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What we learned at Collaboration and Communication 2016

How communications are changing at Collaboration and Communication 2016

From the Ministry of No to the Ministry of How

Recently we attended Collaboration & Communication 2016 at The Mermaid in London. Having had some time to reflect on this event it has become clear that it is a really exciting time to be involved in the collaboration ecosystem (an ecosystem that includes IBM Watson Cisco, Slack and Dropbox).

The messages coming from the market are clear:

  • The industry is now converging on the same language around collaboration
  • Collaboration is no longer just about the technology (was it ever?)
  • There is still a need for a methodical approach to help organisations

Digital, enough already.

We get it – the world is going digital, the pace of change is accelerating, new business models and new competitors are disrupting the very way we work, travel, shop and everything inbetween (Ubers, Air BnBs and a thousand others continue to disrupt the status quote and we use them every day).

It’s do or die. We have stats coming out of our ears about generation Y (how many there are and there will be in the workplace) and the level of digital disruption is well documented today, tomorrow and by 2020. Enough already – we don’t need to know why, we need to know how.

The Ministry of ‘No’

IT has long been seen as a gatekeeper – the department that says NO. NO when users ask to bring their own device, install their own applications or buy their own cloud services.

The reality today is that the advancement of the digital workplace and with it cloud collaboration tools, have created the perfect storm for the rise of shadow IT. This isn’t something that is going to happen, it’s happening now – in spite of the IT department saying NO!

IT has a real opportunity to work with the lines of business (LOB) to understand the ever-changing needs of the users. Enabling them to support agile consumption of services whilst ensuring security, support and service. IT must transform its image in the eyes of the user from the ‘Ministry of NO’ to the ‘Ministry of HOW’.

If we look back, it wasn’t that long ago that Skype, Google Docs, Slack and many others were seen as shadow IT. These are the very same applications that many organisations now embrace.

As one media organisation said “we reviewed what shadow IT users were using, and where there was high adoption and commonality we looked at ways to introduce the functions into the organisation compliant with our policies.”

Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour – this is when people start nodding

Having spoken at length to many organisations and at industry events there is always a moment during the conversation or presentation where people start nodding emphatically!

It’s usually when we start talking about the three pillars of collaboration – technology, culture and environment – or as Plantronics call them Bricks, Bytes and Behaviour (and as a marketer I am very much in favour of branding a concept to make it easier to remember!).

– We are all familiar with the technology aspect (applications, infrastructure, devices and tools) but just as importantly (and dare I say much more interestingly) are the people and environmental factors with UC strategy at the heart.

– Having worked with senior HR directors, the digital workplace agenda is absolutely front of mind in the continual war on talent (or as our Head of HR Annemarie Walkling likes to put it: attract, retain, engage) and is a huge pull for both candidates and employees alike.

Underpinning it all lies trust and empowerment without which today’s businesses cannot operate. The implication is clear – the C-Suite must upskill the management to embrace these new flexible, autonomous conditions.

– And then there’s the environment – always a hot topic! Google and LinkedIn offer multiple benefits to their employees to bring them into the office (free food, gym and funky offices, even somewhere to sleep) however the reality is that designing office space around styles of work gives employees the flexibility they need to perform.

Plantronics sum this up brilliantly with their; ‘collaborate, communicate, contemplate and concentrate’ (it’s another fantastically branded concept!).

It’s useful to have a framework

Having seen many companies in the collaboration space talk about the ‘why’ companies need to digitise on thing becomes very clear; there is a lack of direction from the Service Providers of the digital world guiding companies on the ‘how.’

We know it all starts with a vision, every vision is different and it ideally should be top down – but the reality is that there’s always an element of selling the vision up to the C-Suite. Compelling events get you going on the journey (real estate consolidation, legacy tech) then working with your users and joining up internally across functions will set you on the path to success (to see the framework check out the hero’s journey).

Adoption, adoption, adoption

IT Pro mentioned in their post-show blog – Collaboration must put users first. What’s clear is that more and more organisations have this absolutely front of mind and are prioritising end-user steering committees, drop in sessions and opt-in training (delegates at the event asked ‘should I force my staff to collaborate/use tools’? That’s a definite no).

Adoption is no longer an afterthought but critical to the decision-making process and the only way organisations will ever drive ROI. Asking users what they want, or – more importantly – if collaboration would improve their tasks, processes and relationships – is the new language of the heroic IT decision maker.

What’s clear is that collaboration is psychographic – collaborative adopters span every generation, which we fondly refer to as Generation ‘C’.

Click here to watch the recording from Collaborate 2016.


About the author

Helen Lancaster, has a career spanning 18 years in the IT and Telco sectors spending time at Canadian giant Nortel Networks, US manufacturer Avaya and UK Telco Kcom. Her roles over the years have included various commercial positions in sales and marketing - including four years in Madrid in Spain - leading to her current position of Head of Marketing for Northern Europe at Arkadin. Helen has a passion for data, and all things digital.

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