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Use of different technologies in their introductory phases has always seemed like a troublesome task. Two of the most important factors contributing to this perception are reluctance at a human level and the primitive nature of the technology itself. So is seen when it comes to collaborative technologies.

Nathan Sebastian is a content expert with GoodFirms, a research and review platform based out of Washington DC. Humans, he said, tend to work in comfort zones and this propensity causes lack of cooperation when it comes to coping with new technology and instills dislike towards a disruption of existing harmony.

The introduction of new technology and working with it may require a particular skill-set or at times requires mere patience to get along with the new ways. A little cooperation can go a long way in achieving synergy between humans and technology involved. “As in the case of every new technology, it takes many stages of development to reach an evolved form, he said. “Collaborative technologies are also in their primitive stages and hence at times there is a need to use multiple tools to achieve completion of multiple tasks.”

However, as human needs increase, so will the need of development in these tools which makes it an ever-evolving process. At the end of the day, collaborative technology helps get a lot more done than not and a little forbearance can facilitate more inclusion.

New Tech With Old Tech

Being an early adopter of new tech has lots of business advantages, but there are potential problems that necessitate careful planning.  According to Monica Eaton Cardone owner and COO of Clearwater, Fla.-based Chargebacks911, which works in online retail, the first thing IT managers need to consider when looking at digital workplace technologies is understanding how the new technology interfaces with older, existing technologies. Questions that managers need to ask about the new technology are:

  • Are messages being lost?
  • Is everyone on the same page?
  • Does everyone know how?

“Often, it requires a few tweaks and iterations before your interface is seamless and fluid, so it might take a little bit of trial-and-error. Ideally, you want to test and troubleshoot well before your go 'live' with the new tech,” she said.

There are challenges here too. However, it doesn't expedite things when all your partners are testing in different locations, because geography creates communicative challenges. These challenges aren't insurmountable. You can absolutely work through them, and many businesses do. But you can't solve a problem if you don't know it exists, and because tech is so complicated -- and because it evolves so quickly -- it can create an institutional blind-spot within a business. Not everyone will see it.

The opportunity cost of squandered time and effort can be tricky to quantify on a spreadsheet. The employees who rely on the tech will be well-aware of the problem, but without effective communications, it might not be as intuitive to everyone else in your company.

“It's not quite the Hatfields and McCoys, but not all tech or software is compatible. Sometimes, the various pieces just don't get along very well. This leads to frustrated team-members and stressed-out partners, because it's next to impossible to succeed in today's business if you can't communicate with accuracy and immediacy,” she added.

Related Article: 7 Ways to Measure Workplace Collaboration and Productivity Tool Efficacy

Positive And Negative Impacts

Caio Bersot, is a communications specialist with Alberta,Canada –based EnergyRates.ca an energy rate comparison website. He pointed out that any changes in the workplace have both positive and negative sides. While most of the focus on connected workplaces has been on the positive impacts, it is important that workplace leaders take into consideration the possible negative impacts.

One of the principal advantages of these new communication and collaboration technologies is that, for example, it makes it possible professionals overseas could collaborate on the same project in real-time, or even provide a company with better tracking of its multiple activities. However, the impact on productivity is less clear. “If you compare workplace communication 20 years ago to nowadays', you will notice that we have much more tools, from enhanced email services, shared folders, multi-person platforms, such as Trello, Slack and Asana, and many other specific tools,” he said.

“Still, there are many complaints regarding productivity and communication flow. Sometimes it even seems that the average workplace is more connected but not necessarily more efficient.”

It's hard to measure the efficiency of contemporary technology based on specific cases. Yet, there are things that can easily be pointed out. Many employees and employers have increasing uncertainty regarding the best suitable type of communication via email, phone or in person.

“This is a case-by-case situation, but a quite helpful tip for companies would be to define in a clearer way which platform is ideal for each type of communication, perhaps taking into consideration the level of complexity and the length of the message.

Related Article: Don't Know Which Microsoft Collaboration Tool to Use? You're Not Alone

Closed Collaboration, Communications Systems

One further consideration that managers need to considers is that many collaboration and communication technologies are closed systems. We use several platforms that overlap in functionality in our day-to-day when working with internal teams, vendors, and clients. Some of that is unavoidable, the director of technical projects, Peter Yagecic, at New York City –based Situation Interactive, said. “We may use Slack for meetings internally, a vendor may use GoToMeeting, and a client may use Webex. So the dance between platforms is commonplace,” he said.

“If there was an open-source and remote-meeting solution that allowed each participant to choose the interface that worked best for them, then some of the frustration might be alleviated. Until then, I don't see an incentive model for that in the industry.”

As a final thought, he advises digital workplace managers to be prepared for all eventualities. Meetings can fall apart when nobody takes the time to set the meeting up or test the mics beforehand. I encourage employees everywhere to become an expert at one piece of office technology. Maybe it's the conference room set up, or perhaps it's the photocopier; be the person who knows how something works rather than the person who throws their hands up when tech doesn't play nice.

Workers Need To Share

Ilia Sotnikov is VP of product management at Netwrix collaboration software. He said that the underlying common problem is inefficient knowledge sharing. In other words, valuable information can be scattered across different sources, so employees spend a lot of time on searching relevant information.

A McKinsey study found that employees can spend almost 20 percent of their workweeks looking for internal information or trying to find colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Thus, it is almost a whole week out of every month that is wasted.

The solution is to apply some of the data management principles to knowledge stored in the collaboration software, such as SharePoint or Google Docs, he said.  “You may want to start with classifying and tagging the data, so employees could faster find documents they need. This process can be either done manually or automated. Another option is conducting regular audit of data stored in the collaboration software together with project owners, so you could prune out ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial information).