The influence consumer-based technology has had on the world of business has been called many things over the years. Enterprise 2.0, Business Collaboration, Enterprise Social Networking and the ever-popular Social Business are just a few. Despite these changes, however, our general disposition towards the movement has remained one of brash presumption: how difficult could it really be to define, implement and execute a model that is as connective as the roots that inspired it?
Pretty difficult, it turns out. Recent history has proven time and time again that consumer processes can’t cleanly shift over to the world of work – they need some modifications. After all, this isn’t business as usual, but it’s certainly still business.
The Elements of a Connected Workplace
Companies of all sizes are still struggling to match today’s expectations of connectivity, and in doing so have each realized a small piece of a much bigger picture. The following list of elements is by no means comprehensive, but it gives us a good sense of which are here to stay:
Social: Our basic human need to connect makes us social creatures by nature. The explosion of Facebook (955 million monthly active users now) et al. proves that exponentially. Successful modern business tools support this behavior by connecting colleagues visually and textually, but the “corporate Facebook” approach we once sought after is no longer in the spotlight. In other words: points of communication are now implemented with more contextual awareness, rather than thrown into existing systems pell-mell style. It’s not about connecting with everyone all the time like a consumer-based social network; it’s about connecting with the right people at the right time.
Task Management: Task management tools support the social styles of communication we’ve grown accustomed to, but also shine with business focus by strategically guiding teams to bring tasks to execution. Solutions like these succeed because they focus on the individual and then the team, effectively preserving the integrity of the original idea or project while adding the appropriate blend of disparate skills to actualize it.
Global Access: “Anytime, anywhere” has been one of the most powerful developments of our time. Thanks to the cloud and mobile advancements, this generation of business is one of instant gratification— regardless of locale. It’s a shift that is drastically changing processes and behaviors, including remote work, job flexibility, and work-life integration. As far as technology goes, a recent GigaOm Pro Survey (“The future of workplaces“) states that 38% of businesses are now using mobile phones in comparison to 26% in the previous year, and 43% of businesses plan to step up their mobile practices in the future. It is also estimated that half of corporate network devices will be mobile devices by 2015.
Transparency: There is a growing correlation between transparency and productivity. When employees are in the loop, they can’t be left to imagine the worst. Successful connectivity in the workplace requires this foundation because it is one of trust — and where there is trust, there is also sustainable innovation. People feel safe enough to take risks and share their and experiences — whether good or bad — for the greater good.
Simplicity: Finally, connectivity sees more success when it is frictionless. The more sophisticated we make a platform or a process, the more difficult the change, and the more resistance there is to uptake.
Connectivity is Evolution, Not Revolution
Speaking of simplicity, the simple truth is that we’ve always been connected on some level. We’re just making it better. After all, connection doesn’t equal collaboration — but if we can learn to recognize and elevate connection, then it certainly provides a doorway.
It will be by patching together our knowledge of what works that we’ll discover the trappings of a truly connected professional space. These environments will not only increase business productivity overall, but also tap into individual enthusiasms and passions. They will amplify the power of groups, but allow each person to form his or her own path to full potential.
It’s a really, really different way of looking at business, and will require some unlearning of traditional beliefs and practices. In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at what some of those are.