The Five New Requirements for a Collaborative Enterprise Workplace

Dan Schoenbaum CTR-1 copyby Dan Schoenbaum

When you look at the way many companies communicate internally, it’s really a surprise that some function as well as they do. Inside the corporate wall, companies are drowning under the weight of workplace communications. Employees are being constantly pinged by coworkers, partners and customers, disrupting their thought process—and their progress. Managers, who are trying to keep projects on track, are constantly asking questions like “Where are we on this project?” and “What’s the status of that?”

Years ago, email was an effective way to communicate when the expectation was just to send someone a message and wait for a response. Back and forth, back and forth. Today’s workplace demands, and dispersed workforces, have both simultaneously increased. This is driving the need for varied – and much more personalized — forms of communication like chat and videoconference, and even new technologies like WebRTC. Add document sharing systems like Dropbox and Google Docs, and other productivity solutions to the mix, and you have a collection of silos that are theoretically designed to make workplace streamlined.

The reality is that all of this “efficiency” is making workplaces very inefficient, and that’s just not sustainable or profitable. What could these employees actually accomplish if they weren’t drowning in this sea of communications overload?

According to Radicati, employees receive an average of 120 emails a day. Many of those are likely checking in on project status, updating deadlines or offering new insight. Ignoring them to concentrate on the task at hand means the problem gets exponentially worse. This problem is unresolvable using current workplace practices. The more people working on the same project, the worse it becomes.

To truly make workplaces operate like well-oiled machines, we need a major shift in operational culture to remove the barriers that are holding back true workplace success. Employees need to stop working in silos, bombarded constantly with information and requests from all angles and all platforms, and start collaborating as key members of a project, plan or strategy. At the same time, managers need the ability to track the progress of deliverables, making adjustments to assignments or schedules as needed to keep the project moving forward. In this scenario, everyone knows their roles, their goals, their deliverables and their deadlines—and can also see how what they are working on relates to the greater project.

There are five new requirements for the enterprise workplace, one where employee and managers are working together towards their goals:

  • A collaborative environment. To some, a collaborative environment is getting everyone into a big room and sharing ideas (another meeting?). To others, it’s about individuals understanding and performing their tasks in tandem with other members of a group. But a truly collaborative environment encompasses individual members of a team sharing a common purpose or goal, clarifying and refining individual roles, trusting each other, appreciating diversity and difference of opinion, and communicating openly and effectively. When these factors all come together, true collaboration can begin.
  • What does it mean for an employee to be productive? Is it accomplishing goals or producing outcomes on or before deadline? Giving tasks full attention without outside distraction? Many employees may feel productive when they’ve answered all of their emails or voice mails, without doing much to advance their projects. True productivity comes when projects, and the individual roles and tasks within them, are clearly defined. When project goals and deadlines are clear, employees are not constantly distracted with requests for updates, or questions unrelated to the project at hand. Productivity means successful outcomes delivered by deadline and on budget.
  • What if employees knew not only the tasks they were responsible for, but also those that their managers and co-workers were responsible for? For many, the answer might seem to be using an Excel spreadsheet to track tasks and deliverables. However, for most companies, spreadsheets fail right out of the gate—they don’t get updated quickly or frequently, and become obsolete.

Team transparency is critical; who’s working on what, where they are in the process, and how they are adhering to deadlines all needs to be visible in real time so managers or coworkers aren’t wasting time chasing people down. Without transparency, managers are driven to micromanage—and often they don’t see an alternative. Without insight into a team’s progress, they’re left with little choice but to check up on things constantly or send repeated emails asking for updates.

Being able to track a project end-to-end in real time also allows companies to better estimate future projects; they have a dynamic history of time spent, budget adherence, slipped deadlines and other factors that impact this project—and the next one. It also helps with the next requirement: accountability.

  • Accountability isn’t intended to create awkward or stressful workplace environments, but it can if a Big Brother approach is taken and employees feel they are constantly being watched over their shoulders. However, when employees track their tasks in a way that ensures they’ll be witnessed by their colleagues and their managers, each task becomes an opportunity to demonstrate effectiveness and accountability.
  • What if projects had no deadlines, or managers were unable to track where each portion of a project stood against deadlines? Most successfully collaborative enterprises today are successful because they use tools to track their projects and deadlines much more effectively in order to forecast and adjust in real time. Being able to use data to look at current and historical assignment, individual team member workloads and results can help drive more efficiency across the business.

These five requirements are changing the workplace of today. Companies that embrace the collective adaptation these requirements bring and respond appropriately will not only help improve their internal and external communications, but also help better drive ROI across their business.

Dan Schoenbaum is the CEO of Redbooth

One Response to “The Five New Requirements for a Collaborative Enterprise Workplace”

  1. David Coleman Says:

    I agree with much of what you say, and silos are certainly an issue. But I think a more prevalent issue is a behavioral one, that is, most people make poor choices on how to collaborate daily regardless of what collaboration technology they are using. Why, because most people have poor collaborative skills, and this becomes very apparent with people attempting collaboration on distributed teams.

    After 25 years as an analyst focused on collaboration (peole, process, technology and space), there are over 2000 solutions in the marketplace for the 20% of the solution that is technology (by the way we use Redbooth internally, but another discussion). No one really wants to tackle the much softer issues of behavior (“the soft stuff is the hard stuff”), because as Einstein said (and I paraphrase here (you can’t think your way out of a problem with the same kind of thinking that got you into it!). My new Startup (TeamSkillsPro) is taking this behavioral approach and trying to tackle this much harder issue. We would love to partner with collaboration vendors who are thought leaders (like you) to prove our approach is the right one. I would be glad to discuss details with you privately, and invite your response.

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