• Organizations should understand how employees work, what they need to do their job effectively, and where they need to work to ascertain what they need to be more productive.
• Organizations should only consider new collaboration and communications applications with the endorsement of their employees.
Many workplaces face daunting challenges today, including employee engagement, time management, and overwhelming workloads. And unfortunately, many vendors sell collaboration and communications technology as a panacea and not the business tool it really is. Communications and collaboration today is a combination of synchronous (i.e., communicating at the same time), and asynchronous tools; however, forcing people to use a tool that does not fit their personal preference inhibits their productivity. Some companies still try to force employees to adhere to standard platforms (e.g., email, unified communications, corporate intranet, etc.); however, consumer technology has made a strong presence in our everyday lives and subsequently, has made its way into businesses too – not only in terms of hardware preferences (e.g., smartphones and tablets), but also services. In an attempt to make themselves more productive employees are circumventing IT and embracing non-sanctioned applications (e.g. Skype, Facetime, HipChat, Slack, etc.), a phenomenon known as ‘shadow IT’.
To use an old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ – employees are finding their own ways to be more productive and many companies are unaware of the potential issues or choosing to ignore them. As shadow IT runs the risk of bypassing all the governance and compliance that organizations put in place to mitigate risk (and to adhere to specific laws and regulations), organizations should survey their users to understand how employees work, what they need to do their job effectively, and where they need to work from.
People have their own preferences when it comes to communicating – not only in the applications they use, but also the location from which they access them and their preferred devices. For example, asynchronous tools have a number of benefits – they allow employees to build large stretches of focused and uninterrupted time, they allow people to collaborate with remote teams across multiple time zones, and they offer a plan of record that can be shared and referred to at a later date. Perhaps this is why e-mail is such a powerful communications tool; indeed, email allows employees to set aside time in their day to compose and read messages, plus email is easy to track, store, and to share. However, as more and more of our tools move to the cloud, collaborative team applications (e.g., Slack, HipChat, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit, IBM’s Toscana project, etc.), may lead to a re-platforming choice in organizations, especially given that many of these solutions include synchronous real-time tools such as voice, video and conferencing.
There really is no single collaboration and communications tool (despite the hype of the last 20 years of unified communications), and organizations should only consider new collaboration and communications applications with the endorsement of their employees.