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Why is collaboration software suddenly such a big deal?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock)

Armed with technology and communications that make them accessible 24/7, teams across the enterprise are working differently than they did just a few years ago. People work anywhere and everywhere, across time zones, locations and cultures. Additionally, shifting demographics, cross-organisational initiatives, and agile approaches are leading more and more people to manage projects on a regular basis, whether they’re “officially” project managers or not.  

The type of work they do is also changing – from an increased pace to higher levels of collaboration. In the maelstrom of all this change, and within a marketplace that demands a fantastic customer experience and immediate response in the delivery of products and services, there is tremendous opportunity for organisations, teams and individuals to remake themselves and have a bigger impact than ever. The key is for organisations to change how they work, ensuring teams can communicate faster and plan workloads more effectively, without wasting time – in essence, enabling teams to get work done. 

New ways of working in a digital world 

Generational shifts changing the workforce and the digitisation of every industry have created an ever increasing pace of innovation – and disruption.     

For one, the growing number of millennials – the generation of people which spans the ages of 20 to the early 30s – joining the workforce has brought an increased interest in the ability to work from anywhere on any device, which will allow them to continue living their life without the constraints of office life holding them back. Interestingly, according to a recent survey by Deloitte, millennials would change jobs or careers, give up promotion opportunities, move their family to another place or take a pay cut to have flexibility and better manage work and family life. If businesses fail to meet these demands, they risk losing valuable talent and falling productivity.  

In addition, virtual teams – formed by people from different departments, organisations, geographies and time zones – are on the rise. According to our recent survey, 38% of participants work with team members across functions and departments; 70% collaborate with people inside and outside their organisation; and 28% collaborate with geographically dispersed colleagues. 

For employees, being part of a virtual team means greater flexibility to manage their work as well as the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues worldwide. For organisations, the ability to transcend geographic boundaries provides the opportunity to hire the best talent, no matter where people are based. However, virtual teams present a host of challenges when it comes to ensuring everyone has access to the information they need to get work done, sharing documents, keeping team members motivated and engaged, and giving them visibility into ongoing activities and progress. 

Overcoming collaboration challenges   

Combined with the ever-increasing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Bring Your Own Software (BYOS) trends, new technologies offer tremendous possibilities to increase the productivity of individuals and the team as a whole. But at the same time, they also mean new risks of wasting time and context in the process. To illustrate, according to a study conducted by Appleseed Partners, 33% of workers say that everyone is using different tools to get work done. Unsurprisingly, 73% of participants said that they rely heavily on email to share documents and to understand project status, followed by spreadsheets (62%) and the phone (53%).   

Team members use an average of eight to twelve applications to perform their jobs.  Unfortunately, none of these methods ensure teams have access to the information they need to complete their work, or provide the insight managers need to efficiently allocate workloads and prioritise tasks. Teams bounce back and forth from one tool to another, wasting time, duplicating effort, creating frustration – and holding back team efficiency. 

In response, as Forrester Research analyst, Margo Visitacion points out in the “Vendor Landscape: Collaborative Work Management for the Enterprise” report: “Firms are demanding more-seamless user experience for the technologies that employees use, and as a result, a new market that brings together task management and collaboration has emerged.” In other words, people need tools that work for them – not against them. So how can they embrace the new reality of the collaborative workplace and work smarter, not harder

Collaboration is the future of work 

As more and more people come together on a single project, and as team members’ work and personal lives become increasingly intertwined, keeping up with the where and when of tasks and deliverables becomes a challenge. In response, teams are demanding the use of tools which will enable them to plan projects, learn who is working on a project at any given time and share information in a contextual way. 

This means the tools they use cannot be pure scheduling or collaboration tools. Instead, they must allow teams to communicate, build awareness about what they’re doing, work more effectively, communicate faster and plan workloads more effectively.    

It is essential to have a single, centralised platform where everyone can get a joint picture of the project they are working on, wherever they are. A place where all important documents are stored, where it is easy to see all deliverables, tasks and deadlines, as well as who’s responsible for what, where the team can easily communicate and share things even if they’re not in the same place.   

Consequently, team collaboration will become more mobile, more flexible and enable better productivity within organisations. By enhancing communications, streamlining processes and empowering people to work more efficiently, technology has the potential to make people more engaged and productive.  

In today’s new reality, achieving success is about a seamless, high-velocity translation of strategy into execution. This new landscape makes that goal more complex than ever. However, advances in cloud and mobile technologies and anywhere connectivity enable organisations to harness the benefits of the latest unified collaboration technologies in order to streamline processes, empower people to work more efficiently, and keep up with the changing nature of the work environment.    

Patrick Tickle, Chief Product Officer at Planview 

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Patrick Tickle
Patrick is responsible for Planview’s Products organisation. He has over 20 years’ of experience in product management, product development, and marketing across a wide range of technology solutions.