When most people think of "collaboration tools", they jump straight to technology solutions — messaging applications, video conferencing software, project management platforms, etc. But to truly drive collaboration, organizations need to think beyond technology and consider how culture, business processes and tech work together to drive results.
Let's explore why each of these elements is so important and how they work together to create a more effective collaboration ecosystem.
Perhaps the most important collaboration element of all — beyond any technology, workflow or process — is your culture. Even with the newest, greatest technology, a culture that is rigid about change and risk-averse will spoil any efforts to successfully collaborate.
Think about the desired end result: if you want innovative, cross-functional solutions to solve big problems and tackle promising opportunities, you need a culture that promotes creativity and trust and supports teams in taking risks, learning quickly and working together toward a common purpose. Ultimately, culture can either be your biggest asset or biggest obstacle during collaboration.
Fostering a collaborative culture takes time and intention. Your audience may be reluctant at first because trust is low and fear is high. Thankfully, with permission, encouragement, purpose and action, you can overcome these collaboration barriers. This process doesn't happen overnight, but with consistent actions, you will earn trust and help transform your culture.
How often have you questioned a process and heard, "We've always done it that way," or "That's just how it is," in response? These are not adequate explanations to resist change. Instead, change should be encouraged and embraced, promoting continuous improvement — because at its simplest, collaboration is just a series of processes within an organization. Examples include:
As with any business process, the key to improving your collaboration processes is a willingness to document them and continuously experiment and refine them. To do so, organizations should draw on both first-hand user experiences and observational data to pinpoint where processes can be optimized.
A great example of this kind of thinking comes from Harvard Business Review. Given the recent widespread adoption of remote working, informal communication between managers and employees has decreased dramatically, leading to inefficiencies and frustrations for teams. Rather than trying to boost informal communication through existing methods, the article recommends introducing and testing new practices such as daily check-ins or office hours. The key is agility and the willingness to experiment, learn and improve.
It seems obvious that collaboration technology should make collaboration easier, not harder; unfortunately, that isn't always the case. Today's users expect to engage with software solutions that are intuitive, easy to use and do the job they're intended to do. When collaboration tools are laborious or difficult to engage with, users will avoid or work around them — leading to failed implementation and adoption.
With this in mind, organizations should look for collaboration tools that actively meet the needs of end-users (i.e. employees, customers and leaders). Criteria may include software that:
Ultimately, the main priority is finding technology that enhances collaboration by promoting visibility, engagement and agility throughout the entire collaboration process.
In summary, the right technology solutions alone are not sufficient to improve collaboration; the culture and processes that support your technology are also essential. By supporting all three elements with intention, organizations will enjoy increased buy-in and engagement for their collaboration efforts, leading to better, more impactful results.
Ready to get your employees excited and engaged with your next collaborative challenge? Our free Guide to Generating Employee Buy-In for Your Challenges has actionable tips to help you tap into your employees' best ideas and create innovative solutions. Download your copy today!