In the modern economy, companies that work in silos, with business units walled off from each other, incur needless costs and inefficiencies due to:
duplication of effort or resources
slower completion times
lower staff engagement (because of frustration)
The opposite of siloed working is collaboration, or literally 'labouring together'. As businesses become global, and as work becomes more flexible, it's less and less useful to insist that employees and team members all be in the same place. After all, collaboration involves more than simply being able to talk to your colleagues, or we would be able to make do with the telephone.
Fortunately, the tools to make collaboration cheap, easy and productive have long been available – but it's up to IT teams to put them all together and help their organisations gain the benefits of engaging the right members in the right teams on the right projects, regardless of their location.
How IT can enable collaboration
How to do it? Here are five simple tips for putting in place the systems you need:
1. Build the technology into the process
The best collaboration technology doesn't just make analogue things digital; it makes new things possible. IT should make sure new technologies aren't patched into old processes. They need to be integral to the way work is done so that they are natural to use.
2. Simplify with automation and templates
Collaboration technologies can also help employees to handle tasks optimally by laying out roles, tasks, and templates in advance. Document automation and other technologies can simplify research so team members can concentrate on adding value through their (data assisted) insights and creativity. Technology allows team members to divide up work, hold discussions, share updates, review checklists, and obtain approvals in the platform. Successful projects can be turned into new templates.
3. Change the culture
Early incentives for using collaboration tools often focused on rewards for participation. But leadership is the key: managers at all levels must take part in the process, modelling the behaviours and work practices they want to see. This can be further reinforced by emphasising the quality, rather than the quality, of participation. Gamification can come into play here. You can award points for behaviours such as:
completing projects with the tools
4. Make it safe
As with any process involving data, security is vital. Beyond the obvious hazards of valuable information being lost or inadvertently shared with outside parties, you need processes and protocols for managing documents and information so employees can access, share, and collaborate. Still, the necessary levels of control, privacy, and protection must be included.
Cloud-based collaboration platforms are the key here and can be an entry point for a larger digital transformation project. Start with the tools you need for the projects at hand; once they're deployed effectively, you can look at extending them throughout the organisation.
5. Make it visual
On a truly practical level, collaboration is made vastly easier with visualisation. Interactive meeting rooms employ interactive format screens and allow information to be shared, viewed, and annotated on the screen.
Audio-visual sharing is just the beginning; experiences can also be extended to employees' fingertips with tablets and mobile devices, which allow users to write, draw, and edit while on the move, or even into the realm of virtual and/or augmented reality (VR and AR).
IT leaders understand that they and their teams need to move beyond just being service providers to the business – workstations, printing, networking, storage and other functions are becoming commoditised and outsourced. This means becoming business-savvy and strategic. Businesses are crying out for effective digital leadership and the advantages it brings… what are you waiting for?