The Future of Collaboration

Eric Riz

by Eric Riz on 3/17/2015

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CollabCon, future of collaboration, Richard Harbridge, user adoption

Future of collaboration keynote at CollabCon by Richard Harbridge, March 2015

Last week at CollabCon in Toronto, I had the pleasure of hearing Microsoft’s Richard Harbridge deliver his Keynote, The Future of Collaboration. Richard is widely regarded as one of the best speakers in the SharePoint community, constantly praised for taking deeply technical subjects and making them simple and easy to understand. Personally, I was looking forward to the keynote for one particular reason; my general belief that collaboration isn’t understood by organizations, and I wanted to hear more about Richard’s take on the subject and how to empower companies and drive to a more connected organization.

Richard started off by level-setting the audience with a statement from Philip Green, stating that “good, bad or indifferent, if you are not investing in new technology, you are going to be left behind.” This is a great place to start a discussion with anyone around the importance of technology and driving investment toward the critical areas of your organization that are most supported by technical enhancements. Further, I would challenge organizations to identify one area of their business to support through the use of new technology. From that proverbial line in the sand, organizations can measure importance and scale accordingly based on demand.

Unfortunately, in my experience, organizations are generally stuck in one area of comfort when it comes to technology, a position which can be widely regarded as negative when it comes to effectiveness. We all know about Moore’s Law which states that computing power doubles approximately every two years; this statement, made in 1975, set the rapid pace for what we now know to be a high-demand environment. Today, we expand the demand component to include the words “anywhere” and “anytime,” something Richard spent time discussing in the context of having access to our data and content from any device, regardless of our location.

Richard went on to describe how work is changing today, mentioning that change is driven by industry and innovation while being challenged by today’s difficult demands. Key points were made around our use of information today and how our expectations have changed. For example, Harbridge stated that voice mail usage has dropped by 8 percent each year, with only 14 percent of voice mail users bothering to listen to an entire message. This is absolutely true and something I’m guilty of myself. I rarely listen to the entire message; I scan the first few seconds of a voice mail and just call the person back. In many cases, I don’t listen to the message at all and call people back from the list of missed calls. To that end, I know people who routinely call me and don’t leave a message at all, knowing that I’ll call back from the list. I wonder if that’s what the future holds – a world without voice mail whatsoever.

The next section of the keynote addressed expectations as they related to meeting participation, as Harbridge showed a slide of different devices displaying the same content on their relative interfaces through the iOS, Android and Windows platforms. To me, this has been one of the most interesting things to watch in the industry of late; patterns and consumption of content through multiple devices, as the demand has increased and users want content “immediately” regardless of their device. This can be an issue for companies who have an open policy with regard to devices, allowing employees to bring whatever personal smartphone they have. At some level, the organization is responsible for making sure that each employee has harmonious access to content, but having three or more platforms to customize content to can mean a strain on resources as the strategy is maintained.

The keynote then graduated into a larger discussion about how work is completed today and how the dynamics of collaboration have changed. Twenty years ago, collaboration was considered to be a discussion with a colleague, or a group review of a document. Though we have pushed collaboration to new places, some companies will be left behind as traditional methods are maintained. One of the issues for stagnant organizations in this regard can be adoption, which as we know, takes time to successfully achieve. Failure to achieve adoption across the enterprise can lead to larger issues, such as discord among staff, or even collaboration pushback, as staff outright object to collaborative engagement.

Richard then went on to discuss Office 365, and he again addressed the connection between collaboration and adoption. We know that adoption takes planning, investment and continuous effort from both the organizational personal levels to be successful. While we aren’t certain what the future will bring, we do know that a strong foundation will help us get there.

Topic: Collaboration

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