Home News & Insights If You Want Collaboration, It’s Time To Lean On Smart Tech

If You Want The Magic Of Collaboration, It’s Time To Lean On Smart Tech.

Striving alongside your colleagues towards a common objective is really rewarding. It's the root of innovation, and often makes the most of people’s strengths, allowing for informed decision-making. But truly collaborative teams are pretty rare. We often work alongside each other, but don't often see the markers of peak collaboration, like the freedom to move away from our desktops, blurred lines of roles and responsibilities, and the feeling that anything is possible.

But when it happens, it's magical.

I started my marketing career in a relatively individualistic environment. Collaboration wasn’t commonplace. We had to make the most of our own internal voice and initiative. Directives were given, and real conversations not often had. We had a singular KPI: turn up and do what you're asked to do. 

Leaders are starting to understand that this somewhat authoritarian approach doesn't work. Their teams need flexibility and agility to reach their full potential. Standard meeting structures are just one example - not everyone thinks their best at 10 am while surrounded by colleagues and biscuits. Or day-long desk sitting - we already know this is sending our brains to sleep. Why have the rules if they aren't serving us? Viva la flexibility!

The status quo work structure just doesn't support this révolution. It wasn’t too long ago that a brainstorming session meant herding colleagues into a meeting room and talking in front of a whiteboard, leading to the occasional back-and-forth of thoughts, agreements, and disagreements. All the while, some poor soul has the thankless task of transcribing the aftermath. Was anything agreed to? Have we truly made headway? Can we just forget the whole thing and go get coffee? 

I'll be fair - we're starting to see New Zealand businesses get better. Co-working spaces are growing rapidly, and mobile working is a talked-about "thing". I'm even starting to overhear conversations like "Let's have a standing meeting." But that's only a start. Changing the process means changing the tools.

Only new technology can make the ~magic~ happen. 

Let's talk about smart software

We know good software provides big efficiency gains. Examples of this are everywhere - business mobilisation, collaborative task tools, and content management. My favourite, video conferencing, has brought greater meaning to collaboration. Although in the past, participating in a video conference came with a side of time-wasting served up cold. “Is the right version installed? Can you see me? We can’t hear you. Hello?!” is commentary that typified the experience.

With virtual meetings through purpose-made software, those concerns have been practically optimised out of the equation. As a regular user of Vidyo, the technology has almost become peripheral, doing its job without fuss in the background and allowing our team to focus on the tasks at hand.

For managers of teams that need to collaborate, starting with the ability to have a smarter virtual conference could be pivotal. Better connectivity and in-product tools that aid productive discussions can turn a mere catch-up call into a decision-changing discussion.

But video conferencing isn’t the only mode of communication whose form is changing. Email is fast being taken over by team messaging platforms like HipChat, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. The benefit of these tools in comparison to email isn’t just the instant, real-time factor. It’s the humanisation of inter-office communication.

The formal environment of email often isn’t conducive to collaborative engagement. Everything feels staid and often colder-than-intended. Chat is more open and free-spirited. When you add integrated third-party applications and video calls, you’ve got a handy little package.

"The benefit of these programs in comparison to email isn’t just the instant, real-time factor. It’s the humanisation of inter-office communication." 

And big business agrees. Slack recently acquired a $250 million investment from Softbank to bring its overall valuation to $5 billion.

Simply applying a few of these - let’s call them approaches to communication - has the potential to both speed up projects and improve the job satisfaction of team members.

Efficient hardware

Technological hardware is evolving too, and is absolutely improving collaboration. The emergence of touchscreen whiteboards has made major strides for productive conversations.

Gone are the days of the aforementioned flip charts and whiteboards. With touch-pen in hand, touchscreen whiteboards now enable teams to collaborate with greater capability, complementing the process, rather than inhibiting it.

And AI products like Amazon’s Alexa for Business could truly be the glue that brings entire offices into a beautiful ecosystem. Alexa and other office AI products speak to humans and machines alike, providing them the unique ability to coordinate meetings, take minutes, print paperwork and connect humans in a nanosecond.

Considering the full connectivity to smartphones, tablets, laptops, multi-function devices and the cloud, you can now develop projects with the ability to instantly share content with your team, locally or globally... no minutes taken.

So, how can business leaders successfully apply this advice? 

  1. Focus on strategic change. There is a fine balance between becoming a stagnant organisation and causing ‘transformation fatigue’ - where businesses try to change too much too fast, and their teams feel like they can never find their bearings. Encouraging change is important nevertheless, which means having constant conversations about growth and evolution, but also filling the business with people that are experts in their field.
  2. Discourage implementation bureaucracy. Everyone wants due diligence, but often decision by committee when it comes to purchasing and implementing new technology leads to years of discussions and deliberation. Consider hiring one key project manager with KPIs to meet the business’s expectations. 
  3. Consider the “feel” of the environment. Your technology will be totally underutilised if your team members aren’t in a space that is conducive to collaboration. Is it comfortable? Does the space feel dreary or welcoming? Would you want to use the space? Most importantly - do supervising staff encourage or discourage the change of structure?
  4. Communicate smarter and more fluidly. Email can negatively impact relationships and communication. Start with considering more flexible tools like chat apps and video conferencing. And if you really want to break down barriers, a communication workshop for staff can transform an organisation.
  5. Prioritise connectivity. Everyone has a tendency to work in silos, but putting the ability to connect at the forefront of your business’s priorities will lower the risk of a breakdown in communication. Collaboration starts with teams understanding that connecting with others is the key to success.
  6. Training training training. Have you planned for training? Team members won't use tools they don't understand. Set time aside. Make it a priority. Ask them if they feel comfortable with the tool in question. Offer extra training. Training. Traaaiiinnnninggg. 

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