Don't Get Stuck in the Cloud with Collaborative Technology

Culture change is needed to inform collaborative communication

The cloud is coming to business in a big way, offering all manner of value-added benefits. Chief among these is improved cross-departmental collaboration. Yet according to the KPMG 2016 Global HR Transformation survey, only one in eight firms worldwide have seen an improvement in collaboration and feedback between employees after deploying cloud-based collaborative technology.

In this article, we examine why collaborative technology is failing to produce the cross-departmental collaboration expected.

Collaborative technology is not the driver of collaboration

The old saying, “If you give a man a fish you will feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you will feed him for a lifetime,” aptly describes the disappointing outcomes produced by could-based collaborative tools. 

Even with the cloud connecting people as never before – allowing instant sharing of files, databases, messages, chat, etc. – the KPMG survey results underline how important it is to prioritize organization and culture to instigate sustainable collaboration. The cloud, and the various tools attached to it, often produces immediate results that quickly fade. The tools are there, but the teaching is not.

It is no good providing technological advances to promote collaboration if there is no focus on how to go about collaboration. And this means empowering employees and creating a culture of collaboration. Before we look at this essential in a little more detail, let’s look at the nature of collaboration tools used in the cloud.

What is collaborative technology?

Many companies today employ enterprise social networking (ESN) tools which include:

  • Content sharing – documents, video, images, etc.
  • Communication – news feeds, chat rooms, profiles, commentary and feedback, ratings, etc.
  • Collaboration – sharing and distributing documents, email, messages, online meetings, screen sharing, etc.

ESN takes simple sharing further than old technology in the field of cross-departmental collaboration. McKinsey research suggests that employee productivity rises by as much as 20% to 25% when workplace collaboration benefits from ESN technology. Why is it, then, that so few organizations experience the expected outcomes of cloud-based collaboration technology?

The foundation of collaboration is culture

Too often, what companies are reporting to me is that their collaboration tools are being used only for communication. Information is exchanged, and little else happens. It’s little wonder that the benefits of the cloud are not being achieved, when employees are achieving no more than they can with email.

Communication is a single element of collaboration, which is itself a process of learning and insight on the way to the creation of shared outcomes, improved innovation, and more creative problem-solving.

Clearly, the most important aspect in cross-departmental collaboration (whether cloud-based or otherwise) is the people who are involved. If they are unwilling to collaborate, then it does not matter what tools they are given to aid collaboration. 

Organizations must think more strategically about persuading people to collaborate before giving them the tools to do so. Mindsets must be altered and behaviors shaped to facilitate collaboration. In other words, only by evolving a culture of collaboration can an organization hope to receive the benefits and positive outcomes envisioned by the latest cloud-based collaborative technology.

Challenge your people to collaborate

Before you deploy state-of-the-art collaboration tools, you must prepare your people to challenge their existing conceptions of how to work. You can’t simply plug in, switch on and expect results from collaborative technology. If your people are still set in the old ways of working, and failing in the science of communication, the benefits of cloud-based collaboration will never be fully realized.

Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees. These skills will aid the collaborative process, as barriers to communication and working together are broken down.

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