08 Oct 2013

Collaborate; Don’t Just Communicate!

Often we use ‘communication’ and ‘collaboration’ interchangeably in conversation. They certainly share some traits – and it’s hard to collaborate without communicating. However from a technology point of view, they’re entirely different things and getting the two confused can lead to a missed opportunity for competitive differentiation. Organisations that want the all-important ‘competitive edge’ need to look to genuine collaboration tools, rather than simply enabling workers to better communicate. This means tightly integrated technology solutions that bring together voice, video, whiteboards, collaborative documents and messaging. The technology that enables each of these features might be dedicated, but the key to a positive collaborative experience is to leverage the power of modern cloud infrastructure to bring these solutions together in a seamless and effective manner. In technology, ‘communications’ simply refers to the exchange of information between two parties and typically do so through one channel or mode of communication like voice or email per technology solution. These solutions are simple to implement, but they are limited and don’t allow for the kinds of rich experiences that help build efficiency and greater levels of productivity into the organisation. That’s why you need to take a holistic approach to building around collaboration. A single communication stream is not collaboration. Collaboration is the on-demand engagement of parties in diverse locations via voice, messaging, video and PC screen sharing to describe ideas, get answers and drive collective workforce productivity. For example, instead of an account manager meeting with a client and taking action to then follow-up days later, effective collaboration would allow resources in the office to be conferenced in, solutions scribbled on a virtual whiteboard and potentially even orders raised. The depth and richness of the information that can be shared in a single session will give the business that has implemented collaboration solutions a competitive edge over one that will waste time emailing back and forth after a phone conversation has decided on a plan of action. People are no longer bound to the office, and organisations are quickly realising the benefits to having a highly mobile workforce. With connectivity enabled via the corporate network and the office desk phone removed, there is the opportunity to support better systems collaboration. But it requires the right change management program to be effective. To enable collaboration, you’ll need to give people access to the corporate network remotely. That means you’ll need not only robust security tools that allow for a remote wipe in the event that the device is compromised, but more critically, you’ll need to change the corporate culture to one of trust. The more tools and data an individual has access to, the more effectively they can be expected to collaborate. Trust doesn’t just happen it takes a deliberate plan of attack by management to foster a collaborative approach to work amongst remote workers. The productivity and competitiveness rewards are there for organisations that make the investment, but too many continue to mistake a simple video chat tool or email on the mobile phone communication to be true collaboration.