Collaboration technology is increasingly popular, but many organisations have not thought through why and how collaboration should be at the heart of their business.
Nicola Millard, head of customer insight and futures at BT, highlights the “collaboration conundrum” when such contradictions risk derailing projects.
Multinationals face a host of collaboration challenges because of their scale – trying to create the right environment and give the right collaborative tools to the right employees, providing equality of access regardless of location.
A robust, reliable and secure network is vital to underpin effective cloud collaboration, but it is not just about the technology. Company culture and the way collaborative tools are rolled out, and to whom, are essential considerations if projects are to succeed.
Jon Martin, general manager of BT One Cloud Microsoft at BT, and Nicola Millard highlight three top tips on how to solve the collaboration conundrum.
Leadership needs to create a sense of purpose
“High-performing organisations are good at creating a sense of purpose for collaboration,” says Millard.
Leadership is vital in creating that sense of purpose, and leaders need to be good networkers with clear ideas about the benefits of collaboration. Executives should aim to create a sense of place and common ground for effective collaboration.
Millard says that technology has untethered staff, creating “shoulder-bag workers” as the technology has shrunk. Employees don’t need to be at their desk to do their work, which offers choice for individuals – and challenges for leaders.
“The challenge for an employer is to bring those shoulder-bag workers together,” says Millard.
She highlights research that shows one-third of people said they don’t need to collaborate to do their job, while 50% said they won’t collaborate unless rewarded for it.
Good leadership is vital to ensure collaborative tools gain critical mass and create a sense of purpose for employees. Any enterprise social network is only as good as the people using it.
“The collaboration conundrum is lots of good things juxtaposed by a lot of challenges on how to get people to communicate more effectively. It is less about command and control and more about creating a sense of purpose and connection,” says Millard.
Don’t be overwhelmed by constant “presence”
Martin says: “Where people openly collaborate, it is very visible who has done what. It promotes a meritocracy rather than a hierarchy, so there are cultural implications.
“When organisations don’t provide ways of collaborating, employees will use systems that are harder to control,” he says.
Even physical proximity doesn’t necessarily mean people collaborate well, says Millard: “If you crush people together, you get the lift effect – it goes against collaboration as people need privacy.”
Martin advises employees how they can take control to exploit the different capabilities of tools and be empowered by the idea of constant “presence”.
“It’s important to know the real presence status of an individual – whether they’re on the phone or sharing the desktop. The key is to manage how and when you communicate, but how you strike a balance is up to the individual,” he says.
This is critical because presence in an office is not necessarily a sign someone is productive, and motivating collaborative behaviours is not hierarchical or top-down.
Use the three U’s to make to most of your tools
Collaborative technology needs to be accessible to all. Email is not always great – there is too much of it and you need to know who to collaborate with, says Millard: “It is a good information tool, but not good on collaboration.”
Social media builds connections, but often fails on its corporate purpose, building weak ties and peripheral awareness of what people are doing. Video is a good medium as it helps to build trust.
“As we move more and more into the digital space, we need to figure out the different dynamics that digital gives us in terms of collaboration,” says Millard.
For employees to make the most of any tools offered, it boils down to what Millard calls the “three U’s” – is it useful, is it usable and who else is using it?
“There is a culture change as leaders start to use the tools,” says Millard.
The enterprise tools most likely to be adopted are those that mimic consumer software in their usability and where people do not need manuals to get started.
“Collaborative tools will be successful depending on how simple and easy to use they are, the quality of experience and how well they are integrated with other apps. Microsoft owns the desktop and can integrate collaboration tools seamlessly,” says Martin.
In multinationals, pockets of user behaviour are often noticeable. For example, video is popular in one particular company, but Europe consumes nine million of the 11 million minutes of video a month consumed across all regions.
“Organisations have cultures and subcultures. All large programmes are visibly led by business leaders. There is a correlation between senior people using collaboration tools and use rippling down,” says Martin.
In the future, Millard believes collaboration tools will become even richer and copy elements of games like Minecraft, using virtual and augmented reality.
“How we build environments that are richer and bring in a lot of advantages of digital tools is a big issue to explore,” she says.
BT’s new white paper, ‘Putting people first through digital transformation’, explores the views of over 400 CEOs and offers advice for achieving your digital employee experience goals.
A strategic trend for multinational organisations is moving workloads to the cloud, often in conjunction with digital transformation. But many companies need convincing how best to achieve cloud transformation when they have complex environments with legacy investments.
