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Stay Current With Collaboration Or Risk Productivity Loss


When I first blogged Exhaustion is a Major Barrier to Collaboration Adoption it was because of an internal reorganization.  Our VP asked if we were feeling tired with all the changes that we were experiencing and showed the video.  After watching it, I realized that whether it be concentrating on process changes or concentrating on how to use different technologies people become mentally exhausted when things are different.

This got me to thinking how sometimes a change in technology is rapidly adopted.  I wrote about this in a second blog The Consumerization of IT Can Lead to Rapid Technology Adoption in which technology newly deployed by IT is just catching up to what consumers are using at home.  Therefore, they don't have to think about using it and the mental exhaustion from change is not present.

Then I thought about how people are using certain collaboration technologies at home and when they come to work they have to use archaic means of collaboration.  Even though they are very familiar with these older technologies, they still have to think about how to use them because they're no longer the norm.  In other words, even though these business applications are "tried and true" they require a mental effort to use them.  The tools are there for modern collaboration, but they're not available.  It's as if you suddenly had to revert to using hand signals while driving.  You're directional is there, but it does nothing.  You have to be conscious to put your hand out the window and signal for left turn, right turn, slowing, and stopping.  Would you remember to use your hand signals?  Would you constantly flip the directional arm up or down only to be reminded that hand signals were necessary?  Even though you know hand signals and how to use them, it's not so easy to do.

This is where productivity is lost.  Your employees are using one set of technology at home.  A set of collaboration technologies that are rich in experience. That are versatile.  That are pervasive.  A set of technologies that are available across devices from a laptop to a tablet to a mobile phone.  It doesn't matter if it's instant messaging, information management, or video calling.  People have these capabilities at home and when they come to the office they want them.  Unfortunately, many times they have to remember they don't have them.  They have to rethink how they collaborate at work compared to home.  They know the technologies and tools, but they're different from the new norm.  We learned through the study "Why Change Is So Hard" that mental capacity is finite.  When people have to revert back to something that is older then the norm, they become exhausted and productivity drops.

You must understand what your people are using in their everyday life outside of work and put into action a plan to remain current with the norm for collaboration.  You don't want to be so ahead of the curve you exhaust the majority of your people by challenging them when come into work, but you can't afford to be so far behind the curve they are exhausted by using outdated work tools.  You have to have your finger on the pulse, but don't be afraid to survey your people to learn what tools they use most and are most comfortable with.  The answers may surprise you.


You brought up some excellent points that I've been trying to bring up to our management, I just never knew how to express it in an analogy like you did. Great points to consider.Thank you for posting this!!


Thank you, Kristen.  I'm glad you like the analogy.  It is a real challenge to have the enterprise technology capabilities meet the rate of adoption in the "consumerization of IT" world.  If management isn't understanding the intersection between the two, you may want to ask them what they're using in their personal live compared to what they're using at the office.  They may not realize the gap, because when it comes to work technologies "That's the way it's always been.".  Demonstrate the business value of having parity between the home and work environments and your case will be stronger.



Thank you for this article.  You raise some very good thoughts.  Keeping your “finger on the pulse” of a team’s collaboration methods is important, and any organization would do well to keep that in mind as they consider their way forward.  I’d like to follow-up with a few questions, if you don’t mind.

It seems that one of the assumptions made here is that people are using collaboration technologies at home that are well ahead of those used at work.  What data have you dawn upon to arrive at that conclusion?  While I’m sure that is true for many folks, is it true as a general rule? Is it the norm? I just don't know.  Not everyone is "wired", after all.  And since good data always helps in making good decisions about how to proceed, I’d like to know more about what the “state of the workforce” really is when it comes to their collaboration tools versus those of their workplace.

However, my gut tells me that your conclusion ("you must understand what your people are using in their everyday life outside of work and put into action a plan to remain current with the norm for collaboration") is a reasonable one. However, there may be other important factors to consider:

- First, it would probably be wise to acknowledge that are several ways to effectively collaborate, and to acknowledge those differences in any formal collaboration strategy. To run with your driving example, sometimes turn signals are "better" than hand signals, but other times, hand signals are just fine. Is texting just as good a collaboration method for two senior leaders discussing long term strategy as it is for two young college grads coordinating a conference schedule? Context matters here, as it does in most things.

- Second, I’d really like to read more about how cost/benefit plays into this dynamic.  If I'm a senior executive, and I'm considering devoting serious resources to upgrading my collaborative technology infrastructure, then to be frank, I'd like a little info on what the payoff would be.  Okay, so our action plan will allow people to “collaborate", say,  10% more effectively (a metric that would be a challenge to define, much less to measure). That's great - but how does that translate to my bottom line?

- Third, there is a risk that an organization that is constantly striving to match its collaboration tools with those used privately by its staff may be forever chasing the tiger's tail.  Said another way, I would argue that the focus of a collaboration action plan should be on identifying the collaboration method(s) best suited for the mission.  Now, that method may be most effective if it is similar to what people use in their private lives, but I would argue that such a incorporating such a dynamic is a means to successful end, rather than end state itself.  There are other dynamics in play, after all - what about outside collaboration with partners?  What does the customer do, and what do they expect us to do? I think that a focus for successful collaboration that centers upon matching a company’s methods with those of its own staff may too narrow.

Anyways, these were some of my initial thoughts - I’d like to hear more of yours!  Thanks again for your great contributions, and I look forward to reading more.

All the Best,

Todd Holmes


Happy New Year, Todd.  I hope you can forgive my less then expedient response, but some annoying bug decided to make a home in my chest last week.

I looked at three trends to derive my conclusions: the consumerization of IT, growth of millennials, and BYOD.  The report The consumerization of IT The next-generation CIO tells us next year 40% of the workforce will be millennials and one-third of them have better technology at home than at work.  I suspect we're at the lower end of an "S" curve and while the math reads as only 10% of workers currently having better technology at home, these numbers will grow as more millennials enter the workforce.

Consumerization of IT paves way for Disruptive Technologies tells us that IT must evaluate several criteria in the areas of sustaining versus disruptive technologies and also that many disruptive technologies take time to be realized as such.  Organizations that always "lean back" with new technology risk losing employees and customers to competitors that embrace new technologies.  Infographic: BYOD's Meteoric Rise tells us that BYOD is already here with 80% of employees using personal devices.  To your point however- cost, compliance, and reimbursement must be considered or a BYOD strategy could end with negative results. Those with a good strategy have seen positive results in the areas of: creativity, productivity, and efficiency.  CIOs Look Ahead: Millennials, Consumer Tech and the Future reads that there is already contention between the millennials and veteran workforces because of preferred methods of communication.  Baby boomers prefer the telephone, Gen-X is e-mail heavy, and millennials prefer social, IM, and video.

A colleague of mine recently posted Finding More Time through Better Collaboration and cites a report that executives believe they need at least 20% higher performance from employees to meet business goals.  It's not just that a 10% improvement in collaboration would be nice, but it needs to map into that 20% productivity gain that's required.  You are correct that it's not easy to measure and to translate to a bottom line, but a collaboration strategy should map into real numbers that can be measured in the areas of growth (ROI) and productivity (TCO).

Your third point is the key and that is having the right balance between trendy technologies and value-based technologies.  Today, I see us an application driven society when it comes to mobile.  This is challenging because the end-state is never reached because applications are not ported or available on every end-point.  I suspect this will change with HTML5 and WebRTC.  With real time communications embedded in the browser without requiring an application choice and flexibility in device will increase and should remove technical barriers to communications that we see today where not every device can be supported.

Thank for the feedback and look forward to continued discussions.