Is Your Communications Technology Framework a Patchwork or Tapestry? Why It Matters.
A research study conducted by Filigree Consulting in July 2012 found that only 3% of organizations have developed an optimized corporate collaborative environment. Equally surprising is that 72% of organizations have either “Non-Integrated” or “Unsupported” environments. Putting thought into your environment’s design and strategy is key to maximizing efficiency.
The benefits of an optimized Corporate Collaborative Ecosystem (CCE) for the 3% are significant. These organizations are seeing:
- An accelerated rate of innovation (3.1x)
- Faster & more informed decision making (2.3x)
- Meeting productivity (length, participant satisfaction) (2.2x)
- Enhanced customer experience (2x)
- Increased individual productivity (1.8x)
- Reduced environmental impact (1.7x)
- Improved information quality (1.6x)
- Reduced travel cost (1.6x)
All CEOs would find these statistics mouth watering. So why are 3 out of 4 organizations living with unsupported or non-integrated CCEs?
How Did We Get Here? Connectivity – the Great Unifier
If you look at the historical development of technology in an organization there were three different classes of technology:
- Information Technology
- Audio Visual
These technologies enjoyed rapid expansion and have become the standard in organizational functions. These historical roots are important because each of these technologies was once an island of technology within the organization. As the capability of each of these technologies increased, one of the obvious and universal requirements was to allow more people to connect to them. Greater connectivity!
- Users of IT services want access to data from any place, at any time.
- Users of Telecom technology, whose fundamental premise relied on connectivity to enhance their ability to communicate, want to communicate from any place with anyone at anytime. They also want a richer way to communicate than just using voice.
- Users of AV technology, primarily room systems in a corporate environment, need to add connectivity to expand the capability to include remote users in their meetings and to evolve the richness of the collaborative experience as well.
Connectivity enablers such as the network, the Internet, Wi-Fi, wireless carriers, Bluetooth and so many more, have changed the world. Connectivity has provided us with capabilities we could only have found in a Sci-fi movie. This has become a disruption of our personal lives.
Connectivity has also been a major, if not the major catalyst for disruption in industries and in politics.
Patchwork to Tapestry
As connectivity has increased over the past decade, the three technology “islands” are forced to unite into one framework. [Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog for more info on a framework] The degree to which an organization has been able to move to a single unified framework where all the technologies harmoniously exist will determine where they are on the journey to an “Optimized” CCE. Filigree’s study indicates that most organizations have not even started this journey.
Every organization has an existing state of these technologies – their current state CCE. This current state is often in disarray because of the historical development of the three different islands of technology described above. The problems can be further compounded by the following factors:
- Distributed corporate model: Technology decisions are made independently throughout the organization at the divisional level.
- History of acquisition: An organization that has grown through acquisition tends to have many different technology platforms even within the historical islands of technology.
The bottom line is that more often than not, an organization is starting from a patchwork of technologies.
The carrot that hangs out alluringly for CEOs is to capture the numerous benefits (ROI) from an “Opitimized Collaborative Environment” with a comprehensive and cohesive Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) strategy.
To do that, the patchwork needs to be transformed into a tapestry.
This task is similar to efforts that many organizations have gone through for other large scale technology standards. If you think about the journey to a single Enterprise Resource Platform, like SAP, there is a lot of effort required but the payoff can be big. Moving to an optimized collaborative environment requires some of the same factors for success, as the implementation of a corporate ERP system.
- Executive sponsorship
- Key functional executive buy-in (or the silos will persist)
- A roadmap for the transformation
- End User adoption (this includes employee buy-in as well)
- Investment to facilitate the transformation
The interesting thing about moving to an optimized CCE is that your organization can capture the significant ROI that is available, but the overall technology spend after the implementation should stay about the same or go down.
Questions We Are Often Asked Include:
- How does my organization’s collaborative environment rate?
- How do I move my organization down the path to an optimized CCE?
If your organization would like to answer these questions and would like to start the journey from the 72% to the 3%, we can help. Contact us.
Does Too Much Collaboration at Work Hurt Productivity?
Most Workers Struggle to Work Effectively.
