Let's face it: Getting people's attention, getting time on their calendar, getting them on the phone, getting people to collaborate on anything is like herding cats. Competing demands personally and professionally, increasing amount of information in an increasing variety of forms from an increasing number of channels — that’s why the future of collaboration will focus on engagement and the underlying analytics that drive human behavior, productivity, efficiencies, satisfaction, revenue opportunities or other metrics impacting your organization.
Start with Engagement
In a world hyper-competitive for people’s attention, the future of collaboration starts with engagement. Engagement is the input, the attraction, the level of effort, the focus, the time and the energy spent by people towards whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It is about people and reducing the friction of both real time and anytime collaboration.
Without engagement, you won’t have very productive outcomes. You will likely wind up with a bunch of loosely connected people with little meaningful interaction. Likewise, failing to engage your respective audiences will result in very little returns of investment in time, money, resources and the enabling technology. No, engagement is not just about adoption of technology or reported activity.
In my work around collaboration over the years, I’ve found there to be five distinct forces of collaborative engagement: Experience, Devices, Content, Integration and Gamification.
Don’t Just Collaborate, Create Experiences
Organizations like Starbucks realize they’re not just selling a product or a service like coffee, they’re selling an experience. And the same is true when it comes to enterprise collaboration. When you’re competing for attention or trying to influence (or change) people’s behaviors, the experience matters.
When it comes to technology, it’s all about the user experience. Case in point, the consumerization of IT. If it’s not easy, convenient and engaging, most people will lose interest quickly or will find an easier alternative outside of what's sanctioned by IT. Human behavior is like electricity — we follow the path of least resistance. And experience centrally affects all the other related forces impacting engagement.
In today’s busy world, collaboration requires access across multiple devices. In particular, mobile drives engagement because of the convenient anywhere, anytime, and real-time benefits. For example, over the last decade or so, we saw email become the dominant form of collaboration. This is mainly due to speed and ease of messaging that accelerated at scale when Blackberry put mobile messaging in our hands. Yet most of us now have a smart phone today that replaced our Blackberries, but do you have a smart way to collaborate other than linking to file in a content system using an old email client on your laptop? Devices impact the experience and the experience on those devices impact collaboration.
Video Killed the PowerPoint Star
Content is king and very central to any collaborative endeavor. We’re co-creating and consuming; commenting and sharing; liking and rating; selling and supporting; transacting and searching. Documents, images, ideas, events, blogs, microblogs, discussions, voice, messages, video, oh my. The process around content co-creation needs to be easier and more focus needs to be on video when it comes to engagement.
You want to have more engagement, think about using video both in real-time and anytime collaboration. Videos not only draw our attention initially, but maintain our attention. You increase the chances of employees absorbing, interacting, sharing, and engaging with each other. When it comes to engaging with customers and partners, videos certainly grab your attention.
Integrate for Experience, Not Plumbing
Integration of experiences also drives engagement. However, the unfortunate reality in many organizations is that experiences tend to be siloed because the very systems people work on are siloed. All too often, integration requires a ton of additional services to simply extend “plumbing” as opposed to impacting the experience. Do your customers have too much friction when engaging with you because they have to access eight separate experiences? What about your employees?
One approach is extending collaboration into the experiences where people spend their time today. However, that extension of plumbing only marginally changes human behavior. You also need to integrate silos and other streams of information and activity into a more centralized experience. This centralized experience will not only make it easier for people to engage with each other but capture data that impacts the desired collaborative results you're looking for.
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