Fundamentally we come to work to get stuff done
To get stuff done we work as a team to reach a shared goal. No problem! You can use new technology in the form of online collaboration tools that are sprouting everywhere. Right?
With so many collaboration tools available, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of confusion. My colleague Romana, points this out in more detail in her blog.
"Recently I was part of a meeting with a customer and we were discussing the current collaboration tools that were used in their organisation. We got to a list of about 20, both those that were provided by the company and also BYO apps that only smaller groups within the company use. They all agreed the sheer number of options can be confusing".
How things used to be
To put into perspective the role for online collaboration in the way we work today, let’s go back to how things used to be at a time when we all worked in the same place at the same time, and learn from that.
When a key project started we would go round the office and find an empty room in the building and that room would become the project or “war” room and the people that were going to work on that project took their stuff off their desks and went to work in the room.
We’d put a label on the door with the project name - when we got there the room was empty, over time stuff would accumulate in the room, the flipcharts would be written on and stuck to the wall with blu-tac, the whiteboards would be drawn on and in the corner in red would be written "do not erase" in a vain attempt to save our creative labours from the overnight cleaners.
There would be those funny little post-it notes stuck all over the place and if somebody new joined the project we wouldn’t give them a whole pile of stuff to read - we’d invite them into the room where they would see all the content that was there and talk to the people already in the room. That’s how they would get up to speed and start making a contribution.
The room was where the project lived, the place where stuff got done.
The changing nature of work
The days of everyone being in the same place at the same time doing their own thing 9 to 5 are going. The workforce is increasingly mobile demanding to work from anywhere at anytime. The “gig economy” means teams forming outside of traditional management hierarchies involving people outside of our organisation coming together to get stuff done and then moving onto the next task. Create, do, disband.
Technology just couldn't keep up and we took a massive step backwards in productivity as communication was relegated to asynchronous email where endless threads of fragmented discussions occurred. Email trees grew from nowhere with frequent reply to all storms causing the unread count of your inbox to spiral out of control.
We optimistically expected different results and yet we continued to the same thing – which is as we know the definition of insanity.
Virtualising the “War” or Project room
Something had to change so the idea was to virtualise the concept of that old project room – after all we’d virtualised other things like your Intray and your desktop so why not that old physical project room - and so Business Messaging, or Persistent Team chat were born, with no shortage of contenders.
Look at any of these products and they do similar things in similar ways. But just as previously with email clients, things are not always what they seem!
Cisco Spark was one of the first to enter the game is now leading the way by uniquely combining the virtual experience with the physical room so that people can get together from anywhere in the world on any device at anytime to create, share and get stuff done.
It's built for how we work today and hence is changing the way we work.
Next time we'll explore Spark in a little more detail. Please join me then.