carolyn
Carolyn Shmunis
August 4, 2015

Evolution of Collaboration in the Workplace

evolution of collaborationAccording to a recent Nielsen survey, as an iPhone or Android users, you will use an average of 27 apps this month, spending over 30 hours using mobile applications. Each day some 205 billion emails are sent and received. That’s an average of 29 emails for each 7 billion people on the planet. And, this number is projected to increase to 246 billion each day by 2019. Despite the number of tools and the amount of time spent using them, the Corporate Executive Board reported that in a survey of some 5,000 workers at 22 global companies fewer than 44% said they knew were to find the information they need.

So, how do we find and standardize tools that will lighten the load rather than add complexity? Three panelists from RingCentral, Niel Levonius, Director, Product Marketing, David Van Der Steen, Product Marketing, and Jim Payne, Product Marketing, with over 15 years of experience in telecom and emerging technologies look at the impact of technology on worker productivity, team dynamics and what collaboration means for today’s modern world of work.

This blog post is an overview of the recent webinar panel, if you want to listen to this webinar in its entirety you can do so here.

1) How has collaboration at work evolved in the last few decades?

Collaboration has evolved yet we haven’t really improved efficiency and quality in the way we collaborate. We have emails, texting, voice, lots of new technology. We’re getting to the cusp of an era where technology will actually enable more productive collaboration. However, we aren’t quite there yet.

Followup Question: Is there a way of quantifying technology actually being better for collaboration in the workplace?

Many indicators can be put along side different pieces of technology to gauge whether or not it actually improves collaboration. For the past five years we have been saying “if it’s new lets use it and include it.” There’s a misnomer that suddenly a new tool will magically makes us better collaborators. However, what’s really happened is now we have multiple screens open because we’re working with many different collaboration tools.  We are getting bombarded by different people who have adopted into different tools and pieces of tools.

At the end of the day the way we collaborate and work together elevates to a much faster pace. There was a time when we used type writers and mailed or hand deliver documents. Then we moved to phones to faxes to SMS and so on. Lag time and delay have been drastically reduced as technology has evolved.  At the end of the day we are making collaboration more efficient which means productivity increases.

And it’s not just technology that has advanced. Todays workplace environment has also changed. Where we work and what hours has drastically altered over the years. Because of the constant flex in work space and time, teams have become essential. Much more of our work is shifting away from the conference room with live people sitting around a table.

2) What role has tech played in the way people think about working together?

Tech makes our jobs easier. As technology evolves it facilitates everything in a more natural way,  allowing us to do our jobs much quicker. We have moved from having to send letters to things happening instantaneously. Technology facilitates this. SMS is a perfect example. Texting makes information travel faster and more efficiently. So what’s on the horizon? Taking the instant gratification that SMS provides and applying that to how teams work together.

Think about how slow everything was when geography was a central piece for working together.  Now think about how quickly you expect to receive information. When we move to newer technology there is an expectation that people will respond right away and we often feel an obligation to answer questions and/or complete task as fast as possible. Technology forces us to be more patient while getting things done faster.

A lot of companies don’t realize there are tools out there to make things easier. There isn’t wide spread adoption because, as of yet, there doesn’t exist a tool that people feel they must have.

3) Why are people fed up with Email?

Email is handy yet the scope of its use is broad, creating white noise. If your out of the office and unable to answer emails you can be sure you’ll have hundreds of unopened emails waiting for you. And, many of the emails we receive are not relevant.  In fact, many emails are sent to and received by people who are only loosely associated with a project. This creates confusion, complications and a lot of noise that prevents you from being as effective as you can be. Bottom line, email works well as a one way communication channel but not a collaboration tool.

4) What’s getting in the way of people collaborating better today?

People holding onto Email. We have been using one method (Email) for a long time and have become used to that. People use disparate systems. We haven’t gone together to grab one holistic collaboration suite and utilize that to focus around specific projects and issues. Communication gets dropped off when you don’t have that. Today’s collaboration in the workplace operates at a much faster pace and there are tools out there that better facilitate this. What we need to do now is get people using the tools and doing so correctly.

There is also the issue of too many collaboration tools.  People are bootstrapping or repurposing tools that are there for the wrong reasons or trying to make available tech do something it wasn’t originally designed. Email, Fax, file sharing, social media etc… A lot of things can be lost and forgotten because it’s difficult to keep up with all the channels and methods of collaboration.

Finally, habit is also an big issue. What we do and what we are used to doing can hinder growth. How do you break that habit and how do you get people to migrate and get on board. Very challenging.

Follow up Question: How do you get a whole team to get on board?

You need a champion.  People are stuck working they way they have been. Therefore you’ll need to:

  • Find the right tool.
  • Get a few people to adopt it.
  • Get those people to tell their colleagues.
  • Hopefully adoption will increase and spread. You need the case study to prove the tools are right for the company and that there is nothing to be afraid.

And keep in mind, a great tool will speak for itself.

5) Does more tech equal better team collaboration?

Simply stated, no. However, there are many tools that enhance collaboration. The key will be getting people to use those tools correctly and adopt wide-spread collaboration.  We need to stop using tools that weren’t designed to achieve real collaboration. There’s a lot of tech out there, good, bad, inefficient and fads. And, there’s many ways to enhance team collaboration with technology. But, people will have to change the way they work if there is a hope to find better team collaboration.

6) What is your favorite business tool that you’re using right now?

David: RingCentral Teams because it is getting people away from using email for collaborating. Whatever the project or issue, RingCentral Teams makes it easy to access and it’s easy to add people.

Niel: RingCentral Teams as well. It is not currently available to the public yet. But, it is out there as Glip which was recently acquired by RingCentral. The technology makes working in teams much easier because all the information resides in one central place. Team members can collaborate of various documents and projects and have all the information stored in one place.

Jim: Same. File sharing is great. Everything is so organized. Everything stays clean and organized.

What tools, or habits, help you collaborate most effectively at work?