Moving to the cloud and digital transformation complement each other.
“But while 100% of organisations are pursuing digital and looking at cloud at the same time, not all have moved to the cloud,” says Andrew Small, vice president, BT One, contact, CPE & mobile portfolio, at BT.
Hindering factors include the impulse to sweat investment in legacy technologies and the internal IT estate, and not knowing where to begin on the cloud journey with so many diverse services offered and no idea how to knit them together.
However, Small believes the mindset changes when organisations see what benefits they stand to gain and how BT can help on their journey to digital transformation. Here are five reasons to move to the cloud.
- Cutting collaboration costs
The number one driver for many large organisations with multiple employees in diverse locations is to put collaboration technologies in the cloud to reduce costs.
“The CFO will see reduced costs, but to simultaneously increase productivity it is important to focus on ensuring the quality of user experience, so collaboration tools are used effectively. It is not a trivial addition – it is a fundamental change in the ways people can collaborate, whether by video, shared whiteboards or mobile phones. It is a cultural change, not just a technology change,” says Small.
Large organisations are sometimes disappointed not to see the reduction in costs they expected from cloud service providers because of a lack of transparency.
“BT One Cloud offers transparent pricing and organisations can pin costs down to per-user, per-month. By offering pay-as-you-go, organisations can predict costs,” says Small.
- Accessing the latest collaboration technologies to improve productivity
BT simplifies setting up unified communications across different sites and geographies and its partnership with Microsoft via One Cloud means it can offer organisations the benefits of collaboration tools such as Skype for Business with Microsoft Office 365 – all with minimal disruption.
“One Cloud Microsoft offers a great user experience and changes the way people work, offering a real choice in how to communicate, whether by voice, video, instant messaging or presence. As user experience improves, employees are more productive,” says Small.
- Using legacy and cloud technologies to exploit the best of the old and the new
A perceived drawback of moving workloads to the cloud is the reluctance to decommission legacy technologies and the associated wasted investment. However, BT One’s mission is to ensure that both strands work together during the transformation to cloud.
“A multinational organisation may have different technologies from different vendors and it doesn’t want to replace them all. BT One can make everything work together. We are used to integrating legacy with new under one solution,” says Small.
He says BT One provides the glue to build bridges between technologies.
Cloud migration does not need to happen all at once, and it’s recommended to migrate to the cloud over time with a hybrid approach — the combination of an on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services.
“For example, we can provide One Collaborate video bridging between a legacy video solution and Microsoft Surface Hub and a partner using video conferencing technology on a different network. Organisations only need to spend money where they need it and can continue to use their in-house technologies with new cloud collaboration tools,” says Small.
- A continuous path of improving user experience
If employees don’t take up cloud collaboration tools because they have not had the necessary training, or their experience is degraded due to poor network connectivity, then investments are potentially wasted. The consultancy approach through BT One ensures that employees are identified in categories by “personas” and the appropriate tools are made available based on their working requirements. This is particularly useful to large, complex organisations that wish to give the right tools to the right people. Employees are given training and ongoing proactive support to encourages adoption and a productive digital workstyle.
“We split people into groups of users to ensure that each gets the right services, which reduces costs and promotes simplicity. The One Cloud service offers a holistic approach to unified communications with assessments, planning and training. Post-deployment, every call is monitored for quality and pain points are immediately identified and rectified. This means more calls are made via the network and conferencing costs fall as positive user experiences make an impact,” says Small.
- Increased agility, simplicity, security and resilience
Large multinationals in diverse geographies need to change their requirements as they grow and open new offices. BT’s extensive network of datacentres are “paired up” to ensure failover and resilience, giving organisations confidence that new employees can be brought on board quickly and simply and collaboration will not be interrupted.
“Employees have a consistent service everywhere. Data is secured as we manage the network from end-to-end and the resilience of the service with two datacentres in each region means that the system is very robust,” says Small.
“BT’s global voice network is encrypted, and security is built into our cloud platform, ensuring that security is never at the expense of collaboration,”
The cloud creates real value for businesses by connecting the workforce with a secure, reliable and collaborative infrastructure. Work becomes more creative, captures input from the best experience in the company, and does this at any time, any place, on any device.
Whether you’re an SME or a large organisation, it is important to realise the opportunity that cloud-based technology can offer your business.
Find out more about BT’s unified communications solutions.