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The Value

14th August 2015

Digital collaboration may not be new but 2015’s attitude to it could be.

Much has been written about the benefits collaborative working can bring and how the digital environment empowers it. We won’t restate that here. However some organisations remain nervous about letting the ‘social’ genie out of the workplace bottle.

So following the recent Institute for Collaborative Working conference on 'Collaborative Working in the Digital Economy' we look at five ways attitudes, technology and support are changing to make 2015 the year the online alliance took off.

Workforce attitude

For anyone under 30 who’s grown up in the Facebook era ‘social’ working is the obvious way to exchange ideas. To Millennials the hierarchical cascade model of communication seems perverse as can going up and down the food chain for permission to act. Internally large organisations are seeing the makeup of their workforce shift to this age group, externally they watch small, Millennially-populated companies disrupting their business model and doing it in fast, agile, networked ways. The push for collaborative working has moved from a top-down imposition sometimes resisted by employees to a bottom up ‘why can’t we work like this?’

A guide to how business can share successfully

BS11000 is the British Standard for collaborative working. Emerging in recent years from the efforts of the UK’s Institute for Collaborative Working it sets out best principles for how businesses can interact, across sectors and at any size. It helps organisations dodge the pitfalls that derail collaborative projects. BS11000 is structured around eight stages, from awareness of how the relationship will fit business objectives, through internal assessment and partner selection to managing an exit strategy. By 2016 it will have become an International Standard - effectively establishing the UK as a collaborative working world leader.

Email - no longer fit for purpose?

Email has been with us for 40 years, but its days - as the primary internal communication for business at least - are finally numbered and a replacement is sorely needed.

  • It makes a poor collaborative tool
  • Sharing of documents often leads to multiple versions
  • It’s a closed system hard to search that fits poorly with today’s knowledge economy
  • It’s synonymous with overloaded inboxes and time wasting
  • Perhaps most significantly, it feels dated.

Even so email remains ubiquitous and interoperable so will undoubtedly survive in a new role, most likely preserved for communicating with the outside world. For a few more years, anyway.

You can now test the water at low cost

Digital collaboration tools are quickly dropping in price and while a company-wide installation is still a significant investment there are plenty of small scale alternatives that can be trialled at low cost, to explore features such as co-worker discussions, content management, instant messaging, status updates and more. Names like Slack, Jive and Yammer also offer high levels of integration with business systems, eliminating the clunkier cut-and-paste techniques earlier programmes relied on. There’s also Wrike, eXo, Chatter, Lync and a host of others.

Innovation - seizing the small moments

We think of innovation in terms of great strides forward, but most examples within business are small steps that add incremental value - exactly the process suited to quick, agile collaboration and ‘micro-moments’, those otherwise low value gaps in our day that mobile apps can unlock. Simply putting workers in constant touch with each other isn’t enough but increasingly managers are realising that collaborative skills - such as Working Out Loud - can be taught to knowledge workers to greatly enhance what social working tools can bring a company and its workforce.


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