After all these years and new tools constantly being released, corporate collaboration is still not solved. I would actually go as far to state that almost nothing has happened in the last 5 years. Collaboration in large corporations is unstructured and scattered all over (both tools and information), without any form of measurement of productivity, information or impact.
Let us start with why we are using corporate collaboration tools within our organisation.
- Make better and faster decisions based on the right information from experts in the area.
- Become more productive.
- Tear down corporate structure and connect the right expertise / people and information without corporate structures in the way.
- As well as soft things as a sense of belonging and be part of a team etc.
…but at the end of the day, for a corporation, it boils down to being a more efficient organisation that research, produce, market, sell and support it’s products in a more efficient way so that the company performs better in terms of their corporate objectives.
Is there a corporate collaboration tool today, that can prove that they can measure the impact and / or result of their collaboration product if used in the right way within a corporation? NO!
Why is Corporate Collaboration not evolving?
This one is naturally a hard task to describe and I do not have a definitive opinion, but with a brief look at how things have evolved in the last few years, we might have some guidance.
First, most of the tools corporations use are sneaking their way in through the backdoor by small teams that are tired of Microsoft Sharepoint document-centric collaboration. These teams simply want a smoother and more efficient way of communicating and getting things done. Tools like Slack and Trello are sneaking their way in. A manager for a small team is adding the monthly fee on his credit card as an expense report and suddenly these tools have made their way in through the corporate door without passing the IT department and other slow and backward-looking departments. These tools are great in many ways and provide clear value to the team, but they do not provide any measurable value from the company perspective.
Secondly, these tools are built to assist small teams or multiple small teams. Multiple small teams do not mean that these teams are connected in any way. The company that suddenly have hundreds of small teams in e.g. Slack, do not gain any immediate measurable benefit from all these teams and channels that are full of one sentence communication and integrations with other tools. Furthermore, it is a tough thing to re-use the information in those team as best practices or similar for others to learn from.
What we have now is multiple consumer-centric social apps that have entered the company without providing any measurable benefit to the company (they do provide value, don’t get me wrong). On the other end we have lots of old-fashioned corporate software vendors trying their best to keep up, these softwares are either too boring and complex for people to actually use (or implement) or they are too simple and just trying to replicate these new shiny toys like Slack or Trello et al and by that also falling into the same category of non-measurable tools available. Microsoft Teams (Yammer) is one of those. Teams create the same value as Slack, but it is still not built to support a large corporation, it is for teams without connection to other teams or aggregation for corporate review to learn from, track or simply to give praise when a team is outperforming or support when they have a challenge.
Is there a future for Corporate Collaboration?
Absolutely. Even though the first paragraphs in this post are a bit pessimistic, I am fully convinced we will see lots of innovation in this space. AI (let us stick with this very general term for now) is one enabler and when the term social finally seems to be a natural part of the corporate infrastructure in one way or the other, we can start to build real value, from a corporate perspective, from these tools or new ones.
The ideal corporate collaboration tool
A dangerous headline on a paragraph, but conceptually we are now mature enough to take the next step and implement a corporate collaboration tool that is measurable and also prove the value of using the tool for the company as well as for the individual, the team and the department etc. This without compromising simplicity and ease-of-use.
A modern tool needs to be able to measure it’s the benefits of it’s usage in real-time and present it to everyone.
Are your contributions in discussions helping improve the task at hand and how do you measure towards your goals. How are your conversations evolving over time? Have you considered a person making others smarter or making others smile etc.
Is your team solving tasks according to timeline and dependencies with our teams / projects? Is there people in your team that provide value in these tools that do not get the right appreciation from their manager. How is the sentiment and tone in the teams and how do topics discussed map towards company objectives. How does your team rate towards other teams etc etc. Does your team provide value to other teams.
Dashboards for everything with a real-time view of the operational status of the company. Find which teams, individuals, departments that are most productive. See how topic, activity, tone, sentiment etc map towards productivity. A clear view of great performing teams and create best practices etc. Find individuals that usually not get credit for their work, since they work in the quite, but often provide the information that makes the greatest impact on projects or similar (as new input to the yearly review with the boss).
Suddenly we have KPIs and real-time dashboards that can measure productivity and collaboration in a way that is not done yet.
Simply put, it is all about connecting the dots, that can partially be letting AI work the unstructured text, but also programmatically connecting the dots (either by user assistance or by code), a challenge YES, impossible NO. Still with the same usability as Slack or Trello et al.
Are we going to see a product like this soon? I certainly hope so, I know many organisation would love it.
Or maybe it is just me that thinks corporate collaboration is broken and a tool like above would provide great value to every corporation?