Our experts reveal why collaboration is about more than just software
Over the past 50 years, technology has swept through the office, with computers, email, tablets and phones at the forefront. But while the technology underpinning the way we work has changed, sometimes our methods of working haven't.
Many companies remain stuck in old ways of thinking and old workflows, and there's a sense such companies are living on borrowed time: as a more tech-savvy workforce emerges, they need to change to satisfy their employees' needs – or risk losing them.
A mix of generations in the workplace certainly complicates matters, with different strategies working better with certain age groups. However, through the adoption of collaborative software – and collaborative mindsets – a lumbering tanker of a business can become agile once again.
At this year's inaugural Collaboration & Communication 2015 event held at the Museum of London and sponsored by SMART Kapp, a panel of industry gurus sat down and hashed out the five reasons they believe collaborative techniques are key to a successful business in 2015.
1. They help shape best working practices
For Lisandro Nunez, SMART EMEA's collaboration consultant, collaboration software is an excellent window into what works in your company.
“By introducing collaborative technology, you can see how your employees adopt new ideas and understand the tools they decide to use,” he said. “It's about discovering what works best for your company as a whole, gaining feedback on it and then helping maximise it for the different working methods each individual or team has.”
Treating collaboration software in this way means your company can operate more effectively in each department.
2. They allow you to be more nimble with less resources
As head of PwC UK's digital customer strategy, Kat Mandelstein is a firm believer in collaborative technology in the workplace. However, her clients are asking for one thing more than any other: the need to do more with less.
“A growing business will always need to improve its internal communication and collaboration technologies,” she said, “but as it increases in size, its resources will dwindle. Implementing proper collaboration software to suit your business takes the load off ever-swelling IT departments or a need for more team spaces.”
PwC decided the solution was to build its own collaboration software, One, and its own communications suite, Spark. However, not every company is a multinational corporation in need of something quite so bespoke.
3. They increase employee engagement
Ian McBeth, group IT controller at Furniture Village, sees increased engagement as the most vital reason any company would embrace collaboration techniques and software.
Top-down management is a sure-fire way to create an air of employee disinterest and a harbouring of ill-thoughts towards your business. While Ian admits it's incredibly easy as a manager to slip into the mindset of “I have a clear vision and I want you to do it this way”, it's incredibly detrimental to work that way.
Through collaborative techniques, with Office 365 being Furniture Village's method of choice, an engaged team can come up with creative solutions.
As Ian sees it, employees not only have more knowledge of the job roles they fill, but they've got a wealth of experience in different fields too. By engaging with them you can come up with far better plans than anyone could by sitting at the top and ruling with an iron fist.
4. They help you realise the power of company knowledge
They say knowledge is power, and in the world of business the more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are to your shareholders and customers. The “Big Data” boom of the last few years has shown companies want to prove they know everything about their customers.
As Kat from PwC pointed out, though, unless you can apply that data and prove its benefit to a client, it's totally worthless. Thankfully, collaboration technology is the tool by which you achieve that. Here you can pool together your company's collective knowledge to provide real value to your customers.
Through communication and collaboration, you can take that knowledge and turn it into a truly valuable asset.
5. They appeal to the young
One theme throughout the day was that the workplace is filling with not just millennials but a group of young people who won't stay unless they're happy with the tools they're provided. Email isn't enough anymore: they expect to communicate much more naturally, just as they do with their friends.
Fail to adapt to this change and you'll quickly be left behind. If your business isn't open to collaborative software or varied communication techniques that suit your employees, you might find it hard to find talented employees to fill the gaps in your workforce.
Taking the plunge to back collaborative technology now means you won't have to force your company into it later, when it's older and even more hesitant to change. Simply put, if you don't adopt these practices now, you may not be around to adopt them later.