Social collaboration: what does it mean for business in Europe?

collaboration word cloud

Emanuele Quintarelli, a Social Business and Future of Work strategist, has spent the past two decades as a manager, thought-leader, researcher and blogger on the adoption of collaborative approaches by large organisations in order to increase their productivity, efficiency, responsiveness and innovation potential. He’s embarking on a major piece of European-wide research about social collaboration and Alison Boothby caught up with him to talk about his work.

“Social collaboration is the door to a new style of organisation…” says Emanuele Quintarelli, “…and it will increasingly be a survival factor in a world that is moving towards potentially irreversible levels of fragmentation, polarisation, hatred and a lack of scientific mindset.” (you know, he could be talking about Brexit!)

The story so far 

Back in 2013, together with Stefano Besana, Emanuele launched the first quantitative analysis of social collaboration maturity, patterns and potential in Italy. The outcome of this research was published in an extensive report that has been downloaded thousands of times all around the globe. “I’m interested in helping senior executives understand the potential in agile, empowering, transparent ways of working. I want them to see the benefits of adopting new behaviours that collaborative technologies demand. In practice organisations don’t tend to struggle with the technology itself – but they do struggle with changing human behaviour!” he commented.

This study, albeit focused on organisations in Italy, synthesised messages that resonate much more widely: it demonstrated how social collaboration is a critical business accelerator but also that most of the market was lagging behind in terms of management awareness and sponsorship, business focus, cultural alignment, adoption levels, and management capabilities.

Social collaboration that works

In that first report, Social Collaboration that Works, it showed that in only 18% of organisations had adoption levels reached at least 50% and in just 7% of organisations was there high adoption. It is evident that two factors were largely responsible: a lack of buy in and understanding across the business, and culture.  The report offers several suggestions for successfully embedding social collaboration tools in an organisation including a vocal and visible role for the top management, giving enough attention to the new skills required by this transformation, a distance from purely technology-centric investments, disciplined measurement of business (as well as participation) results. In summary, five years ago there were high levels of interest but not much action; there were lots of unanswered questions and significant cultural issues.

Emanuele quintarelliEmanuele again: “Fast forward to today. Five years are a geological era in digital terms. We have O365, Workplace by Facebook, Slack and many other tools and apps designed to make work more efficient, more collaborative and more productive. Nearly everything is done in the cloud and there’s considerable employee awareness around social technologies. My feeling is that the margin for improvement is quite big.”

European Social Collaboration Survey 2019

“For this reason, we are conducting a new European-wide research project and invite you to take part in our European Social Collaboration Survey 2019   in which we hope to:

  • Extend our analysis to a broader international, cross sector sample of organisations
  • Check if, as many research firms report, collaboration is still a crucial and growing trend within enterprises
  • Verify the progress (if any) that the market has made in terms of adoption and maturity of the initiatives since the first analysis
  • Understand if the cultural barriers hindering business value realisation are still the same or have changed over time
  • Explore more advanced flavours of collaboration that look at the broader external ecosystem (customers, partners, suppliers)
  • Investigate to what extent the integration of collaboration tools within the broader IT architectural landscape has happened
  • Measure to what extent new technological aids (machine learning, IoT, conversational experiences, etc.) are being considered and leveraged
  • Reflect on the long-term net effects of collaboration on organisational design (hierarchy, level of control, functional silos, self-management).

mobile-social-collaboration-faces-headsOn top of looking into the data to spot market, country and sector specific trends, this year Emanuele and his team are keen to run deep dives with individual organisations willing to share their experiences. A small but meaningful group of players will be selected for 1-to-1 interviews through which they’ll inquire into ‘aha’ moments, telling episodes, unique practices, lessons learned and future directions that can inspire the rest of the market.

If you think your organisation would be a good case study for this research, please do get in touch.

As with the first project, this research will still investigate the following dimensions of Social Collaboration:

  • Relevance: To what extent is collaboration considered as a strategic topic both today and in the near future?
  • Drivers: What are the business drivers that lead companies to introduce tools and participatory approaches?
  • Sponsors: Which departments have the responsibility to launch and / or support collaborative initiatives?
  • Maturity: At what level of maturity are companies in our country?
  • Budget: How large are the available budgets and how are they spent among the different areas of the project?
  • Measurement: Which performance indicators and metrics are in place and how much is performance measurement already an integral part of existing initiatives?
  • Best & worst practices: Which strategies have been particularly effective in achieving high levels of adoption and what is important to avoid?
  • Processes: How deeply is collaboration intertwined into business processes?
  • Tools: Which tools are most often used by employees?

Once again, the analysis and results will be provided for free and published here on

Get involved

  • Take part in the European Social Collaboration Survey 2019. Participation shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes
  • Spread the word through your social profiles to increase the quantity of data and insights we’ll be able to play back to the community
  • Contact  if you want to be featured in one of the detailed case studies.

As media partner, simply-communicate will be publishing the findings of this research and we look forward to sharing stories of social collaboration across Europe a little later in the year.

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