A Great Simian or just a Monkey

collaboration

corporate collaboration

Corporate Collaboration is still broken

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.

  1. Make better and faster decisions based on the right information from experts in the area.
  2. Become more productive.
  3. Tear down corporate structure and connect the right expertise / people and information without corporate structures in the way.
  4. 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.

Measurable

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.

  1. Individuals
    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.
  2. Teams
    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.
  3. Management
    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?

Cutting the Slack

Slack is taking over the world, Slack is killing e-mail, and so on, we have all heard the rants of the very much hyped company valued at billions and with an impressive user base. It does decrease e-mail usage and help teams stay in contact and solve problems quickly with everyone informed. It also comes with some real disadvantages.

I have used Slack since early beta and I have used it extensively, for the last years constantly and in several teams. I have used it for daily operations in companies I have founded and work with. I have also participated in external teams, like IBM Watson teams, external companies whose products I use and also teams like The Informations Slack channel. I really like the real-time aspect of Slack and the sense of everyone being onboard and up-to-date. The fast pace does solve problems and challenges quickly and it keeps everyone on the same page. So why am I hesitant to Slack?

Disadvantages with Slack

  1. In your face! Slack is mainly an always on product, which makes it very much “in your face”. It simply disturbed you all the time.
  2. No threading!
  3. Lost information! An important topic is discussed and suddenly someone posts another topic in the thread and the ongoing important discussion is very often interrupted or lost due to the new discussion, often with the result that the first discussion is lost and never closed.
  4. Loosing productivity! This is my main problem with Slack and also the main reason for this post. To be focused and productive you need about 30min to be fully focused. With Slack running that rarely happens. There is always a conversation going on and with today’s notification frenzy you’re already disturbed pretty often, but since Slack fast becomes crucial for your business you often prioritize Slack notifications and switch from whatever you are up to and read the new messages.

Notifications are the future?

I do not agree here. I hate notifications. I have lately analyzed my productivity and realized that notifications is a huge part of my productivity going down. Since a while I have therefore disabled all notifications on laptop / iMac. On top of that I have switched most of my work to iPad Pro, which actually promotes focused work due to the limited support for having multiple windows / apps visible on the screen. Like when I am writing this, it is in full screen on my iPad and all notifications switched off. I do have notifications turned on for most apps on my iPhone, so when the urge to get updated surfaces I just glance at the phone.

To be clear, I do distinguish between productivity work and interaction work. When I write this blogpost, working on a presentation or creating a customer agreement I want to be left alone. A lot of my other time is dedicated for interaction (been working with sales for 20 years that is a big part of the day naturally) so this anti-notification strategy does not mean I am not fast in responding which most people who interact with me probably can vouch for.

Does Slack kill e-mail?

To give Slack some credit, it almost entirely get rid of internal e-mails and tiresome CC threads, so internally it does definitely kill most e-mail. Externally it does not, not at all. E-mail is here to stay as a protocol, but there is plenty of room for innovation and potentially some upgrades to smtp would be of help to improve innovations further.

But you have always hated e-mail, has that changed?

No, it has not, but over the last couple of years things have actually changed in terms of how we use e-mail. This is most notable in small companies and definitely not seen in most large corporations where huge CC threads and attachment bonanza (versioning and storage of all those Powerpoints, hello) is still a major problem.

  • We do rarely see the Friday fun e-mail threads anymore, they are now published on Facebook instead.
  • One to many e-mails are limited due to that many companies now use Slack, Yammer et al.
  • Small talk is now published in products like Slack and / or chat products.
  • News and links are now published in other channels then over e-mail (notifications might come via e-mail though)

The main benefit with e-mail is that it is asynchronous and not real-time. Which is another thing that has change over the years, prior many expected an e-mail response very quickly and treated e-mail as a real-time channel, that development is great progress for productivity. My main recommendation for e-mail addicts is to just go through e-mail early in the morning, mid/day and a the end-of-the-day. This to stop being interrupted and feeling the urge to check e-mail every 5min or react to the constant notifications.

There is still room for a lot of innovation in this space, Slack has done a great job, but it is not the end solution. I know Slack will implement some cool things in the future, but their foundation is mainly productivity hostile which has made me positive to choose other products if I was to choose tool today.

For further reading VICE media posted a post “Turning Off Slack” that also have similar thoughts as I do.

cognitive collaboration

Cognitive Business Part 1 – Internal Collaboration

I am starting with an old passion of mine, Internal Collaboration, knowledge and information sharing as well as finding the right expertise within the organisation. I will try to be concrete and skip the marketing buzzwords. This is the first in my series of examples of real-life Cognitive Business.

