Getting Collaboration Right in 2017

While this post is sponsored by Microsoft Office, all thoughts are my own.

For many, it is the classic job interview cliché. When asked what our strengths are, we reply that we can take the lead and work on our own but also adapt to teamwork when the task or situation calls for it.

There is nothing wrong with this response. Indeed, a job interview scenario is something of a game in which the candidate must give the right answer to the right question. Certainly, being able to work alone and also collaboratively is an important skill in the workplace. But, what is teamwork? What does collaboration mean in 2017?

Collaboration has evolved. What used to involve getting a few people around a table to plan, and then sending them off into the field, has now become much more dynamic and sophisticated.

Take a look at our guide to getting collaboration right in 2017, and for more details, get the full Forbes report here.

Knowing When, and How, to Collaborate

The modern marketplace is a competitive one, one which requires focus and agility. Your organization needs to be able to respond and react to different situations as and when they arise, and then know that you have the best team in place to achieve the objectives you need.

As early as 2013, Forbes was advocating this high level of agility as a key asset for business. Writing in September of that year, Craig Le Clair discussed how 70% of the companies ranked on the Fortune 1000 list in 2013 had vanished in the intervening decade, due to too much rigidity and an inability to adapt.

So, flexibility is the order of the day, not least when it comes to collaboration. Understand your aims, understand how to achieve them, and make sure that you are ready to assemble and deploy the right team at a moment’s notice.

The Legacy of the Team

The individual legacies of the teams you create are also worth considering. Was the team you put together designed to meet a specific, ad hoc need? Was the team a provisional one, designed simply to plug a gap until a more permanent solution can be found? Or is this the team you need on an ongoing basis?

Answering these questions comes down, once again, to understanding. This must be the grounding for any collaborative strategy in 2017; a solid base of understanding – both of organizational needs and objectives in the short and long term – to support the action of your teams going forward.

Some teams will collaborate on an ongoing basis; others will lay dormant, ready to come together on other projects in the future, while some will be ephemeral; there to complete a specific task and then be dissolved. Which teams fall into which category is up to you.

Disengage from Concepts of Time and Space

The beauty of modern collaboration is that the concept is now wide open. Teams no longer need to be tied into any time zone or office space. Instead, they can operate anywhere in the world, and still collaborate and work together in real time.

There are a many different digital tools available to bring teams together from a variety of locations and across a myriad of time zones. By selecting the tools which offer the best fit for your business and your industry, you can develop a digital toolkit which facilitates high-quality communication. Remote collaboration does not need to be so difficult.

Of course, there will come a time when collaboration needs to happen within your office space, as your team comes together to work closely on a project. This can be supported by considering the set-up of your office and your collaborative spaces, and by thinking intelligently about the design of your workplace. Again, this is linked to adaptability and flexibility; operate a workplace which supports direct collaboration when it is needed, and remote collaboration when the moment calls for it.

Security and Stability

Whenever we expand a business concept or open it up, the security question comes to the fore. It is relatively easy to implement data protection measures and to safeguard sensitive information when it is being shared between five or six men and women in a boardroom. When teams begin collaborating across continents and oceans, sharing vast volumes of information via cloud computing networks, this becomes a little trickier.

A secure approach is not simply the best way to take care of collaborative tasks in 2017; it is the only way. Begin by securing hardware; if you have an ‘own device’ policy, then make sure that each device is inspected to ensure that anti-viral and malware software are up to date. Engage in extensive training to make sure all team members are on the same page when it comes to security, and that they are willing and able to implement security measures on their own devices and networks.

Next, secure the software. Only work with applications and digital platforms which have a robust and reliable commitment to security, and make sure that these are consistently updated. In the light of recent ransomware attacks, organizations can ill afford to be caught napping on this issue. Collaboration is vital to an organization’s success in their chosen field, but this should not come at the expense of its security.

Moving in the Right Direction

What do you want to achieve from collaboration? Your first thought might be to excite and delight existing customers, to grow revenue, or to reduce costs, but by focusing on such tantalizing objectives, you run the risk of losing out in other areas.

Don’t fall into the trap of focusing all of your collaborative efforts in one direction; adopt a balanced approach and safeguard the overall health of your company. For example, you may want to launch a collaborative task on improving customer care, which is a great idea. But, even with the best will in the world, these customers are not going to stick around if you’ve nothing new to offer them, so bear in mind that your research and development teams need a similar investment of time, energy, and resources. Consider all departments and cover all bases, collaboratively.

Image via Pixabay

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.