The Evolution Of Teamwork: From Knowing To Sharing (Part 3)

How to streamline internal team operations and communications to make daily tasks more collaborative, engaging, and efficient for teams of any size.

Culture and technology are the two factors that primarily have shaped the world we live in today. When compared with the world 15 years ago to the world today, it’s nearly unrecognizable.

The workplace is no different. Culturally, a shift has occurred from an environment where employees were valued for what they knew and the skill sets they brought to the table to one where value is based on what they share. In other words, the traditional mindset among many employees was that job security meant having unique, yet critical knowledge and skill sets to be deemed “indispensable.” In 2016, with the volume of information and the various mediums available to access it growing at warp speed, this behavior increasingly is becoming a thing of the past.

Because of the shift in culture and the influx of data available at our fingertips, employees now exhibit a greater willingness to share so others recognize them as a reliable source of information. While the biggest drivers behind this trend are debatable, there is no doubting one major area that has been affected by this dramatic shift: collaboration. As organizations shift their focus to team-driven results, employees are forced to adapt through new technologies that enable greater, more efficient teamwork. 

Collaboration in the workplace also has undergone a major shift from a technological standpoint. Information still needs to be shared across teams where not everyone is located within the same office place. To facilitate and encourage collaboration among employees, new technologies provide the requisite capabilities needed to share information with colleagues around the globe or across the hall. Perhaps most importantly, the evolution of the Internet into a horizontal technology platform has facilitated collaboration in new ways—giving rise to the use of mobile devices from just about any corner of the globe. These technologies have enabled teams to break down physical walls and bridge geographies efficiently without compromising organizational collaboration.

Reducing Barriers with Collaboration Tools

To facilitate work streams, teams need to communicate consistently and effectively to work toward common goals. Geographic location is often one of the largest influences on team productivity. Today’s organizational infrastructure needs to limit downtime and reduce frictions. Mobile employees need the support to make them feel (and act) like they are continuously engaged with the broader team. Collaboration solutions, such as Web-based meetings and videoconferencing, enable this by creating a virtual business environment where tasks can be shared, meetings conducted “face to face,” and work completed in a seamless manner.

There are also several tangential benefits associated with collaboration technologies. At IBM, for example, there is a noticeable correlation between collaboration and innovation: The more effectively people collaborate with each other, the more tangible impacts on innovation outcomes.

Analytics and Cognitive Computing’s Impact on Collaboration Technologies

Collaboration apps such as instant messaging are fundamental in helping employees connect with each other in real time. While this is a clear benefit for remote workers, there is also a downside: creating too many interruptions. Take an employee’s e-mail as an example: An employee likely receives multiple e-mails a day containing the same question. That’s where analytics and cognitive computing can offer significant advantages. Cognitive and analytics-driven technologies can help identify content and interactions taking place among employees or customers and suggest value-enhancing actions. Cognitive bots could be capable of resurfacing information in real time as conversations to help educate individuals and recognize opportunities for improvements. By allowing technology to learn the necessary information, it then can help reduce the amount of time employees spend on the same menial tasks so they can focus on more thoughtful tasks.

Organizations that are able to leverage these game-changing technologies are closest to creating a more efficient, collaborative work environment for their employees.

Emerging Technologies

While analytics and cognitive computing are helping both teams and individuals within an organization become more productive, other technologies poised to make an impact on teamwork are not far down the road. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), for example, will be essential components of collaboration moving forward for their ability to bridge the physical and digital worlds. Currently, companies are working together to create meeting rooms that unite geographically separated teams. Additionally, some technologies, such as voice and video, still have some untapped components that need to be leveraged. In five to 10 years, audio-only will be a thing of the past.

This is an era of great advancements in the collaboration space—bringing the next level of corporate cultures. As a next step, employers need to focus on mastering analytics driven and cognitive technologies to help workers prioritize more urgent work streams and reduce noise.

Ed Brill is vice president of Product Management and Design for IBM Collaboration Solutions. Products and solutions in his portfolio include IBM Verse, IBM Connections, and IBM Connections Cloud. Brill also has held leadership positions in sales, marketing, strategy, and offerings throughout his 22-year IBM career. He is one of IBM’s leading online voices and authored the book, “Opting In: Lessons in Social Business,” an Amazon bestseller.