These can include cloud-based communal storage, document collaboration and messaging systems.
Even more effective are tools that remove location-based barriers, allowing seamless voice communications, real-time screen-sharing and video-conferencing, whether it’s one-to-one, one-to-many (such as a presentation) or via multiple nodes serving a larger group.
Spotlight on technology
Author, CEO and Founder of Digital Workplace Group Paul Miller believes we are living in an unprecedented era, as technology seeps into every aspect of our lives.
“Research suggests that one in 12 minutes of each of our waking hours is spent online in some form or another,” he writes. He says organisations can harness the power of digital workplaces to create great value.
Miller highlights video collaboration tools that can “bring people to life, provide immediacy and more intimate connections in an often fragmented digital world of work”.
“Seeing people does help build relationship and connection across distance,” he adds.
While offering potentially richer experiences, video collaboration tools can be prone to technical issues through inconsistent internet connections. Another consideration is the role personal preference plays – some people love video, others aren’t so keen.
“Ultimately, audio is far more important than video,” Miller says.
“Probably 80 per cent of value is high-grade audio and 20 per cent is video. If the video fails, we carry on communicating, but if the audio is patchy, everything stops.”
When employees find themselves frustrated by an inconsistent VOIP in an application, they’ll rapidly abandon the collaborative technology and return to their telephones. This is why the reliability, consistency and quality of audio are critical to the adoption of an enterprise-level, unified communication and collaboration tool.
“In the fragmented digital workplace, we need to focus on face time, to make better use of improved real-time audio and video, and to realise that isolation is an issue requiring attention in order to guard against its harmful effects.”Paul Miller, CEO and Founder, Digital Workplace Group
Most people have embraced new ways of working, yet while they adopt the enterprise technology systems, both hardware and software, many employees are inclined to use their own technology to get their work done.
Take mobile-accessible and cloud-based audio and video collaboration tools: these are common tools with wide adoption across the digital workplace. But if enterprise solutions don’t cut it, if they’re not intuitive to use and employees need to resolve a problem quickly, they may skip the learning curve and turn to their own tried-and-true tech.
For example, they may make a quick mobile-to-mobile FaceTime call and point their phone cameras at documents or even laptop screens to share information.
For management, IT, security professionals as well as employees, unravelling this complexity to determine and deliver the most productive – and secure – workplace collaboration systems can be the key to a truly liberated, digitally enabled workforce.
Licence to use familiar tools
“Shadow IT” (the use of personal devices, programs and applications that have not been approved by an organisation’s central IT department), needs to be well managed to preserve an organisation’s cyber security protocols.
However, organisations can also stay agile by looking to integrate the solutions employees have reached through natural selection.
If a team discovers a communications or collaboration tool that improves their workflow substantially but has not been approved by central IT, assessing whether the tool can form part of the overarching official strategy could be key to empowering employees.
Organisations that adopt a bring-your-own-device strategy (or BYOD) permit employees to use their own devices at work, blurring the line between personal and work usage.
When guided by sensible workplace policies and an engaged workforce, BYOD strategies can boost employee productivity because people are working with familiar tools.
Just ensure your BYOD strategies are backed up by strong data security and network management protocols to prevent any potential compromise.
Survey and listen
Many organisations want to move from a “digital wild west” to a single, universal, workplace platform, but it’s important to make that move after ensuring the new platform does everything your users require.
Ask your employees about the features they need in their collaboration tools. Is real-time document collaboration important? What about screen sharing during a video call? Allow space for employees to offer responses – they may need something you hadn’t anticipated.
As with any cultural transformation, the most important part of the change process is to obtain public and committed support from top-level leadership. Then communicate the mission, its purpose and the advantages of such an audit to your staff.
Employees are more likely to be frank when they feel secure that the initial information-gathering exercise won’t take place for punitive purposes nor remove functional programs from them.
Getting your workforce on board can often be as simple as taking the time and creating the opportunity for staff comments, opinions and insights to be heard at the top level of the organisation.
“In the fragmented digital workplace, we need to focus on face time, to make better use of improved real-time audio and video, and to realise that isolation is an issue requiring attention in order to guard against its harmful effects,” Miller says.
Break down barriers
Although the ways in which we work and locations where we work from are more dispersed than ever, the move to a single, seamless platform is vital to enabling people to work together across different teams and departments.
This is why one of the key trends in collaboration is moving as much of the office as is practical into end-to-end centralised cloud solutions equally accessible throughout an organisation’s locations and devices.
Comprehensive, end-to-end solutions encourage employee adoption, as long as their features meet genuine employee needs and don’t add complexity to existing workflows.
For example, something as simple as integrating traditional landline calling into voice communication tools can reduce the steps required to work with clients, freelancers and contractors.
Ensuring your chosen solution “just works” outside of its ideal team, office or context will dramatically lower the barriers to broad workplace adoption.
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