The importance of effective collaboration

Effective collaboration depends on providing the right tools and environment

Highly effective organisations really value effective collaboration. But it's not just about removing office walls and going open plan; there is a balance to be achieved as not all employees work well in such an open environment.

Nowadays, the emphasis is more on allowing employees to collaborate whenever and wherever they need to. Sometimes, you need to get your head down away from colleagues for brain space to complete that vital project.

So what are the most important ways to collaborate in an effective manner?

Failure to promote successful communication and collaboration internally is costly. Enterprises are spending on average $8.1 million on unified communications and collaboration technologies and services, hoping that business productivity is enhanced, according to Lyndsay Cook, senior vice president of Marketing and Product, EMEA and Asia at PGi.

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"It's been proven that enterprises with highly-effective internal communications offer 47% higher returns to shareholders.  So, clearly, UC&C is on the rise and businesses are becoming more productive and deriving value from their investments," he says.

"In contrast, although it is clear that communications are vital, a failure to promote successful communication and collaboration internally is costly. Organisations lose approximately $37 billion yearly due to poor workplace communication."

Consider collaboration needs

Before investing in new technology for your business, ask whether you truly need it, what it can do and if it's feasible long-term.

"Naturally, these are obvious, but many IT and business leaders don't actually consider this.  For instance, what are the characteristics of your team? Are they baby boomers? Millennials? What are their collaborative personality types?" says Cook.

Organisations may also need to understand how their business operates. Is it entirely office-based or virtual? 

"Once these questions are answered, and you have a better idea of your organisational need, you can begin to develop a business case for UC&C and then review your technology and feature requirements," say Cook.

Drive adoption of pioneering technology

As mainstream collaboration becomes more digital, we'll see the tech heads' spearhead completely new ways of working together, using technologies like AI and VR, says Rashid Ajami, founder and CEO of Campus Society.

"These might stem from the gaming industry but they're now starting to impact the world of business too. Adoption will accelerate, as businesses explore new ways to boost employee engagement (through gamification of objectives and tasks) and creativity (visualising and interacting with creative ideas and concepts)," he says.

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Adopt tools that work in a natural environment

Communication technology today is driven by consumers: FaceTime, SnapChat and Skype. Employees want that type of functionality in their workplace, especially if their workplace is the home or based around their ubiquitous mobile device. If you can FaceTime your grandmother with one click, why do you need a long dial string to connect to your boardroom? 

"A large fraction of lost productivity time is a result of technical complications setting-up, managing, administering and securing communications and collaboration processes," says Andy Nolan, VP for UK, Ireland and Northern Europe at Lifesize. "Now more than ever, platforms and tools must be as painless and friction-free as possible for employees to embrace them, for the productivity benefit to be fully realised, and to realise maximum ROI for management." 

Reduce the number of tools being used

So, while the consumerisation of communication technology gives us a lot of options and certainly has established a model for simplicity and ease of use, it also has resulted in a crowded and complicated range of tools that IT management must deal with.

According to a study by Frost & Sullivan, 80% of employees use non-approved tools and apps at work. The result is a lack of company-wide collaboration, redundant functionality, administration confusion and security risks.

"Adding more tools in an ad hoc way leads to user frustration, siloed work environments and a significant increase in administration costs. Sure, it's tempting for a worker to use the newest IM app his teenage daughter is raving about at work, but each new addition adds a new level of complexity and potential risk that must be controlled," says Nolan.

He adds that if there is one reason to manage the number and types of collaboration tools in use at a company, it's security.

"Security needs to be strategically planned, to be baked in from the start. A standardised set of IT programmes allows you to take back control of your programmes, enhancing security and streamlining communication within your organisation. But it must be done without being overly restrictive or disruptive to the end user," he says.

Measure everything

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Changes in collaboration ultimately change the way we work which means we need to change how we're measured, how we're perceived and how success' is benchmarked. A lot of this will be less tangible how valued employees feel, how productive they're being but the fact that a lot of this transformation is digital' means that more can be measured. 

"Big data and analytics will continue to be powerful measurement resources to track progress of new ways of working and inform the decisions that are made," says Ajami.

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