According to the global architecture and design company, Gensler, who recently released their 2013 US Workplace Survey, most workers struggle to work effectively. A Toronto paper picked up the story with a headline stating, “Too much collaboration at work hurts productivity.” Does this mean that your organization should not strive for more collaboration?
No. It means that if you don’t strike the right balance, it can lead to unwanted and potentially negative results. Finding the right design for a collaboration workspace the right way is key to finding this equilibrium.
Getting it Wrong. Then Getting it Right.
Malcolm Gladwell illustrates an example of the advertising agency TBWAChiatDay in his New Yorker article Designs for Working. He cites, “The firm had been engaged in a radical, and in some ways disastrous, experiment with a “nonterritorial” office: no one had a desk or any office equipment of his own. It was a scheme that courted failure by neglecting all the ways in which an office is a sort of neighbourhood.
By contrast, their new office is an almost perfect embodiment of Jacobsian principles of community. The agency is in a huge old warehouse, three stories high and the size of three football fields. It is informally known as Advertising City, and that’s what it is: a kind of artfully constructed urban neighbourhood. … Sprinkled throughout the building are meeting rooms and project areas and plenty of nooks where employees can closet themselves when they need to.”
An Effective Balance Between Order and Chaos is Required.
Steve Johnson, author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”, comments on the TBWAChiatDay first new office.
“By all accounts it was a colossal failure, precisely because it traded excessive order for excessive chaos … To work in an open office is to work exclusively in public, which it turns out to have just as many drawbacks as working entirely in your private lab.”
The Concept of Liquid Networks for Getting the Right Balance.
Johnson’s book introduces the concept of “Liquid Networks” as a metaphor for the right balance. Liquid, as opposed to gaseous or solid. A gaseous network is too volatile, the chaos referred to above, and a solid network is too ridged to sustain idea flow.
Johnson cites the work of Kevin Dunbar, McGill University psychologist indicates, “Even with all the advanced technology of a leading molecular biology lab, the most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans at a table, talking shop. The lab meeting creates an environment where new combinations can occur, where information can spill over from one project to another. When you work alone in an office, peering into a microscope, your ideas can get trapped in place, stuck in your own initial biases. The social flow of the group conversation turns that private solid into a liquid network.”
Dunbar’s generative conference room meetings remind us that the physical architecture of our work environments can have a transformative effect on the quality of our ideas.
“The quickest way to freeze a liquid network is to stuff people into private offices behind closed doors, which is one reason so many Web-era companies have designed their work environments around common spaces where casual mingling and interdepartmental chatter happens without any formal planning.”
Back to the Gladwell article …
“But when employees sit chained to their desks, quietly and industriously going about their business, an office is not functioning as it should. That’s because innovation—the heart of the knowledge economy—is fundamentally social. Ideas arise as much out of casual conversations as they do out of formal meetings. More precisely, as one study after another has demonstrated, the best ideas in any workplace arise out of casual contacts among different groups within the same company. [Johnson’s Liquid Network] …
Innovation comes from the interactions of people at a comfortable distance from one another, neither too close nor too far. …
The catch is that getting people in an office to bump into people from another department is not so easy as it looks.”
Johnson says that,
“… if there is a single maxim through [his] book’s arguments, it is that we are better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them. … Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete.”
Or, simply put – to be more innovative you have to be more collaborative. You need to put yourself in a position where you are bumping into, colliding with and spilling into other people’s perspectives and ideas. Because doing so will trigger new thoughts and ideas that you wouldn’t explore in isolation.
The Gensler study goes on to say that, “… focus and collaboration are complementary work modes. … We know that both focus and collaboration are crucial to the success of any organization in today’s economy.” In a balanced workplace, the employees thrive.
4 Different Modes of Working.
A Steelcase white paper, “How the workplace can improve collaboration”, June 2010, talks about a shift in the nature of work from more individual focused to more collaboration focused.
“Among the key findings was validation that a fundamental shift has occurred: most work today is done in collaboration with others versus individually. Moreover, rather than it being a segmented activity done in designated destinations such as a conference room, collaboration
is now almost constant and it threads throughout the entire workday. It occurs at desks, in hallways, in team spaces, on smart phones and via the Internet, and it’s often spontaneous and informal versus planned in advance. When the workspace is designed to fully support the new realities of collaboration, better learning, more innovation and faster decision-making can result.”
