Two years into the pandemic, organizations need to accept that it’s time to ditch temporary solutions and invest in digital collaboration tools that actively generate value. And that means going beyond ad-hoc upgrades that support one team or a specific process.
Everything is connected. And as such, improving collaboration needs to happen on a holistic level that considers the impact on all stakeholders from IT and the C-suite to every member of every department to your clients and your clients’ clients.
Put another way, collaboration initiatives should center around empowering all stakeholder groups to communicate seamlessly and achieve critical objectives.
Below, we look at how firms can use technology to redefine how they engage, collaborate, and stay aligned around shared goals.
Enabling Collaboration That Supports Strategic Goals
Internally, enabling collaboration is about removing barriers to critical data, files, and institutional knowledge, and embedding critical tools into the flow of daily work.
You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for users to access data, locate files, and communicate with clients and colleagues without the disruption of switching between apps and screens. That might mean developing self-service resources that help users find answers to their own questions (like the Power Apps Newsfeed we use internally), easily log hours and expenses, or automating manual processes like approval flows.
Keep in mind, however, that driving these improvements means performing a comprehensive audit of your entire system – and all of the processes within it – and using end-user feedback to identify and improve them.
It’s also important to coordinate information flows across the distributed workforce. One of the biggest pitfalls of remote work is that it can exacerbate issues caused by data silos and limited access to resources.
You might embrace a hybrid approach — combining accessible real-time communication (meetings, chats, video calls) with asynchronous communication (detailed documentation, email recaps. etc.).
A recent article from Futurum Research points out that there’s a lot of work that goes into curating “organic” virtual experiences that we don’t necessarily think about when we’re planning to meet in-person.
While the article centers around designing experiences for the metaverse, the advice applies across all virtual interactions — be it a webinar, an AR product demo, a virtual training, or a remote sales presentation. Essentially, someone needs to be working behind the scenes to orchestrate seamless interactions. Think — grouping participants into different breakout rooms or providing clear instructions for speaking, asking questions, or muting their mics. The article also suggests taking a page out of the Web 1.0 playbook, installing a chatroom-style moderator who can guide the conversation and field questions.
Deloitte did something similar in an effort to “elevate the human experience” for three main groups: its talent, its clients, and its clients’ customers. The consulting firm built a dedicated “digital dream team” responsible for gathering data they could use to drive actions that would improve the employee experience and in turn, help them deliver better outcomes for clients. The “dream team” worked behind the scenes to provide more educational opportunities, elevate the voices of junior employees, and develop more transparent communications.
Enabling external collaboration with clients is often trickier – and with much higher stakes.
Because profitability literally hinges effective communication and interpersonal relationships, supporting fluid communication — regardless of channel — is an urgent priority for service-based firms. Fluidity happens organically in face-to-face settings due to cues like body language and eye contact— whereas virtual interactions are harder to navigate because those cues don’t quite translate on-screen. So, again, you’ll need to think about how to orchestrate smooth interactions.
It’s easy to get distracted by all the new collaboration tools just coming onto the scene. But – collaboration is ultimately about making things easier for end-users – whether that’s sales, finance, or your clients and partners on the outside. The tech itself is only an enabler. As such, it’s important to first define your objectives, gather feedback from actual end-users, and put together a plan before investing in a bunch of whiteboard apps and VR headsets no one will use.
Velosio’s Microsoft experts have decades of experience working with professional services firms of all shapes and sizes. Contact us today to learn more about our industry-specific solutions and how they enable better collaboration — on your terms.