There has never not been a time when building a strong and collaborative team hasn’t mattered to business leaders. But there’s also never been a time when it’s been as challenging as it is now. Hybrid and remote working models were always on the rise, but the pandemic has only accelerated these trends. With so many employees now embracing hybrid working, traditional office chats over your morning coffee, pop-ins and in-person socialising have become a rarity.
With so many teams now dispersed and, in some cases, across the globe in different time zones, how do business leaders develop and leverage effective strategies to build and foster better collaboration?
Phil Simon is a globally renowned author, speaker, and workplace technology guru. Having penned 14 books, most recently The Nine: The Tectonic forces Reshaping the Workplace three of which have won awards, we sat down with Phil to discuss how to foster enhanced collaboration in the workplace through technology. You’ll also find top tips and advice from Phil at the end of this article, invaluable for those looking to tackle this growing issue.
For digital workers, flicking between multiple systems daily has become an inescapable of work – hitting control + T on your desktop comes as naturally as blinking. It’s easy to see how we got here. As a business evolves, its needs alter, and new programs are implemented to address these. Research by Harvard Business Review studied 137 workers, across 20 teams, from Fortune 500 companies and found that employees switch between systems 1,200 a day! This means that these workers spend just under 4 hours each week rerouting themselves to a new application.
And with most employees working 100% remotely during the pandemic, they learned to operate in a virtual work environment. Collaboration tools become the lifeblood of businesses. They saw a 263% rise in market value alone, with Microsoft adding 36 million users to their Teams platform between March and April 2020.
Tech companies aim to solve everyday problems that we encounter. If the technology on offer will greatly reduce the number of steps involved in solving a problem, it will thrive. And with hybrid working set to stay, collaboration tools are set to some of the biggest beneficiaries of this.
Phil notes that collaboration tools like Teams and Slack have become indispensable for modern workplaces. These platforms offer more than just instant messaging or video conferencing: they are evolving into intelligent hubs for collaboration. They are becoming smarter, and more integrated with various organisation-wide applications.
If one vendor introduces a valuable feature, other vendors often integrate it into their platforms as well. This competitive integration landscape leads to improved functionality and a more seamless experience for users. These integrations can help reduce the need for external automation tools like Zapier, allowing for more native and effortless collaboration. Ultimately, the goal is to facilitate smoother communication and collaboration within teams. And by enhancing the capabilities of our existing collaboration tools, we can contribute to more effective teamwork and communication in the workplace, as well as removing the need to work across multiple systems.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has taken the world by storm in recent years. Certainly, companies globally utilise AI technology to automate processes, but those that do only see short-lived productivity enhancements. Because AI isn’t intended to replace humans. Research by Harvard found that businesses achieve the greatest benefits when AI and humans work together.
Recent developments in AI have led to the integration of AI assistance in collaboration tools to power chatbots that enhance communication channels and productivity. According to Phil, AI can play a significant role in identifying potential issues early on. For instance, if someone is disengaging from communication channels or not participating in discussions, it can provide valuable insights, enabling proactive intervention to address any concerns.
The collaboration between humans and AI enhances one and other’s complementary strengths: leadership, teamwork, creativity, social skills, speed, and scalability. What comes naturally to us, is tricky for a computer, and what’s easy for computers, remains complex for us. In today’s digital-first landscape, businesses require both kinds of capabilities to remain competitive.
Phil also notes that AI is well-placed to enhance collaboration through immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). With more and more of us opting for flexible working options, the integration of AI into collaboration tools is a transformative trend. These tools are quickly poised to become more intelligent, efficient, and user-friendly, which will ultimately foster better workplace collaboration and could change how we work altogether.
In a world where digital tools and platforms are abundant, centralisation acts as the single source of truth, the lighthouse that guides teams towards smoother, more efficient collaboration.
Phil emphasizes the importance of centralisation in modern workplace collaboration. It promotes efficiency, consistency and enhanced decision-making. Achieving centralisation through collaboration tools is essential for streamlining communication and improving overall team efficiency. It creates a single source of truth, keeping all communication and knowledge in one hub, eliminating the need for multiple tools and scattered information.
He also notes that centralised tools excel in integrations. They focus on connecting with other apps and services that teams rely on daily. These integrations facilitate the smooth transfer of data and information between a variety of tools in an integrated ecosystem where teams can thrive, focusing on their tasks rather than navigating the maze of tools and information sources.
Implementing and adopting any new tool can be challenging. Resistance to change is a common hurdle that businesses need to overcome when looking to implement new technology.
Even with the potential efficiency gains, Phil notes that businesses and individuals alike often resist the adoption of new technology. As individuals, we are wary of change, often clinging to existing technologies. Modern humans are creatures of habit, and the resistance often stems from the fear of the unknown, concerns about increased complexity and a reluctance to break established routines.
To address this, it's crucial for businesses to clearly communicate and educate their workforce about the advantages. Phil even suggests that involving employees in the decision-making process and gathering their input can help reduce resistance, as people tend to be more accepting when they have a voice in the changes. If the end-user has a direct say in the process of researching and implementing a new tool, it will lead to increased adoption and maximum utilisation.
Additionally, gradual implementation and comprehensive training programs can help employees build confidence and competence with the new tools, making the transition smoother.
Emails are one of the most common forms of workplace communication, and while new forms of collaboration tools are designed to reduce the need for dependency on email, emails won’t completely disappear. Modern tools like Teams and Slack act as a central hub, offering real-time conversations, file sharing and the ability to collaborate on projects within a centralised platform.
Phil emphasizes that internal email usage can decrease significantly as more conversations and document sharing occur within these collaboration tools. Gone are the days of searching long email chains for information. These modern tools streamline communication and reduce delays and inefficiencies while improving organisation and enhancing search capitalise. On top of increased productivity, it also promotes more effective and efficient collaboration among employees.
Building a strong and collaborative in-house legal team has never been more critical, yet it has also never been so challenging. But in-house legal teams are at a loggerhead, there is a need for them to improve collaboration with other departments and communicate the value of legal services to the wider business and demonstrate value. Yet, 81% of respondents from our Legal Disrupters Survey agreeing that low-value, administrative tasks such as contract reviews dominate their daily workload, leaving little time for high-value work.
Summize is a Contract Lifecycle Management solution that incorporates contract workflows into Teams and Slack – collaboration tools that your business uses every day. This approach to CLM centralises contract workflows across the business, making them useful and useable.
We still facilitate the end-to-end contract lifecycle, from requests to repository, but we do it in a way to makes contracts useable to the entire business and not just the legal department. There’s minimal end-user training as it mirrors existing work environments, and legal teams are guarded from frequent manual requests – a win-win scenario!
As Phil Simon suggests, embracing change and staying informed about emerging technologies are essential steps for businesses seeking to thrive in this digital age. By embracing intelligent collaboration tools, integrating AI assistance, centralising communication, and staying adaptable, organizations can pave the way for more effective and efficient collaboration.