By Jen Sweeney
If you consider the horse race that’s been going on between Microsoft Teams and Slack, it’s evident that business has begun to understand the enormous value collaboration can deliver. Microsoft’s November launch of Teams, and Slack’s subsequent announcement of an enterprise-geared version of its immensely popular app, indicate that everyone’s interested in helping people work better together.
In addition to Teams and Slack, today’s workers have access to a multitude of tools that promise to improve how they collaborate—whether they are in the same office or thousands of miles apart. And, if forecasts for increased investment in digital transformation and IT spending are correct, they’ll have access to even more advanced technologies in the near future. With new tools and new thinking, end-users can automate tasks, streamline work processes and clear paths to innovation.
However, despite these advances in technology and philosophy, a substantial hurdle remains—training and implementation approaches at many companies still follow the “old” model that emphasized one-time, one-size-fits-all instruction. As a result, collaboration technology implementations fail, and end-users become frustrated.
This approach was adequate when work was a more isolated endeavor—when departmental silos were impenetrable, and moving up within a company was achieved only through individual hard work. But it doesn’t fit today. It barely accounts for the current workforce’s varied learning preferences, and does little to address today’s frequent technology updates and changing business demands.
There are many factors that can contribute to collaboration failure. One reason, according to a 2016 eWeek article, is lack of communication and clear purpose—organizations often implement collaboration technologies without giving their employees guidance on which tools they should use, why they should use them, and how they can use them. Gartner has described this kind of purposeless approach as “provide and pray.”
To enable the kind of collaboration that counts—the kind that stimulates innovation and growth—business leaders need to do more than just push out the latest tools and one-time training. They need to determine and communicate their purpose, and enrich it with phased, ongoing training that’s designed to carefully cultivate technology proficiency.
Some have even suggested creating the new position of “chief collaboration officer” as a solution. In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, the authors explain that by creating such a position, “… leaders can send a clear signal about the importance of managing teamwork thoughtfully and provide the resources necessary to do it effectively.”
Although products like Teams and Slack are just two of many ways to collaborate in the workplace, they clearly demonstrate how technology is evolving to improve collaboration. When organizations follow suit—by changing their approach to end-user adoption of technology, collaborative or otherwise—they can begin to see the enormous efficiency and productivity gains that collaboration promises.