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To deliver ROI, investment in workforce collaboration must drive improvement

collaboration
(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel.com / Pixabay)

There are few IT professionals reading this who would be surprised by the notion of collaboration being part of a successful, productive workplace. It is one of those “management” concepts that most everyone would accept as part of the basic bargain of being allowed to participate in a workplace environment. Yet “collaboration” has now become its own rapidly growing category of technology “tools.” Why? Because it is not as easy as it sounds to inculcate the mechanics of collaboration into the workplace and make it stick.

When a team is up against a challenging time, process, or milestone, it is critical to practice learning routines that position the team for continuous improvement. Investing in the tools to help a group constantly learn and adjust will help an organization be prepared to face what lies ahead. There are many continuous improvement tools currently in the marketplace that helps take stock of an event or project right after the fact, provides reflection on what happened, and—most importantly—use that reflection to move forward.

Collaboration spending has grown in numbers and stature. The category has been buoyed by positive research and is now being tracked more closely and getting a lot more attention in the information technology media. And with the category elevated, the space seems to be exploding with new entrants, in order to take advantage of a trending IT hot trend. That means many different forms of software or platforms are getting proactively lumped within the collaboration category. Those seeking the benefits of collaboration culture need to spend a lot of time and care in identifying and choosing the right tool.

However, because of the pandemic, most of the business world is naturally being cautious with their budgets right now. The “wait and see” stance will probably remain until the end of the pandemic plays out. But even if the pandemic does indeed go away this year, remote working is not going away. According to a recently published Pew Survey, one-in-five employees worked from home all or most of the time before the pandemic. Now 71 percent of those workers are doing remote work and say they would prefer to keep working remotely when things get back to normal. So, the demand to assist these workers’ productivity and help them stay in touch with each other should not subside any time soon.

Investment in collaboration growing despite Covid

This is borne out by research from Nemertes on company spending intentions as a result of Covid. Fifty two percent of those companies surveyed said they would increase budgets for video applications while 45 percent expect to invest more in team collaboration applications. However, the survey also found the increased spending to be modest, mostly in the single digits. Analyst firm IDC has released data that shows about half of businesses globally (48 percent) expect to increase collaboration software spending in 2021. IDC analyst Wayne Kurtzman has been quoted that “the need to empower collaboration in the enterprise has clearly been a lesson learned in 2020.”

As companies explore where to invest their budgets, they should consider that collaboration that is not tied to results and made totally transparent is less than ideal. Why? Because the uncertainty of our world has taught us that there is no margin for error. When processes are tied to results and progress is tracked, it is possible to quickly pinpoint where small adjustments are needed to get back on track. When conditions require a quick change, as Covid has demonstrated, collaboration can stabilize a business because the whole team is aware of its status on a particular project and can also see what lessons are being learned along the way, and how actions shift in response.

The missing collaboration focus

Unfortunately, many organizations still lack a simple way to capture learning as it happens in addition to a reliable process to immediately codify and share lessons learned. An automated system helps team members write debriefs that are short, focused, and actionable immediately after a meeting or task. Debriefs are a quick and iterative method for dissecting the successes and errors in work and identifying concrete ways to change processes in the future. Real-time collaborative learning occurs when the team is quickly bought together in a dedicated learning and improvement space. In that space team members can capture lessons learned in real-time, and immediately share them throughout the team and beyond, making sure that knowledge is not lost if someone forgot to record the call. Learning goes into a database of top-notch lessons that are then automatically resurfaced to team members when they are most needed. This is especially critical in work environments where there is no room for error, which most are these days. Constant learning and adjusting has to become the reality for many teams and organizations. The ability to do this prevents lessons learned from being lost over time and they provide a simple and smart way to make relevant takeaways available at the moment of need. While businesses have adjusted to the new realities of remote working, there are still too many missed opportunities to harness the shared knowledge of a workforce and translate it into improved results.

Invest in what you already have

This is critical because most businesses take a team approach to getting work done or solving problems. As mentioned before, working in a team requires collaboration. It is what unlocks potential, capacity and knowledge of everyone in the team. As a group, collaboration generates value, innovation and improved productivity within the team. Besides tools for planning work, managing tasks and communication, the building block of collaboration platforms will include a focus on improving real-time learning within an organization. 

It makes sense for companies to invest in the lessons that are taking place every day and can be leveraged across the organization. Why not turn every activity into a learning opportunity? For companies to genuinely enjoy a collaborative environment, technology that focuses on lessons learned will increase productivity across the entire organization.

Ofir Paldi, CEO, Shamaym