For organizations that haven’t begun to seriously consider using chat-based collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack, it’s time to start paying attention. Collaboration is the top trend for this year, and experts predict it will remain that way.
Since the launch of Teams in March 2017, Microsoft has added dozens of new features to the platform, including guest access and voice calling. In January, Microsoft released its biggest Teams update yet, and the platform figured prominently in keynotes at this week’s Microsoft Build 2018 conference.
Slack, which is widely regarded as the forerunner of the current team communication revival, has also consistently improved its product since it launched in 2013. Early last year, Slack launched its Enterprise Grid to compete with the subsequent release of Microsoft Teams. In the meantime, scores of competitors have emerged—from companies big and small, both proprietary and open source.
The demand for chat-based solutions to replace email as the primary mode of collaboration in the workplace has grown because organizations are beginning to realize that collaboration is critical to innovation and digital success. In a 2017 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital, researchers found that more than 70 percent of digitally maturing businesses are using cross-functional teams to implement digital business priorities. This compares to less than 30 percent for organizations that have just begun their digital transformations.
Collaboration also helps organizations increase engagement and improve retention—which is especially important considering the growing global digital skills shortage. The MIT Sloan/Deloitte report notes that many companies are encouraging employees to participate in platforms and communities where they can share ideas with and learn new skills from experts in other departments and in other organizations.
At a granular level, collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams can:
- Save time and frustration between apps. Teams brings everything together in one hub—chats, calls, meetings, and private and group messages specific to projects.
- It enables people to share applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, as well as calendars, files and email—all seamlessly and in real-time.
But to achieve the gains promised by chat-based collaboration solutions, organizations must first solve the adoption puzzle. The greatest challenge will be encouraging employees and entire organizations to change their work process—to undo the decades-long reliance on email as the primary collaboration tool and the silo as the only knowledge repository. That will require a comprehensive communication strategy, a solid system for soliciting feedback and implementing changes, ongoing training and support, and executive buy-in.
The greatest challenge will be encouraging employees and entire organizations to change their work process—to undo the decades-long reliance on email as the primary collaboration tool and THE silo as the only knowledge repository
For organizations that are unsure whether to commit to a company-wide implementation of a solution like Teams, consider these recent productivity stats:
- The average worker checks email more than 70 times a day1
- It takes people about 25 minutes to reorient back to a task when they are interrupted2
- The average number of business-related emails sent and received each day is expected to reach 140 this year3
- The more time people spend focused on email, the less happy and productive they are4
Email has come a long way since the early days of AOL and ARPANET—countless features like SPAM filters, priority inboxes, and rules, plus machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, have enabled users to lessen frustration and minimize email’s impact on productivity. Yet today’s workplace and work pace demand something different.
New ideas are generated when people with diverse backgrounds work together—whether physically or virtually. Collaboration technology makes innovation possible, and adoption of the technology makes it inevitable. It’s up to business leaders to start providing both.
1. “Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory,” by Joe Pinsker, May 27, 2015, The Atlantic | 2. Ibid. | 3. “Emails expected to rise to 140 a day in 2018,” by Cara Jenkin, May 24, 2014, news.com.au | 4. “Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory,” by Joe Pinsker, May 27, 2015, The Atlantic
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.