Collaboration is Broken and We Need to Fix It (Soon)According to McKinsey, knowledge workers spend a whopping 19 percent of their day searching for information and expertise. Why?

Take any one task and look at all the applications you use to get it done. Look at all the people you need to involve to do it. Look at all the time you waste switching between apps, foraging for information, searching for expertise. Think about when the process you're following was created (hint: probably in a bygone time when business moved slower).

Frustrating, irritating and demoralizing, isn't it?

Now add in all of the activities that pop up, causing you to constantly re-prioritize what you're working on, based on urgency and who's asking you to do it. The cognitive load associated with switching between tasks is by itself enough to kill productivity momentarily, but on top of that you've got a whole different set of applications to deal with, a different set of people to find and a different process to follow. (I'm not even going to talk about all the meetings on your calendar just waiting to kill your momentum.)

What about innovating? What about brain-swarming problems you run into? What about discovering something new going on in another part of your organization that might make you more productive and your work outcome that much better? What about being creative, and lending your talent and experience to others so that you stay energized and don't feel like an automaton, a cog in a giant wheel, a non-human? If this ever happens today for you, it's likely to involve ANOTHER set of tools that you don't have time to check out, because -- wait for it -- you're too busy.

Why Is It Like This?

Traditional technology vendors push organizations to standardize their stack. This has been the accepted conventional wisdom, because it's easier to deal with fewer vendors, and the assumption is that all of their technologies integrate well together, which supposedly cuts down on the learning curve, lowers TCO and provides more robust cross-application development capabilities.

Unfortunately user experience isn't necessarily the driving force behind these purchases. Procurement-approved vendors typically bolt on "good enough" capabilities to keep up with the changing needs of the business, quickly trying to commoditize what could be innovative capabilities -- strapped on to whatever the application was originally built for. Simply put, the new features must fit into the old paradigm. This retrofitting goes on year after year until, finally, the stack is an unrecognizable mess.

Organizations think they're saving money by going with the "good-enough" offerings of their traditional vendors, because they're seemingly free or nearly free. Yet they spend millions getting these collaboration technologies to work the way the business needs them to. This is partly due to IT's traditional approach to meeting the needs of business. As they continually strive to deliver exactly what's asked for on top of these good-enough applications, they end up creating an even bigger kludge that's even more difficult to use and maintain.

We've got to fix this broken state of collaboration.