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How BYOA is shaping the future of collaboration

The Bring Your Own Access (BYOA) movement has presented a number of challenges and opportunities to IT leaders in recent years. Since the dawn of the smartphone, the consumerisation of IT has left CIOs fighting to keep up with the latest trends in productivity, communication and creativity apps. 

Driven by simple user interfaces and the promise of fast synchronisation across devices, business users have flocked away from the typical corporate IT stacks and begun to pick and choose their own tools, often without the consent of IT. 

Because this is a potential nightmare for CIOs, two forces have been acting upon this trend lately: the first is a push for IT to vet these apps and restrict those that don’t meet their security requirements; and the second is for app developers to build products that can stand up to the scrutiny of enterprise IT.    

While the security is undoubtedly important, it must be reconciled in a way that allows workers to continue to use fast and simple tools to improve their collaboration. The ability of these apps to speed decision-making and help individuals and teams become more productive is the core of their appeal. For this reason, they must not only be allowed but encouraged to evolve into a cornerstone of the enterprise toolkit.   

 A turning point in business velocity   

We’ve reached a familiar turning point in history. Like the introduction of railroads in the 1800s and the rise of aviation in the 1920s, we are at yet another point where those who embrace new technology make it increasingly hard for non-adopters to keep up. This time, it’s the spread of enterprise mobility and collaboration tools that’s setting the pace.    

This is already happening — especially in reference to mobile work. A 2014 study by analyst firm Ovum found that one in five small businesses saw productivity gains of 30 per cent or more thanks to mobile work. In our Mobile Productivity Report , 82 per cent of respondents said mobile devices made them more productive, and 29 per cent said mobile devices save them 3-4 hours each week.

 Understanding the advantages of the BYOA movement, however, goes beyond understanding that mobility equals speed and productivity. The real question is why, and how can we replicate those benefits throughout an organisation? Our mobile productivity report sheds some additional light on this question.   

We asked respondents to rank the importance of various functions of their mobile devices. Among the top responses were task list apps, creating and viewing documents and files, instant messaging colleagues, texting colleagues, sending and receiving emails, and using project management and collaboration apps. All told, 7 of the top 9 responses involved collaborating with others.   

The good news about these results is that mobile devices are already increasing worker productivity. They make collaboration possible in ways that weren’t available as recently as 10 years ago. The bad news is that the way workers are currently collaborating is not optimised for speed or security. This is where IT has the opportunity to seize control of the BYOA movement and dramatically increase both.    

Piecemeal solutions fall short of worker needs   

Let’s look at text messaging, for example. Assuming your company is in the majority that allow or require workers to use their own devices for work, the text and group SMS messages that your workforce is sending are likely outside the scope of IT control. If an employee who is using their own mobile for work is let go or leaves, you can’t revoke their access to the information already saved in their text history.    

Furthermore, in terms of productivity, texting is not an ideal tool for collaborating with teams by any stretch of the imagination. Files can’t be shared easily. The low character limit results in abbreviated details and poor clarity. Bringing a new person into an ongoing conversation is almost impossible as they will not be able to see the previous messages in the thread.   

 Mobile email productivity is only marginally better. Long messages read on a small screen means users can spend as much time pinching and scrolling than they do reading and replying. And when it comes to team collaboration, mobile email has the same challenges as desktop email: it lives in isolation in your inbox, so no one else can clearly see what information you possess, and which files or action items need your feedback.  

 Piecemeal tools like texting, notepads and mobile email can create barriers rather than eliminate them. The trick to raising productivity lies in not just embracing mobile work, but in making sure that the apps mobile workers use are suitable for facilitating collaboration.  Enter productivity apps, which aim to make mobile work easier with the help of features such as collapsible conversations, shared task lists and tools for viewing updates in stream to make multiple conversations easy to follow.   

Improving efficiency from the bottom up   

About 10 years ago there was an energy crisis in the US that saw gas prices top $4/gallon for the first time. The ideal solution to such a shortage was to make every driver buy a modern, fuel-efficient vehicle. Since that was impossible, the government put a simpler initiative in place. Instead of focusing on hyper-efficiency, they focused on getting the least efficient cars off the road. 

They offered tax credits for trading in so-called “clunkers” and a variety of other incentives and regulations aimed at aging, gas-guzzling vehicles. European countries took a similar approach when they offered financial incentives for drivers to ‘trade up’ to newer, more fuel-efficient cars with lower emissions.    

In both cases, the idea was that if you can’t increase average efficiency by raising the bar at the top of the spectrum, then increase it by raising the bar at the bottom. And it worked.  This is an important lesson, because your company already has a disparity between the most and least productive people. There are people who actively seek to improve their productivity and will, without being told, adopt solutions that accelerate communication, collaboration and personal organisation. 

And then there are others who need to be nudged into doing so. It’s not that they are bad workers; it’s just that they are so preoccupied with on-the-job firefighting that they don’t have time to take a bird’s eye view of their working processes. By making collaboration apps available, easy to implement, and — when necessary — mandatory for your teams, you can help everyone build good task management and collaboration habits.   

Opening the door to visibility   

Ultimately, the goal of any collaboration tool is to make it easy to access the data people need to get work done efficiently, and simplify conversations and creation of content.  By creating shared access to files, transparency around decisions and discussions, and instant alignment around updates, teams and companies can achieve huge productivity gains and reduce frustration around work — and they can do so with little pain to CIOs and IT leadership.   

IT can avoid the pitfalls of having a massive ‘shadow IT’ movement within their companies. By working with your employees to implement common sense solutions that find middle ground between secure corporate IT standards and fast, user-centric BYOA tools.    

Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike

Image Credit: Den Rise / Shutterstock