The hope & dream for the future of cloud-based collaboration tools is underpinned by the notion that we all would effectively work collaboratively, if only we had the proper tools available to us at all times, i.e. when in the cloud.
This notion is based on some assumptions which have yet to become reality. The myth in the story is that at present, we do not collaborate for many reasons, not just because we did not have the perfect tool to collaborate with everyone.
What’s the Myth?I
In essence, the myth is that many organizations do not yet meet the prerequisites for successful usage of collaborative software. I can see four pre-requisites which must be met for cloud-based collaboration:
1. Collaboration has to be part of an organization’s culture, and feature employee reward-structures that underpin collaborative behavior. Your organization would have a culture whereby collaboration and team-results would be encouraged & rewarded in monetary and non-monetary terms.
There are several layers of culture, from micro, departmental culture to your overall corporate culture, in the context of the wider national culture. The predominant culture of your organization has to be collaborative before collaborative tools will be used by its employees. If internal competition is the modus operandus instead of collaboration, as has been typical for US business organizations for decades, cloud-based collaboration tools may be left unused/ remain under-utilized. Cloud-based collaboration tools must include features that meet the needs of local cultural variances. For an American firm that might be group KPI with target vs. score measurement, whereas for a Japanese firm that might be video conferencing.
2. Companies must deploy the collaboration cloud-based service with the right features. In contrast to the US’s business environment, in Japan, culturally, reaching group consensus is a prerequisite for business success. Collaboration tools could work well in this environment, but it’s not foolproof either. Why? Asian cultures say as much with their subtle information, such as body language & other non-verbal communication, as with black/white text, or speech. For cloud-based collaboration tools to work, it must include features like anonymous polls for working parties, as well as video teleconferencing abilities for all members of the group.
3. Companies must educate its employees so that they are clear as to how to use cloud-based collaboration tools. When I talk about education here, I do not mean training on the software features here. I mean communicating how the systems, procedures and processes within the organization a to be based upon the use of these collaboration tools. Roles and responsibilities are defined and the use of the cloud-based collaboration tools has be specified. Collaboration tools can only be effectively used if the rules of the games are clearly defined.
4. While this sounds obvious to any business manager, in reality the implementation of this notion is not that obvious. Existing business processes have been previously supported by other software & business tools, prior to the availability of new cloud-based computing. We would not call these prior tools outright ‘collaboration tools’, but things like project management software, email, but also boardroom meetings, phones, memos, reports, the water cooler and the grapevine form a collection of tools to sort out work flow issues and getting the job done. Normal business processes use all these modes of communication & collaboration. Therefore, there has to be a distinct advantage to migrate to using cloud-based collaboration tools, and the desirability of this has to be clearly communicated throughout the firm.
Adoption of cloud-based collaboration tools are best to be adopted progressively, applying the 80/20 rule of focusing first on corporate trouble spots in strategically important processes which would benefit from enhance collaboration. Management must device a strategy that migrates particularly such non-functioning communication methods to the use of cloud-based collaboration tools.
This means that for initial pilot projects of cloud-based collaboration, scope of use, roles, responsibilities and processes are clearly defined in the implementation planning of such cloud-based collaboration pilots. And as they are pilots, someone must set KPI, measure implementation success and take corrective measure till all would work smoothly. Then, a case can be made for corporate roll-out. Not an overnight thing.
Only when these four prerequisites are met can cloud-based collaboration tools be effective and lead to a competitive advantage.