The white paper goes on to say that its study has revealed that people actually need 4 different modes of working:
- Focus Time
- Collaboration Time
The mix will depend on who you are and what you do. The balance of the 4 modes will vary.
How do remote workers fit into this “Collaboration soup”?
Part 2, we explore whether being in the same physical space is critical to increasing collaboration.
If you would like further information on how to obtain the right balance of various working modes for your organization, please contact us.
What Type of Space Do You Need for the Workplace?
Your Connected Path to the Future
We recently completed a consulting engagement to align the UC technology and room systems technology of a large organization. Strategically, we delivered a comprehensive roadmap to align their diverse technologies and move them forward with a cohesive UC&C framework. This in turn would set them up for significant opportunities to capture long term ROI from operational, procedural and strategic sources.
And then, they had a re-organization.
New Challenges Arising From a Re-Org
All of a sudden, the new Executive in charge of IT Infrastructure had a lot on his plate and the execution of the UC&C Roadmap was just a small piece.
The client didn’t have time to:
- Absorb the material
- Review the recommendations or
- Understand the roadmap and the strategic impact it could have on his organization.
Immediate operational decisions were required that impacted the long term UC&C direction. And he didn’t have time to build a relationship of trust with the consultants that had laid out the future roadmap for the organization.
Saving Your Way Into the Future?
Like all of us who are faced with making decisions constrained by limited time and looming deadlines, he had to rely on what he knew.
He started to eliminate strategic elements of the technology for the Room System standards because he didn’t understand why they were required or how they fit in. He thought he knew what was important, because he’s been in IT for 25+ years.
With the challenges in front of him, he planned to “save” his way into the future.
Over the last dozen years, often the business method of coping with change is to cut expenses. This is especially true in large organizations where a change in direction is slow to take effect. Cutting expenses on the other hand is quick to put in place.
But this is a slippery slope that’s hard to get off once you’re on it and it certainly won’t put your organization on the path to innovation and “Blue Oceans”.
Macro Market Trends
There are two current macro trends that I feel historians will look back at and use to define our time in history.
- The pace of change has gone exponential. We are at an inflection point in the rate of change and the impact is profound. You have to innovate to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of the inevitable – change. Gary Hamel has done some compelling work showing why we can’t do things the way we used to.
- The end of the Industrial Age and the beginning of the Connection Economy. Seth Godin writes about this. This shift is having a profound impact on businesses as things change.
ET Group helps organizations become more connected so they can better collaborate and innovate.
To do this effectively requires an understanding of how different disciplines or business offerings interact and come together as the nature of how we work changes.
The Workplace Of The Future
Meeting rooms are where workspace and technology really come together. Room systems must be effective places to meet where both the physical and virtual world intersect seamlessly. They must contain the right mix of conferencing technologies to enable the required level of collaboration and this will naturally lead to innovation.
The figure on the right shows the different disciplines that have always been separate, yet related and are now critically connected.
As the world changes, how is your business space requirements changing? After people costs, space costs are often the second most significant operational cost requirements of a business.
- How much space do you need?
- How will your space change?
- How can technology enable operational savings, productivity and strategic innovation?
Note: The importance of organizational culture and the need to focus on users and adoption for any significant change you introduce to your organization is not being discounted. This is a fundamental requirement.
Rethink Your Collaboration Workspace
We created this Infographic that highlights some interesting stats about the changing nature of work and how companies are adapting by:
- Adding more “We Space”
- Moving to smaller more efficient spaces
- Supporting alternative work strategies
To do this effectively and enable people to remotely collaborate, your room systems technology must align with your workers personal technology or a UC&C strategy. Note that 72% of people STILL come into the office to collaborate.
This is true whether your organization has 3 or 3,000 meeting rooms.
Meeting rooms are a scarce resource. Meeting rooms are an important part of your organization’s collaborative capabilities.
Are your rooms ready to conduct business in the Connection Economy? We can help design the perfect space for hybrid work – contact us.