Slack. (Microsoft) Teams. Quip. Jostle. A bunch of (nearly) single word product names that all proclaim to fix your employees ability to collaborate more effectively. As an organization, we obviously want this to occur, since more effective collaboration should contribute to more positive outcomes and attainment of goals. While the angles and value propositions may vary between these tools, they’re all focused on the same objective: Improving the outcomes and process of achieving a goal with a diverse group of people.
And this concept certainly isn’t new. One could argue that it’s long-been a goal in digital experiences to create a natural (digital) collaboration experience. We’ve seen product-categories that support certain pillars of this: Email, network file shares, file sync and share products (OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, etc.), and chat-based programs (AIM, Yammer, Chatter, Jabber, SharePoint, etc.). Each of these products did something (or a few things) well, and many of them focused on communications; be it in the purest sense (sending a message) or the more complex (communicating an idea through documents, photos, videos, etc.). The gap that’s existed is a mashup of the most important (and user-preferred) tools.
The strength of modern team-based collaboration tools is that they bring these individual capabilities together into a more cohesive user experience – more of a dashboard or one-stop-shop concept vs. a collection of disparate applications that you use to complete your daily tasks. These products also support elements of end-user driven customizations: integrations or automation into other favorite tools. For example: when I update a task in my favorite task-tracker app, it might notify my team members automatically, or when I find an interesting article, I can easily post it to my ‘Knowledge Share’ channel by simply ‘liking’ the article.
Getting back to the operative question: Where does modern team-based collaboration fit into your Digital Workplace Strategy? Like so many questions, the detailed answer is, “It depends”: It depends on your users and their collective level of digital literacy, how you want your people to collaborate, the openness of your organization’s culture, your unique security and compliance landscape, the existing systems and tools that support collaboration, etc… The simple answer here is most likely, “It belongs in your strategy.” These technologies are the next iteration of the basic tools we expect our workers to know how to use (Email, Documents, etc.), and by reducing the pain of collaboration, we’re only further enabling our employees to get more done in less time.
Make no mistake, this is an efficiency play that just happens to have a common side-effect of user-delight. This is a rare combination in our digital world, a case where we improve our respective organization’s ability to do more with less, while also improving our overall user experience and employee satisfaction.