Using collaboration for competitive advantage

Communication in business is twice as important as marketing strategies and five times as influential as external market forces, according to a new report.

The report, dubbed "Meetings around the world: The impact of collaboration on business performance" by Frost and Sullivan was conducted in March and identifies the influence of communication on business performance.

The survey collected 946 respondents from 2000 companies in the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific covering financial services, government, healthcare and pharmaceutical, high technology, professional services and manufacturing, with revenue ranging from $US5 million to $10 billion.

It found that, out of the three major aspects of business performance, quality of communication is the largest contributor with 36 per cent, while pursuing new markets accounted for 18 per cent and external market forces affected only seven per cent.

Virtual collaboration expert Jaclyn Kostner said collaboration via communication is an important consideration in the marketplace.

"As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It's just that simple," she said.

Frost and Sullivan ICT consulting vice president Brian Cotton said collaboration enables opportunities for technology and communication analysis.

"Measuring the quality and capability of collaboration [allows] management to prioritize technology investments, encourage adoption of new tools and open up communications lines thus adding competitive advantage," he said.

The report, using a collaboration index which scales communication ability on 0 - 100 based on technology, orientation and workplace culture, gave the Asia-Pacific a score of 63, with the US and Europe attaining 68.

Verizon Business international products director Roberta Mackintosh said the Asia-Pacific are leaders in telecommuting and find telephones and instant messaging invaluable tools for being available.

"Asia-Pacific region, more so than anywhere else, want to be in touch constantly during the workday... Asia-Pacific gets gold stars for planning and embracing telecommunication. The world can learn from them," she said.

According to the survey, positive attitudes to communication were consistent from the three regions, with each using various technologies.

Mackintosh said that while American professionals typically work independently, use e-mail rather than phone, they are more comfortable with audio, video and Web conferencing than people of other regions and tend to multi-task the most when on conference calls.

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