Collaborate & Communicate 2017: Creative Intellect Consulting Q&A

How would you define collaboration in one sentence?

To interact, communicate and work with people or any grouping in order to deliver the desired output.

How important is effective communication to modern business success?

It's fundamental...and challenging.

What are the key benefits of having the right collaboration and communication strategy in place and acting upon it?

One key benefit is the fact that it offers visibility and transparency in terms of allowing people to know what decisions are made and why they are made. It makes sure that there's a level of discipline and engagement that comes around through the fact that people are able to know who to go to as well as what is being said. There's an understanding of any decisions and people also have a means by which to impact or influence a decision.

Conversely, what are the downsides of not getting this right?

The major downside is that it slows things down. It has an impact on agility, speed and quality. It will stall or inhibit companies because knowledge is lost. Access to knowledge is weakened if people don't understand who or where to go. It can also have an impact on the soft side, in terms of mistrust or barriers between people.

What are companies currently doing well when it comes to collaboration and communication?

The most important thing is that people are recognising that collaboration and communication are important facets of business and getting things done. It's an important tool for bringing your organisation onto the same page and anticipating issues and challenges.

But collaboration isn't just about having the tools in place, it's about having the desire to collaborate. It's about having processes that help encourage people to collaborate. A tool on its own isn't going to make you collaborative. We do it well because we have regular meetings in which we are able to quickly push out a question and get an answer back between the team, so things aren't held up.

What words of advice would you give to others embarking on their collaboration journey?

You need to have everyone on board and you need to figure out what type of collaboration is going to happen. So, what is stopping people from communicating? When something bad happens or there's a breakdown, you have to ask yourself what the reasons for it were. Breakdowns often happen because you haven't got the right tools or processes. It doesn't have to be every minute and it doesn't have to be scripted, but there needs to be some kind of process that allows and encourages a regular form of communication and collaboration so that people are aware of the chains set in place.

The challenges that I often have in terms of my organisation is that sometimes it's like a hub-and-spoke model, so it all goes to one person rather than a network. And the danger of a hub-and-spoke is that you have a single point of failure.

Who in the organisation should be taking the lead when it comes to choosing the right tools and implementing them successfully?

Everyone. There are different forms and layers of collaboration. When it comes to the tools specifically, there needs to be leadership in terms of management for determining things like how managers should communicate with each other, how team leaders want to communicate with their teams, and how the hierarchy wants to communicate. If it's something regarding internal communications then that might be somebody in HR at a larger organisation.

I think everyone asks 'should it be the IT people? Well, no. The IT people are the people that provide the solution. But the people that want the information are the leaders of the various disciplines, so the action has got to come from them. Whether that be your marketing lead or your IT lead, there just needs to be some sort of leadership team that agrees on the kind of communication hierarchy that should happen. There may be many people that are involved in the decision process, but there will be different owners depending on what that communication is aiming to achieve.

Where do you see the market and adoption of communication and collaboration tools headed? What innovation do you think is on the horizon, or indeed, much needed?

Well, nothing can go past without mention of AI or analytics and cognitive technology. Anyone that has an email account inside an organisation will know that there is little time to do anything and there is a lot of information and a lot of people calling on your time. So the challenge is always how to organise things. How do you ensure that you're in the right communication stream?

The big thing that's coming up is a cognitive and analytic machine learning solution to this problem. It needs to be able to manage all of the various communication channels by putting some sort of sense to the kind of communications that are happening and then grouping them into things that make it easier to surface and distribute the important and relevant collaborations and communications to the various parties.

There's also a lot of work being done on how people can be more productive in their workplace environment in terms of their day-to-day communication and team collaboration. So there's a lot of focus around analytic support to help people manage their time and productivity and ensure that the right communication and collaboration is happening.

What will successful corporate collaboration and communication look like in five or 10 years from now?

If you look back five years ago at how things looked, we had instant messaging and Skype, we had various tools. But, in five years time, have they been integrated? No, they haven't. So, maybe we'll just get better at what we're doing now. Maybe we'll actually get proper integration.

In one respect, unless things are sorted, I think successful collaboration could be just as complex and just as hard because things come in and out of fashion. Five years ago, Slack was nowhere and now, everyone has Slack. But the next big thing is coming.

In five years' time, if you're looking at unified communications, I think there will be much more analytical support and better visibility in terms of where people are or what they are doing so that they can be reached more easily. There will be better ways for sorting out relevant information. Content management systems like Box and SharePoint will still be key players in terms of the way that people collaborate and share information.

Why should people attend our collaboration event to hear you speak?

We will provide an insight for multiple organisations and we'll surface some of the solid working practices that are being achieved by organisations as well as some of the lessons learned in the process.

We will differ because we will bring a cross-organisation perspective for bringing the technical audience into the collaboration work chain, which hasn't always been the case.

As organisations look to be more technologically driven, it's a case of bringing those who are providing and developing the applications into supporting the business's collaboration workload.

Is there anything else you would like to add on this topic?

I remember when I was an engineer and we used to have videoconferencing, and it was really awful. Now we've got Google Hangouts and all sorts of video things and over time, the cost of it has come down and the capability and quality has gone up.

It's an evolving topic, and every generation brings new technologies and capabilities to interact. It's never done, so people need to keep their ears to the ground and be open-minded as things are changing.

Picture courtesy of Bola Rotibi