On June 12th, I participated in a “Tweet Chat” about collaboration. It was a first for me and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It turned out nicely, though, and I am happy that I was invited. I learned a lot from the other panelists and all the people that took time to tweet with us.
The format was simple. The moderators at PowerOfCollaboration asked ten questions spread out over an hour. Each question was designed to bring out different aspects of unified communications and collaboration. Since this is the world I immerse myself in, I had a lot of fun answering, responding to other folk’s answers, and thinking about the many different points of view.
After letting everything digest for a bit, I’ve decided to return to the questions and provide a few more thoughts that exceed Twitter’s 140 character limit.
Working from any device anywhere in the world? How can we better collaborate in an increasingly mobile world?
Users need to be free to use the device(s) and medium(s) of their choice. I work with people who hate talking on the telephone and would much rather send an instant message or text than dial a telephone number. Personally, I can tolerate short spurts of text messages, but after a sentence of two, I need to use my voice. Collaboration is best when we offer choices that allow users to easily move between one form of communication and another.
Next, collaboration tools must be easy to use. If you need to read an entire user’s manual to understand how to create a video call, you will not make one. Good technology should not require an engineering degree to use it.
Presence is essential to successful collaboration. Better yet, aggregated presence is necessary to unify the states of a user’s different devices and applications into a single state. It’s not enough to say that Andrew isn’t on his telephone so he is available to talk. He may be on a video call or his calendar might say that he is out of the office on vacation. Aggregated presence can express Andrew’s true status in a single icon.
Collaboration applications need to adjust to different operating environments. My office LAN has a lot more horsepower than a 3G or 4G connection. A good application is one that offers a choice of codecs. Even better, it dynamically adjusts between codecs based on network conditions.
Lastly, as with nearly every aspect of collaboration, security is essential and needs to be built in from the ground up. Only a fool would open up his or her conversations to the world and unless you take the necessary steps to authenticate users and encrypt media and signaling, that’s exactly what you would be doing.
Desktop sharing, video-conferencing, real-time feedback – how is collaboration making us even more productive?
Work is not a place I go. It’s something I do and I need to be able to do it from anywhere that makes sense to me. That might be a desk at my company’s office, but more often than not it’s my kitchen table, a hotel room, or an airport.
Additionally, I work across just about every time zone in the world. My immediate coworkers live in every time zone in the United States and I often deal with people across the world. Consider my friends at AudioCodes. I’ve gotten to the point where I can translate Israel Time to Central Standard Time in my head.
My work groups are global and real-time collaboration doesn’t bind my productivity to a geography, time zone, or communications format.
How do collaboration tools help you achieve a good work-life balance?
A rewarding personal life is not the enemy of a productive work life. In fact, success in one leads to success in the other. The opposite is also true. Personal problems overflow into work and vice versa.
Collaboration tools help me find balance in my complicated life. Working from nontraditional settings provides me with flexible time management. This freedom to choose allows me to be productive at work as well as tend to responsibilities outside the office walls.
I have lots of things that I need to do on a daily and weekly basis. Good collaboration tools help me create schedules that meet the needs of everyone – wife, children, coworkers, customers, and boss.
Telecommuting & working from home – how is collaboration changing our corporate culture?
I have to go back to presence with this one. As work groups become geographically disperse, it is essential that we are able to “see” what our coworkers are doing. Since we can’t just peer over a cube wall, those presence icons become our eyes and ears into the workplace.
I know to not call my boss if his presence shows him in a Do Not Disturb state. Instead, I will send him an email that he can get to once he comes back up for air. The same goes for me. My presence changes throughout the day giving my fellow team member a view into my availability no matter where I might be.
Also, as companies spread themselves out across the world, video becomes essential. Video check-in adds a personal touch that cannot be achieved with voice, email, or instant message. As humans, we do better when we can see who we are working with. Work bonds grow stronger and productivity rises.
Working with the best & most suited talent world-wide – how is collaboration changing your recruiting?
The obvious answer is that we need to find and hire the best and brightest no matter where they might be found. This is especially true with specialized talents that are hard to find even in large metropolitan areas. If the best digital media designer can only be found in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and she has no desire to move to your office in Akron, Ohio, you have two choices. You hire the best or you go with something lesser because he or she is willing to move.
The less obvious answer might be this. Millennials have grown up in a world of social media and immersive communications. This is what they have in their personal lives and this is what they expect in their working lives. They have grown up in a collaborative, sharing environment. Their education is work group oriented and they are accustomed to non-voice communications.
If you want to assimilate these talented young people into your organization, you need to provide them with the tools that will allow them to be successful in the ways that are most natural to them.
There were more questions and answers, but I will stop here and save the rest for part two. As always, thank you for reading. An extra set of thanks goes out to those of you that participated in CollabChat. I hope to “see” you the next time I am asked to tweet.