Prioritizing Collaboration: 5 Questions to Ask

BrandPost By Boland Jones
Jul 23, 2015
Collaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium Business

63% of CEOs cite “creating a collaborative environment” as a top factor in drawing the most out of their employees.

However, the very word “collaboration” means different things to different people. It could mean simply gathering around a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas; working closely on a document or project with one or more colleagues; meeting online with global stakeholders on video conferences or sharing document revisions through a team workspace or file, sync and share service. And these definitions are just the tip of the iceberg.

Regardless of what the word means to you, collaboration is everything to the modern business. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Whether it’s internally across departmental lines or with external customers or vendors, everyone’s success will at some point be determined by how well they work with others.

If you want to make collaboration a priority in your organization, here are five questions you have to ask yourself:

Are my decisions providing value to my LOBs?

One of the unique aspects of collaboration is how it’s applicable across every role, department and LOB. As the gatekeepers of communication and collaboration tools, IT has a window to provide value to the entire organization, but that value will only come through close partnership and a deep understanding of each LOB’s unique needs.

The rise of SaaS and the slow trickle of technology dollars out of IT’s hands and into other departments like marketing has made it easier than ever for these departments to circumvent IT, leading to redundant expenses, reduced security and increased support burdens. By proactively partnering with LOB leaders to understand what they need from IT in order to collaborate effectively, IT can mitigate Shadow IT.

Am I catering to different collaboration styles?

Every team and individual has unique preferences and needs when it comes to collaborating. Some departments, such as a creative group in marketing, thrive on those in-person, spontaneous brainstorming sessions. And yet your product development group is more likely to be globally dispersed and require a more robust asynchronous method of collaborating to track the progress and roadmaps of their various projects.

All of your collaboration-focused decisions—from floor plans to product rollouts—should keep in mind the variety of methods by which people want to collaborate. Everyone has a unique collaboration style, and pigeonholing your employees into one type of conference room or online collaboration tool could ultimately be hindering their performance.

How tech-savvy are my employees?

With an increasing trend towards globalization and flexible work, online collaboration solutions are invaluable tools in an organization’s arsenal. However, when evaluating new collaboration tools, it’s important to get a baseline idea of how tech-savvy your employees actually are. While there will obviously be some deviation between colleagues, an organization by its very culture and hiring process has likely established some degree of baseline tech aptitude, and an ease-of-use that aligns with that aptitude is important to drive adoption.

Ultimately what we’re talking about is user experience. It can be easy for the CIO to get caught up in integrations, deployments and infrastructure compatibility, but what about how easy the thing is to actually use?

User experience cannot be an afterthought or a nice-to-have. It is one of the primary drivers of adoption for software throughout an organization and should always be a top priority.

Does this integrate into an existing workflow or create a new bump in the road?

On the subject of adoption, there’s a reason why we spend upwards of 30% of our weeks managing email, and it’s a question of inertia. Business users get comfortable doing things a certain way, and new software deployments or in-person meeting protocols are often viewed as another barrier to getting work done rather than an improvement to productivity. And when a new barrier presents itself, most employees will simply fall back on the status quo, e.g. sending an email or picking up the phone rather than reaping the benefits of that expensive new UC tool you finally rolled out.

It’s important to not only communicate the value of a new tool or process, but also the why’s and how’s:

  • Why is this important to me?
  • Why did the company buy it?
  • How does this affect my existing workflows?
  • How does this integrate into our existing tools?
  • How does it make my job easier?

Take the time to inform your employees of those answers, and you’ll be one step closer to convincing them of the value of any collaboration initiative.

Does my culture encourage collaboration?

Collaboration is, at its heart, a cultural endeavor. All of the modern technologies and open floor plans on Earth are meaningless if your culture doesn’t encourage collaborative thinking and problem solving. An emphasis on siloes and internal competition will kill any collaboration initiative dead in its tracks, which, in addition to hampering productivity, can often leave you with sizeable line items in your budget that are not providing meaningful returns.

Embrace new ideas, from every employee. Provide avenues for anyone in any department to give feedback on or input into company decisions. Get leadership to buy-in to these initiatives, and spread the word through your corporate communications team.

If you take the time to nurture the culture, the rest of it will be (relatively) easy.

For more information on buying, deploying and nurturing collaboration within your organization, download our free buyer’s guide today.