Most companies today are not the unified environment of «all workers in the same space» as a few years ago, when virtually everyone was in one corporate location and could literally go to the next office to communicate and / or collaborate. -workers. or use email or simple internal messaging tools.
Employee communications, vital to the efficient functioning of any organization, are much more complex today. In fact, we estimate that a typical corporate entity has between 20 and 35% of the workforce as a contingent workforce, working independently and usually from remote locations. Maintaining these independent contractors, consultants, external partners and even connected clients is vital to the productivity and overall success of the organization.
A complication of collaboration arises when we look at the future composition of the workforce and its work styles. By 2025, we estimate that 60 to 80 percent of workers in a typical organization will be millennials. These «digital natives» have a huge impact on the way workers work together. In general, they are not interested in going to an office to communicate / collaborate.
Rather, it is more likely to take over a device and text, video chat and / or connect through a multitude of electronic media than personal. In addition, they have very varied work styles, which do not always equate to working on a traditional 9 to 5 day. They have predisposed preferences for the tools to be performed.
It is mandatory to safely fulfill your expected experiences. We have seen cases in which companies trying to recruit employees among millennials have found that they have turned down jobs or given up after a short period in which these tools were not available to them (or were not acceptable). The notion of unique work style dictated by the organization is old-fashioned thinking. This change is happening now, but most companies are not prepared.
What we need to ensure effective collaboration
Allowing workers to use consumer collaboration tools (e.g. texting, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) is not usually a suitable solution for business use. Such use could easily expose confidential corporate information to hackers and «bad actors» and / or allow users to share data with unwanted recipients, exposing the company to data loss, regulatory liability or worse.
Equivalent and functional business class tools should be available for use by current and future employees, both to make the organization as efficient as possible and to ensure sensitive corporate communications between employees. Fortunately, major vendors are moving to establishing secure enterprise-class tools to make collaboration secure (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Slack, to name a few).
What should you look for in a collaboration service?
Organizations need to assess what types of workers, communications and other forms of collaboration will take place as the world moves towards a digital transformation approach in the workplace. Choosing the right tool means looking for capabilities that will support and strengthen collaboration in a changing workforce. These features include the following:
Workflow flexibility – the ability to customize a solution based on typical roles and responsibilities across a wide range of users, devices, and applications.
Workspace Customization – The ability to create custom collaboration “rooms” and enhanced services needed, such as scheduling, meeting appointments, note-taking, connections to Edge services, cloud provider selection, and more.
User, application and data security: the ability to use advanced security and privacy components to ensure that no user or corporate data is moved beyond the specified «islands» to ensure isolation and protection and that authentication is in place and advanced encryption.
Cognitive support for data extraction: the ability to capture and catalog all relevant data that takes place during an informal meeting or collaboration and make it available as a source of knowledge for the appropriate user base and / or entire organizations. Advanced artificial intelligence capabilities to do this and an automatic process, rather than manual.
Analytics to provide usage information – Analyze what’s working and what’s not working in your organization, and modify and improve the collaboration tools available, as appropriate. This is the key to creating a flexible collaboration strategy.
As an example of an enhanced collaboration solution, Cisco recently released an updated version of its WebEx product and added support capability based on artificial intelligence, including products from the recent acquisition of Voicea. Adding your Voicea voice recognition product to your meeting capabilities allows you to transcribe your entire meeting in minutes without a manual recording secretary trying to keep up with the conversation.
It also offers a version of the meeting that can then be searched by keywords, allowing a better discovery of the content of the corporate meeting. Users can also query Voicea to retrieve meeting information even if they are not present. Cisco supports a 30% increase in productivity and, as a result, six hours of labor savings.
Remained safe and private
Other modern enhancements to the collaboration that Cisco has added include maintaining local encryption and authentication keys on multiple sites so that international organizations don’t have to worry about a localized violation that exposes credentials across the organization, and also , to better comply with local laws. This can be extended to implement isolated regional data warehouses, as well as to better protect corporate data.
Modern collaboration tools are needed not only to improve the internal user experience, but also a key component of external communications with customers. The ability to use internally focused collaboration tools to expand into customer interactions should be an important criterion in assessing the providers that best meet the organization’s needs before the final selection of a solution. For example, Cisco has focused some efforts on WebEx to turn it into an improved customer interaction / management tool (CloudCherry acquisition) that can be used to increase the organization’s customer evaluation scores.
The end result of the collaboration
Companies need to be proactive in adding collaborative tools to change the needs of the workforce as millennials and additional workers grow and become a larger and more important part of the business. Organizations that do not offer such capabilities face increasing amounts of employee frustration and low user productivity, resulting in lower efficiency across the company. Ultimately, moving beyond simple email and internal messaging to a modern collaboration strategy will make the difference in the successful operation of any organization large or small.