As the world undergoes a renaissance of digital transformation, now is the time to take a second look at your workflows, optimizing them for maximum team collaboration and productivity. For example, Masaaki Imai, the father of the Kaizen, turned Toyota into a manufacturing powerhouse by fostering efficient workflows that created a competitive advantage for the company. This principle applies to businesses that manufacture data and ideas as well.
Team Collaboration Has Arrived
A key reason workflows in the enterprise are often inefficient and neglected is the lack of effective implementation of team collaboration tools. It's abundantly clear that these tools are vital to the needs of workers within an organization. We also can see, thanks to some industry leaders touting their impressive install numbers, that enterprises are rolling out these tools across their organizations. And, equipped with a new metric – Daily Active User, or DAU – we can see that people are using these tools. However, even companies with a high volume of DAUs are experiencing serious workflow inefficiencies.
What seems to be absent then is HOW employees are using these tools and WHAT they are using them for.
Usage Isn't Adoption
If you've purchased an enterprise license for a team collaboration tool, do some investigating. You may find people are still using email and voice as much as they ever were, and the team collaboration tool is used primarily by small segments of the organization. Imagine if the people using the tool aren't using it for anything other than chat and file sharing, and even that usage looks more like a Facebook group than high-performance teams crushing complex projects efficiently. Well, you don't have to imagine it. This is the case for far too many organizations.
It's because success for the vendor is, "Did we get the purchase order?" Success for the IT department is, “Was it installed correctly?” No one ever asks, "Have our business operations fundamentally changed thanks to this tool?" How would you even measure that? Anecdotes? Reduction in email volume? That's simply usage, not adoption. Adoption represents change in the way we do things today compared to yesterday.
It's All About the Workflows
"It's the economy, Stupid!" That’s the sentence James Carville, chief strategist for then-U.S. presidential candidate Bill Clinton, famously hung in campaign headquarters in 1992 to keep the team on message. When you decide to leverage team collaboration technology, you need to stay on message too with a rallying cry of your own: it’s all about the workflows.
Start by determining how your employees perform their work, where the problems and gaps are and which products in the market best fills those gaps by fostering efficiency and productivity. Keep in mind that, while it might seem logical that “what works for the goose will work for the gander," a more critical examination often shows that operations works differently from sales, which works differently from marketing, and so on. One size doesn't fit all.
Understanding how the common tasks of each department work and how long they take means that when you insert team collaboration tools into that department, you can measure their impact on productivity—the promise of the tool in the first place.
Kaizen to Optimize How Work is Done
A Kaizen, the Japanese word for "continuous improvement," is a great way to ensure you understand where the work happens before you determine how collaboration is going to impact productivity. While it was originally designed for manufacturing processes, modern implementation of Kaizens has found diverse applications, from business processes to personal life. This is where team collaboration fits in, and how to determine if you're getting what you were promised from your collaboration application.
Mona Abou-Sayed, VP of Collaboration & Applications at Mitel, is an expert at leading teams through Kaizen exercises to learn how work is done, where the waste is and how to facilitate the creation of more efficient and measurable processes. Identify the person in your organization with a knack for this, and let them try their hand at running a collaboration and workflow Kaizen.
Workflow Best Practices Will Change the Collaboration Landscape
What if, when you're considering a new team collaboration tool, your vendor showed you the best on-boarding practices for your HR team and observed times when real people did their work that way? What if they could do that for each department within your organization?
Everyone in the collaboration space is laser-focused on building the biggest library of API integrations into as many work management systems as possible. This is important, don't get me wrong, but if it's about the workflows, then the integration is not enough. There needs to be a best practice for how users in work management systems leverage the application with team collaboration to change how work is done in a department.
From a functionality perspective, leading products will converge on a core set of abilities. They will all have the same API integrations, though how many APIs a tool has is not nearly as important as whether or not it has the ones you need. All of them will have big company logos on their pitch decks. However, few (if any) will have a workflow consultation with you.
Any company that can prove their ability to fundamentally understand the nature of work and give you a way to measure productivity will have the inside track on proving their efficacy with supporting the collaboration needs of a business.
Focus on Workflows to Achieve Greater Adoption
Before you dive into the collaboration market to get an enterprise license for a team collaboration tool, do a little research to find out how key departments will use the functionality—and, more importantly, which workflows will change and how they will change after the platform launch. Only after you host a workflow workshop or Kaizen to understand the tasks your employees perform can you know exactly how much adoption and productivity gains you'll get from a team collaboration tool.