11 Nov 2014

Perfecting Collaborative Working in a Digital Age

David Gardiner

*Blog image by Jakub Szepietowski

On Thursday 6th November, Concentra and Instinctif hosted a seminar addressing why, what and how to create and maintain improved knowledge and collaboration through digital technology. With 28 attendees from very different markets there was some great insight from a range of programmes and some lively debates. This blog covers the highlights from the day.

How should we think about the ever changing digital world we live in?

The main takeaways from my talk at the beginning of the seminar:

  • Collaborative ‘business networks’ will be to enterprises what social networks are to consumers
  • The focus must be on User Experience rather than platform choice of cloud or in-premise
  • Innovation in business will surface naturally when operational excellence is achieved – focus on the now and the future will improve exponentially
  • Business productivity will improve dramatically as we remove physical and logical boundaries for collaboration through greater use of digital services
  • The advent of knowledge driven organizations will proliferate as they create systematic and collective knowledge management processes and disciplines supported by digital means

Interestingly, at the Microsoft’s Future Decoded event, Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO of WPP) emphasised the increasing importance of internal communication, suggesting that firms should be spending up to 50% of their time communicating internally. The effective use of digital models in this move, is essential.

5 dimensions of knowledge and Innovation

It was a privilege to hear Ron Young, world-renowned KM thought leader, present the 5 Dimensions of Knowledge and Innovation. He shared why, in his view, creating a knowledge-centric business starts quite emphatically with mindset! Ron advised, ‘Without the right mindset you may as well throw your strategy in the bin.' Holding up Singapore as an example, their mindset is to become the knowledge capital of the world… and they mean it!! In less than 30 years he has been involved in their move from a ‘country of fishing villages’ to one of the top 5 business economies in the world! It’s amazing what you can do if the drive and vision is there.

To exemplify the power of knowledge processes and disciplines I ran the 9-step ‘Knowledge Maturity Matrix’ questionnaire past the attendees, challenging the knowledge maturity of each business – a little fun but also a reality check for many. Many of the attendees were astounded that they scored under 50 out of 100. This shows that simple exercises, and time taken to take stock and assess can show up limitations which were not clear before.

Even if you have the right mindset, in any business project involving technology there will be challenges to culture, trus,t and mobilising talent. Desiree Collier and Lynne Trowbridge of Instinctif facilitated a lively debate, and while no-one in the room underestimated these challenges, everyone had their own take on the subject. My 5 key takeaways were:

  1. Inclusion matters - get the right teams on board at the earliest possible chance
  2. Stay focused - have a defined purpose for your project: do not be tempted to divert or adjust your goal
  3. Be pragmatic – It seems obvious, but you will be surprised how helpful creating a structured and realistic roadmap is to delivering a project
  4. It’s all about the user - Focus on needs that address user issues and not on features or facilities of technology (although be cognisant of the increasing roll of mobile and tablet devices when designing your business service or solution)
  5. Support - ensure you have the right level of guidance and support to help maintain high adoption –evidence shows this is crucial to attain the right results – what evidence? From around the room?

The last session of the day saw us move from theoretical discussions to practical examples, introducing real life case studies with tangible results. The included examples from online business hubs to innovation portals (creating new waves of product excellence) and specific business applications which encourage collaborative working using the digital technology of today – particularly using Microsoft SharePoint and Yammer.

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David Gardiner

About the author

David has helped many organisations conceptualise communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing solutions using Microsoft SharePoint in premise and in cloud.