As a result, business change programs are often set up for unnecessary pain and expense, if not ultimate failure, before they even begin. This basic structural flaw undermines teamwork, collaboration and communications because people are oriented toward their specialism rather than working with others with different skillsets in order to create new value.

Resourcing by deliverables – the work breakdown structure approach

So how do you go about organising for success? One of the most critical inputs is a work breakdown structure. The work breakdown structure decomposes the scope of a project or program down into the deliverables that need to be developed or purchased, installed and configured.

Once you have developed a work breakdown structure you can use this to start putting together teams based on required skills and resource types, around these groupings of deliverables.

By creating your resource model with reference to the work breakdown structure in this way you will ensure that you are creating the multi-disciplinary teams needed to ensure collaboration and success.

It might be tempting to lump like with like or to pool resources, but it makes more sense to group your people based on what they will deliver and to allow teams to build around this organising principle.

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[1] Miles, R. E., Snow, C. C., Mathews, J. A., Miles, G. and Coleman, H. J. Jnr 1997, ‘Organising in the Knowledge Age: Anticipating the Cellular Form’, Academy of Management Executive, Vol 11, No 4, p 7

[2] Dovey, K. A. & Fenech, B. J. (2007, November) The role of enterprise logic in the failure of organisations to learn and transform Management Learning 38(5), 573-590

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