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Six trends that will transform how we communicate & collaborate in 2017

(Image credit: Image Credit: Alphaspirit / Shutterstock)

As the new year gets under way, it is safe to say that 2016 was a true testament to how agile the business landscape has grown. The constant need to improve and differentiate the customer experience is fueling the ever-increasing pace of business cycles and processes. The consistent threat of digital disruption is encouraging organizations to think outside of the box, and approach today’s 24/7, on-demand economy with greater attention to flexibility and collaboration.

Having a strategic business plan in place to help tackle this rapid development is more important than ever, and in order to drive operational success in today’s competitive, tech-driven business world, where people come together to work smarter and innovate, it is crucial to embed a strategic, collaborative communication culture.    

The war strategies and military-like approaches of the past are not working anymore. More and more companies and business leaders are recognizing that ideas get stronger when shared, making collaboration strategies the best way to boost productivity and gain competitive advantage. Yet there is a massive obstacle in the way - the mistrust existing between departments and divisions within large complex organizations. According to Gartner, by 2018, 50% of team coordination and communication will occur via mobile group and collaboration apps. To support these new dynamics in the office, businesses are adopting new platforms which include expanding and upgrading collaboration and communication tools.

Here are six trends that will influence communication & collaboration approaches in 2017:   

1. Agile Strategic Planning - Strategic execution is becoming more and more collaborative, but many companies still fail at bottom-up planning. Placing emphasis on interactions between leadership and employees, and having a dedicated team of experts that constantly interacts with staff at all levels of the organization, greatly improves the strategic planning process. 2017 will see advancements in tools to help companies and their leadership source their strategy from these internal domain experts. 

2. APIs and integration - data in isolation is dying. Companies have more power when they can combine data from disparate sources and perform an analysis. Internal APIs can be a game-changer in improving organizational collaboration, especially in terms of productivity and efficiency. The use of company-wide APIs makes it possible to bring data, teams, and workspaces together, creating a shared awareness of the company’s business and data models. In 2016 we saw a shift towards self-service and pre-built integrations, making it easier for companies to share and synchronize data between departments. This trend is going to continue into 2017, with tools like Node-RED and other open-standards APIs. While Big Data still remains on the forefront of technology and business innovation, organizations must spend this year putting processes in place to better collect, analyze and use that data if the want to remain competitive in a digital economy.   

3. Collaboration platforms and apps – although email is by far the most used means of communication in business today, we have seen a steady increase of collaboration platforms, apps, and networks. Services such as Circuit and Slack have made it easier to streamline communication internally and enable increased engagement through live streams, as well as instant file and information sharing. 2017 will mark the year when collaboration platforms will make a serious stab at challenging email as the preferred choice for enterprise communication. Collaborative networks will mean to business what social networks mean to consumers, and they will help improve both processes and speed as organizations communicate in real time, across markets, divisions and time zones. 

4. Employee inclusion – in most businesses, strategy starts at the top. Having a clear goal and direction from a leader is vital, but chances are the staff is ultimately responsible for executing that strategy. Encouraging staff to express their opinions can yield some genuinely valuable ideas for the direction of a company, and including employees in decisions about the future is likely to boost engagement and motivation. As more and more business leaders recognize this, it is clear that the enterprise of the future is one that values its employees’ opinions and input, creating a culture of collaboration and inclusion.

5. Virtual Reality  - still a major buzzword, it continues to be one of the hottest topics in tech for 2017, and it offers some exciting prospects for the future of collaboration. With great potential for an immersive experience, VR could not only be great for internal use, but also a powerful tool for interacting with clients and business partners – especially as it offers a common context, making it easier to drive more trusting relationship, share complex information and make more informed decisions. As the VR technology becomes more affordable, easily accessible and user-friendly, the potential to revolutionize collaboration is there - and 2017 might just be the year.  Imagine a conference call where you can sit around a virtual table, making it easier to see who is talking, share notes and ensure everyone is on the same page.  

6. Back to basics – the rapid advancements in technology discussed above represent massive potential - but at the very core, the secret to business success lies in supporting close collaboration between departments. Implementing methodologies and approaches that enhance communication and understanding between different work functions are crucial. 2017 should see companies going back to basics - putting emphasis on oral communications overwritten, building transparency, openness and trust, and leveraging opportunities rather than placing blame. Businesses can only reach optimum performance when employees are engaged and empowered to contribute actively at all levels of the organization. 

As most organizations face some form of digital transformation this year, and seek to remain competitive against the threat of a host of digital upstarts, communication and collaboration will be key to successfully navigating change. Business strategy, too often created in board rooms and left to sit on a shelf, will need to become the backbone to launching more collaborative business practices, as entire teams work together to remain agile and relevant in a highly competitive market, and strive to meet common business goals. 

Image Credit: Alphaspirit / Shutterstock

Craig Catley
Craig Catley is managing director of StrategyBlocks, the leading strategic management and planning software for enterprises. Craig has worked for 16+ years in enterprise performance and business process management.