Kumud Kokal, Director Enterprise Application & Insights, Stitch Fix
Collaboration is about creating ideas that never existed until each participant entered the conversation. It is about creating new solutions for the new age and given that the teams these days have to collaborate across the globe, the tools that have to enable collaboration become critically important. Even by conservative estimates, collaboration can help increase productivity by 30%. Therefore, hyper growing companies are making huge investments in collaboration technologies which are starting to give a competitive business advantage in every industry.
Work has always been cross functional but in today’s connected global environment, it is more so. Collaboration tools allow us to increase efficiencies by bringing teams together, partnering with each other, sharing vital information on a timely basis and reducing the project delivery time.
With the evolution of the Gig Economy, there has been a rapid increase in the remote workforce. This group is used to connectivity across the world, with their friends and, their work teams. The line between their work life and their personal life is dwindling, and collaboration technologies have become an indispensable part of their lifestyle. In addition, today’s workforce needs to have knowledge and information at their fingertips in order to meet demands of our fast paced work environment. It has become imperative that CIO’s enable their employees to share their knowledge and information with each other, in order for them to make better decisions and increase productivity. It is a win-win situation where every member of the team can easily learn and grow, which in turn results in the company’s growth.
Many companies have some or the other tools implemented to enable collaboration between the employees. The question is, do you have a strategy around it and is the organization clear about which ones are pilots to see the tools work for your organization, and which ones are clear winners and everyone in the organization needs to use that tool for the maximum benefit.
To enable real-time planning, speed and agility needed by the employees can do their work effectively and seamlessly. CIO team generally enable tools in each the following categories as they serve different functions and together constitute a portfolio to that will take the organization to the next level of its digital maturity.
In a nutshell, it is important to understand that in today’s world, collaboration is the backbone of all work
● Communication Tools
These tools are about asynchronous exchange of information (messages) between the collaborators. While emails still constitute a big part of this category with almost 300 billion emails being sent every day, instant messaging, chat and texting tools are the near-real-time players for quick answers to questions where shared context is already available to the participants. Like the multiple tools that one has in their tool chest, CIO’s provide all these tools to their workforce so that they can communicate as a large group, a small team or one on one basis. Regardless, these tools need to be available cross platform from desktops to mobile devices and in a private domain so that the internal communications between teams is secure.
● Conferencing Tools
These enable real-time exchange of ideas and discussions. The biggest players in this arena are audio video conferencing tools. This technology is becoming ubiquitous with each passing year. Up until a few years ago, this functionality was only available in conference rooms. Today, these tools are available not only on your personal computers but also your smartphones and smart watches. However, this is the fastest growing space in collaboration tools. Companies that have moved from audio conferencing to video conferencing for team collaboration have seen significant improvement in team engagement.
Companies are not only using them for communication between employees but also for customer engagement in the form of webinars. Other choices in this segment include digital whiteboards, application sharing tools and group / community forums. However the adoption of these tools has been limited as they are difficult to use, counterintuitive and platform dependent.
● Coordination Tools
These tools enable facilitating and tracking project tasks, schedules and deliverables.
Coordination tools like project and resource management, shared calendars, shared documents and workflow systems are the biggest contributors in keeping everyone on the same page about the progress and challenges of a project. Currently this is the broadest category and growing at a rapid pace as companies compete to go to market first with their solution to a given problem.
To achieve the vision of a connected, collaborative workplace, CIO’s must pick the right tools from each of these categories that are applicable for their culture, their scope, that helps them achieve their business objectives and are cost effective. These tools are only as good as the implementation strategy, change management and their adoption with the workforce. The easier and intuitive the tool is to use, the higher would be it’s chances of success. And with the changing business and technological environment, CIO’s must constantly innovate adding and replacing the tools that help their workforce be more productive.
In a nutshell, it is important to understand that in today’s world, collaboration is the backbone of all work. Implementing and sustaining collaboration tools in the right way can result in increased productivity, greater flexibility for the workforce, reduction in costs and enhanced partnership amongst teams. This results in an engaged and happier workforce with greater job satisfaction and enhanced employee retention rates, directly impacting the bottom line of the company.