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Next-generation employee collaboration

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Recognize differences in your employees' preferences to deliver the right enterprise collaboration services at the right time.

Shane Reisman | November 11, 2016

The future of enterprise collaboration

According to Gartner’s predictions for 2018, “Consumerization of enterprise collaboration technologies is nothing new, but that influence is extending into enterprise strategies.” Gartner also predicts that “consumer preference for emoticons, simple interactions such as likes and recommendations, and video” will influence what collaboration looks like and what types of products are used to collaborate in the enterprise.

Workplace collaboration planning must reflect employees’ consumer preferences to ensure that they're going to adopt capabilities. And technology leaders should start by gathering preference feedback from across their organization.

Creating a next-generation collaboration strategy for our client

We worked with a public utility client and surveyed almost 8,000 of its 30,000 employees to create a next-generation collaboration strategy. Participants identified collaboration use cases and preferences, and their responses were mapped to age, geography, and persona. We immediately noticed trends. As the snapshot below shows, the tools and methods people use to do their jobs to consume, edit, and share content, differ dramatically across a company.

Collaboration services preferences survey results

Despite the wide differences in these workplace preferences, traditional IT organizations promote one-size-fits-all IT solutions for the entire company. This legacy IT strategy ignores key differences and suppresses local or team-based collaboration solutions. A forward-looking collaboration roadmap embraces point applications to enable more narrow or niche employee preferences.

The right stack

The further we explored relationships between behaviors, the more insight we got into opportunities to improve worker collaboration. We uncovered a new model for enterprise collaboration based on user preference and consumerization to catalyze adoption and power business outcomes.

The image below represents use cases identified by persona type. The data reinforces the suggestion above that desk workers and executives share similar collaboration preferences while contact center and field workers share a different set of preferences.

The details here validate how much these groups have in common but also illustrate subtle differences. For example, while contact center and field workers share their preferences for instant messaging (IM), their top IM use cases are different. Contact center workers want IM to check colleagues’ online statuses and start chat sessions, but field workers want IM to send messages from a mobile device. Both applications of IM must be reflected in the services provided by IT to ensure productivity for these two groups of workers.

Collaboration use cases—two vin diagrams

Executives and desk workers had strong preferences for conferencing, file share, and mobile productivity—and there was broad agreement that conferencing should include audio-only calling and single-button launch of video sessions. The ability to share files with individuals or groups was popular, as was mobile productivity. Executive and desk workers, like contact center and field workers, expressed preference to access, view, and read content on-the-go but little interest in creating or editing content on-the-go. For all the hype around mobile office tools and workforce mobility, we didn’t see demand for tools to generate new files or documents on a smart phone.

Also surprising are the collaboration capabilities rejected by survey participants. Use cases for enterprise social—like using a corporate Facebook to start project discussions or YouTube-style channels to post work-related videos—were not popular. Use cases for knowledge sharing, like a wiki page to crowd-source content creation, also were not popular.

Carry it forward—toward a user-focused collaboration IT roadmap

In the future, cloud strategy will be less about transferring workloads and more about moving services to the cloud to address specific use cases—like easing access to specific tools and data to boost employee productivity. Technology leaders should recognize these changes and transform IT from delivering infrastructure and projects to creating and promoting collaboration services. They should also provide and support user-centric packaged collaboration services, like conferencing, file share, and mobile. Most importantly, they should get feedback from employees—and use employees' unique preferences to build a next-generation strategy.

Shane Reisman

Shane Reisman is a solution principal in Slalom’s San Francisco content and collaboration practice. Shane helps companies select and deploy collaboration solutions to improve employee and workplace outcomes.