Leadership and trust 'are central' to collaboration projects

Experts at Collaborate & Communicate urge leaders to spearhead transformation

Senior management and board members must lead collaboration efforts if these projects are to be successful, delegates were told at this year's Collaborate and Communicate event.

Speaking at the event in London earlier this week, Curtis Peterson, senior vice president of cloud operations at RingCentral, told delegates that organisations "really have to trust people make agile working work" - and that this was hard for elements of senior management within organisations to do. 

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In a keynote speech, price comparison company GoCompare's CTO, Jackson Hull, said that in his company's digital transformation journey, leadership had to "loosen up attitudes to working from home". 

As the company digitally transformed, GoCompare moved onto collaboration tools such as Slack completely, resulting in very few emails being sent around the company. But he added that in order to make such a move, leadership had to be "really open about transformation". "Things will go wrong along the way," he added. 

With important announcements going out via Slack, more employees started to use the tool, otherwise, there would be a "fear of missing out".

This view was echoed by Paul Lomax, CTO of Dennis (the publisher of IT Pro). He suggested that incentivising employees to use new tools was one way to initiate change - for instance, only advertising cake sales on Slack. "Using email to me now feels like using a fax," he added. 

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Bola Rotibi, research director at analyst firm Creative Intellect Consulting, agreed that one of the main challenges for organisations was getting lots of people onto a particular tool. 

"Organisations that do really well listen to their workforce," she said, adding that companies should look at what tools employees are using and trust employees' ideas and inputs into any collaboration project. 

Lomax added that when rolling out new collaboration tools to the workforce you have to "communicate the benefits of these tools".  "The objective here is to stop silos in order to drive collaboration," he explained.

James Knowles, unified communications product manager at Interoute, said that when it came to creating a collaborative environment, the challenge is to "accept a certain amount of experimentation". He added that innovation "drives companies that are more successful".

"If you don't invest in people and tech, you won't move forward," he explained, saying improving the employee experience is key to getting more collaboration in the enterprise.

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Delegates at the event said they had similar experiences to those described by the speakers. One CIO of a marketing software company said his organisation has been trying to force change and drive better collaboration, and this meant managing expectations.

"We have had to push people who have been less receptive to change, these are common problems across all companies," he said.

Another delegate, who worked for a law firm, said the best piece of advice she had heard from the speakers was that improving collaboration was more about "the people than the technology" and this needed to be "driven from the top" of the organisation.

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