I started this series since sometimes this cognitive business thing is hard to grasp without real-life examples that all of us personally can relate to. So, lets jump right in.

Imagine having a question about one of your company products or any question that is an internal only question. Today you might search the intranet, often without result, you then take to your nifty internal collaboration tool, might be Slack, Yammer or whatever tool you have. If you are lucky and after a few interactions you might get an answer to your question or at least a part of the question.

Cognitive Internal Collaboration

Now lets imagine a world where there is a new friend on your list in the tool called Filippa. Filippa is a clever girl, she actually remembers everything and she keeps track on all new things that are created or stored internally and to some extent also externally. When you put your question on the internal network you can also adress Filippa. She will then go through all of the information she has and present you with what she think is the best 5 answers, who has created the info and also some evidence to why she thinks those five pieces of info is the most important. If a complex answer she will bundle it and present it in a nice way for you, still with evidence and who is the expert in the area and who has created the info.

Immediate Benefits

This will not only provide some really good answers to your question, this will also contribute to the conversation that might continue afterward. This since many other might chip-in on the conversation you have with Filippa and bring even more value to the answer. Filippa, as the caring and non-selfish individual she is, will also give credit to the original authors of the info and naturally @mention them in her reply, so now the conversation can really elevate and the end-result you will walk away with will be something like this:

  1. The answer will be of very high-quality
  2. Given to you within seconds
  3. Expertise on the topic identified and also invited to the conversation to further elaborate as well as giving credit to the expertise.
  4. Not only did you learn, so did Filippa. She added this conversation to her “knowledge” and is now even smarter and ready for even trickier questions within the area of expertise.

Just imagine the amount of time you spend searching for the right information or expertise within your organisation, that is a huge pain and cost for todays organisations.

In this first part of the “Cognitive Business Examples”-series we have touch what many consider the holy grail of collaboration. I hope this use-case / example fills some gaps and that the potential is obvious?

In the next part of this series we will look at how Marketing could work in a cognitive business.

This is the first post in my Real-life Cognitive Business series. Below is part 2 and the other parts will be added as they are posted.

Cognitive Business Part 2: Marketing

The photo is from Harstena in Gryts Archepelago in the Swedish east coast. A true favorite place on earth. The pump could represent the pumping and flowing of information that is described in the post.

Congitive Business Explained

Yesterday I wrote a post on the Future of Cognitive Business. After I posted I realized that even though many might know and understand the word Cognitive, the term Cognitive Business might need some further explanation. Earlier I have written about the word Cognitive as well.

A good start could be to listen to Ginni Rometty, CEO and Chairman at IBM. In short words, her explanation:

“Cognitive Business = Digital Business + Digital Intelligence”

Often Cognitive Business is talked about in the same sentance as Watson and / or Artificial Intelligence, but lets put that aside for now and give the term Cognitive Business some real thought.

As the IBM CEO states it is the combination digital business and digital intelligence. For me that sounds a bit too easy and especially we might associate those terms with differnent things and they are also a bit buzzwordy. I also do not understand why the use of Digital is used. Business today is not a digital or not digital. Digital is a part of every business independent of if you consider your business being digital or not. I would even go further and claim that the business that will have the most benefit from being a cognitive business are those who are more traditional and less “digital”, the opportinity within healthcare, the legal system, financial sector etc etc is much larger then with the ones already fully digital. A cognitive business will be able to leverage information that they previously could not. That is a huge opportunity.

For me Cognitive Business is a true evolution and the reason for that is simple. We will be able to do our work much better then before. That maybe sounds to simple of a answer, but I will stick to it. We will be able to get happier customers, know our customers better, generate more sales, better marketing and better product development and research.

If my business (whatever it is) have become cognitive I will never forget anything, I will always have the support for making the right decisions, I will always be able to ask for facts and get the reasoning for those answers, I do not have to go to a database or a SAP like system, I will be able to leverage information that have been impossible to leverage before, I will most probably just have to grab my smartphone (or other device) and simple speak into the mic and the reply is real-time (currently a delay is actually programmed so that the real real-time delay does not scare us).

Instead of writing an extremely long post about all different examples I decided to start a series of post on the topic, so expect post starting Monday that describes how a cognitive business look in the following areas:

  • Internal Collaboration, Information sharing and finding expertice
  • Research and Development
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • ….and maybe some additional one.

First post in the series will be posted on Monday and include how a cognitive buisness will look in the area of collaboration, knowldge and information sharing as well as finding the right expertise.

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