Remote Work

The next normal is collaborative and people-centric

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Wayne Kurtzman, IDC Research Director, Social, Communities & Collaboration.

The last ten years saw businesses adopt collaborative applications, but the “Work from Home” needs generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has created a hyper-acceleration of adoption. Prior to the pandemic, this market was already growing at over 20% annually according to IDC, but COVID-19 enabled the adoption of collaborative applications to accelerate by five years. Transitions that dramatic come with the need to make changes in how everyone works—especially if you want to see your company move from business continuity to what IDC calls “The Next Normal.”

The power of collaboration comes from replacing legacy email with new modes of connecting people in ways that save time and money, especially when they are adopted in a culture of collaboration. Collaboration is not just technical. It is the cultural willingness to share and win as a team using the right technologies and the assumption that everyone can add value. This a fundamental and significant shift in culture for teams or full companies. 

Yet, despite projected cuts in IT spending, IDC worldwide surveys show 54% of companies expect that they will increase collaboration applications spending this year. CEO projections are even higher. 

Smartphone owners already knew they could download an application to connect and get things done with family, friends, and their communities. They were often puzzled why they couldn’t do the same at work.

As a result of COVID-19, everyone’s multi-year Digital Transformation plans must be implemented now as a matter of survival. And smartphone owners are proof the workers are ready, even if the workplace was reluctant. 

Making collaboration happen

Collaboration needs to be built around a core of security, governance, and compliance. It needs trust, both from the workforce that their personal data is secure, and from the enterprise that their data is secure. 

The right side of the diagram below focuses on technologies that need to be in place to effectively leverage collaboration. The left side depicts the Culture of Collaboration that needs to be in place to make working together more effective.

The Communications Layer enables people to be human and do “people things,” from conversations, business meetings, short-form text messaging (like they use outside of work), and bringing groups together within collaborative applications.

The Content Layer adds the needed files, documents, and content people need to get works done.

These two layers are critical—but maybe not for the reason you think. If a business fails to provide robust, easy to use tools in these areas, workers will bring in their own. After all, since they are working from home, they need to demonstrate they can be productive. They know which applications can help them reach that goal.

The Productivity Layer adds superpowers for everyone. These are the integrations that bring the flow of work together with the communications and content layers. Work management, systems of record integration, and even marketing technology integrations save considerable time and money. IDC identifies that three or more integrations creates significantly more time savings per person—over 30 weeks per hour per person more savings.

The Culture of Collaboration is a top-down/bottom-up change that creates new norms, and supports the move of work from siloed email to collaboration platforms. To achieve this, people need to feel the collaboration platforms are a safe place to share their best ideas. Collaboration is new to a lot of people—they need to feel safe, especially now. Peer mentoring and behavior modeling within the teams are more effective than manager suggestions for driving appropriate behaviors. Recognized “official” peer mentors at every business level can also be used to feed back to system administrations what features can be improved in the system. Finally, the ability to cross silos and regions to get subject-matter experts involved adds new voices that expedite solutions with new insights and helps avoid pitfalls.

Old way is over

The hardest part of having people adopt new ways of working is thinking “the old way” was better. Today, most everyone knows the old way is no longer an option. It makes sense to leverage the skills you have and want to attract. Improving ease of work through collaboration is core to that goal.

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