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Six steps to successful collaboration

July 26, 2019

Paul McMillan   

Digital Workplace Lead

In a continuously competitive world, it is important to ensure we are still able to work together. Paul McMillan shares his thoughts on what it takes to make collaborations fruitful for everyone.

Everyone agrees: collaboration is key to becoming a digital business.

According to the Wainhouse Research in their 2017 End-user Video Conferencing Survey, there’s been a 50% increase in collaborative intensity in the workplace over the last 10 years. 97% of businesses believe technology-enabled workplace collaboration is key to competitive advantage – hardly surprising when 90% of a knowledge worker’s time is spent in meetings, messaging or on the phone.

“Yet, despite its importance, companies still struggle to make collaborative projects work.”

McKinsey research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Oxford, found that on average, large IT projects (over $15 million) run 45% over budget and 7% over time. They also deliver 56%  less value than predicted.

A separate 2018 study by Forrester reported in Forbes found that 35% of enterprise projects fail to meet their original business intent.

So, what’s going wrong? And how can companies make sure their collaboration projects live up to expectations?

There are many factors at play, as we’ll see, but one stands out above all others.

“For collaboration to work you must focus first and foremost on your users – what they do and what they want.”

Understand how people want to use collaboration

Collaboration is never vanilla flavoured. The tasks people use it for vary considerably from industry to industry.

In the financial services sector, for example, companies use collaboration to inform branches about sales promotions, train staff remotely and broadcast morning briefings. They even use video chat to give high net worth clients the personal touch remotely.

In manufacturing, by contrast, the use cases are quite different. Here, collaboration is used to accelerate the design process across a dispersed R&D ecosystem, as well as coordinate with supply chain partners around the world.

Over in the film, TV and music industries, collaboration takes on yet another meaning. The product is digital content, so when companies collaborate, they’re actually sharing high definition video and audio files. User experience expectations are much higher and they need their collaboration service to support studio-quality sound and visuals.

Ask users about their preferences and expectations

Today there are a myriad of collaboration options – and not everyone wants to connect the same way.

Although Wainhouse Research states that 84% of knowledge workers carry a smartphone or tablet, only  15% like to use it to connect to video conferences. 14% tend to use a dedicated video conferencing system, but the biggest proportion (39%) connect via their desktop or laptop computer.

Companies need to ask their employees whether they want an app on their device or if they’d rather join from a huddle space or their desk. Senior executives may need the privacy of an immersive video conferencing suite, but other groups may not like using them. It’s important to understand the size of the groups that will come together either in informal huddle spaces or formal conference rooms, and whether they’ll make use of features like digital whiteboards if you provide them.

The results of this sort of research can be surprising. One of our clients, the civil engineering company Gammon, installed a new corporate network to all its construction sites that could support modern collaboration techniques. Instead of doing project reviews every few months face to face, to everyone’s surprise, they started doing them weekly using video conferencing.

“Employees watched incredulously as we connected projects by video,” A.P. Kamath, Group Head of IT, told us. “It has changed the way we work, allowing our people to connect with each other more effectively.” It’s also cut travel costs for the company by an impressive 30%.

Follow our methodology for success

Drawing on our vast experience implementing all kinds of collaboration services for many of the world’s leading organisations, Tata Communications has developed a reliable, six-step methodology to deliver a successful project.

Step 1: Set your collaboration strategy based on user experience – make sure you know what your overall business vision is and set a collaboration strategy that aligns with it.

Step 2: Assess, develop and adopt – talk to end users about what they do and develop use cases for different industries, job functions and demographic groups.

Step 3: Select the right technology and provider – opt for a technology platform that will meet the use cases and user experience expectations you’ve identified. Select a provider who can integrate the new technology with what you already have.

Step 4: Finalise your plan – be sure to include metrics of how you intend to measure success and return on investment.

Step 5: Beta testing – test your use case scenarios, develop a training and adoption plan, and carry out readiness assessments of systems and security.

Step 6: Launch – implement your adoption plan, tell people about the new service, show them what it can do, and encourage them to use it.

See our full collaboration project methodology in this infographic.

This is why many companies work with collaboration experts

It’s clear there’s much more to collaboration than simply buying some technology or signing up to a SaaS offering. This is why so many organisations turn to a leading provider of global digital infrastructure services to ensure their collaboration strategy succeeds.

“The right experts can help you achieve a correct alignment between business vision and collaboration strategy, understand user experience expectations and define use cases.” 

They are also able to efficiently integrate new technology with what you already have, and provide all the other elements – such as cloud, networking and security – on which collaboration depends.

Critically, adoption is managed so that your people actually use the services you provide, and you achieve your target return on investment. The beauty of leveraging services like these is that you can focus on what’s important  – your business.

Learn more about the technology that can improve your collaboration.