Is Collaboration Inherently Counterproductive?

Some people like to argue that collaboration is the key to innovation and productivity in the workplace. In reality, what they really seek is teamwork–and despite those terms being used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing.

Collaboration is a process of working together to generate agreed-upon solutions or ideas. With the explosion of social media, teleconferencing apps and program management tools, we’ve been conditioned to assume that collaboration of all forms is good.

In truth, it can be valuable for brainstorming sessions, but can sometimes be counterproductive in the day-to-day business environment, where decisions need to be made as efficiently and strategically as possible. In these scenarios, the most effective approach is teamwork, with a leader who sets goals and keeps the team focused on desirable outcomes.

“Collaboration often gets in the way of innovation,” says Theresa Wellbourne, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and CEO of eePulse, a technology and human capital consulting firm. “It requires constant negotiation between team members, which actually drives innovation out of the process.” But teamwork enhances it, ultimately upping the company’s chance of success.

It is vital that managers understand the difference between the two if they want to foster a productive corporate culture.

The problem is that managers often confuse the desire for teamwork with the need for collaboration, which can end up wasting everyone’s time, especially when managers force collaboration as a standing practice–i.e. mandatory weekly team meetings, or decision-making processes that require input from the entire team, says Shane McWilliams, director of client services at CSID, an identity theft protection company in Austin, Texas.

“If you have to gather everyone in a room to vet every idea or jointly make every decision, people start to feel unproductive,” he says. “You get mired in group think, which tends to drive you to the wrong conclusions.”

In many of these instances, employees just need to know what happened in a meeting; they don’t need to be involved in the process.

“Remote teams have fewer distractions, and they use technology to connect only when collaboration is needed, rather than forcing it through constant scheduled interactions,” she says. Such intentional collaboration is more productive and more valued by those participating.

Effective collaboration doesn’t just happen

Regardless of whether employees work in the office or remotely, managers need to be more strategic about how and when they want employees to collaborate.

It’s important that team leaders set up specific goals and a clear structure for the collaboration sessions, Wellbourne says. “Otherwise it will be ineffective.”

Once these sessions are over, managers need to make sure team members have the freedom to break away from the team to get their work done. It is important to build a culture where people’s time is valued and protected, McWilliams says.

“In the office, it is easy to get caught up in spontaneous questions and conversations, especially if you are the subject matter expert,” he says. Working remotely is one way that can help employees stay focused, while still being connected to the team via video conferencing and instant messaging.

While none of these experts believe collaboration can or should be eliminated from the workplace, they all agree that managers need to be cognizant of the difference between collaboration and teamwork, and which business strategy will generate the best results.

“Think about what you are trying to achieve and whether collaboration will help you get there,” Wellbourne says. “You have to do it for the right reasons to get the results you want.”

Want more? Download the “New Rules of Engagement” white paper.

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Feds Want 21st Century Collaboration Tools Despite Legacy System Limits

Newly released survey results may mean big changes are on the horizon for government agencies. The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council and underwritten by Black Box and Avaya, shows that the federal government’s outdated IT infrastructure is struggling to keep up with modern mobility and collaboration demands, and is even impeding the adoption of 21st century unified communication and collaboration tools. And, despite efforts by the White House to push agencies to modernize IT, the momentum does not seem to be translating into improved collaboration yet.

In the survey, 38% of federal employees said they had little or no confidence that their agency’s existing infrastructure can support the latest advancements in collaborative technology. This low level of confidence is strongly at odds with the clear need for collaboration technology.

Nearly half (47%) said that they need to collaborate with colleagues working from different locations on a daily basis, while 72% said they need to do so on a weekly basis. Over half (52%) said that they personally have a need to work outside their office at least once a week, and 27% said they need to do so on a daily basis. Overall survey results suggest that telework in the federal workplace is evolving into a vision for a unified office that bridges traditional and remote work environments.

These results are hardly surprising: telework has been a rising trend for years—and undoubtedly is here to stay. However, despite the high demand for mobile collaboration, the flow of new collaborative technology into federal agencies seems to be lagging. Only 37% feel that their agency is prioritizing collaboration technology. And 40% are disappointed with their agency’s current level of mobility: 27% are dissatisfied, and 13% are very dissatisfied, with the ability to conduct work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations.

As the concept of the modern office continues to evolve, agencies must make sure that they are scaling with the expectations of their employees. With federal telework trends on the rise according to the latest OPM reporting, agencies need to be considering their plans for establishing a unified office sooner, rather than later. The need for unified communications is clearly already present, as seen in the survey results, so agencies that don’t have a plan to implement UC will only be postponing the benefits of bridging traditional and remote work environments.

The concept of a unified office where employees can work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations—not just through e-mail, but with teleconferencing, chatting, and screen sharing—helps to increase the rate, quality, and ease of work for federal employees. This is strongly backed by the study, with respondents reporting that the concept of a unified office increases productivity (46%), accelerates mission results (34.5%), and improves overall employee morale (35%).

As agencies assess how to best translate their modernization funds into effective, visible efficiency gains, investing in UC should be top of mind. Not only is the technology clearly in demand by federal employees, but the efficiency gains realized from investing in UC means that the technology pays for itself quickly, which helps to ease budget concerns. By implementing UC, agencies will be better positioned to meet not only future employee needs, but to achieve their missions in the 21st century.

If Getting Work Done Takes Too Much Work—Take the Team to Zang Spaces

Fast Company recently published a survey finding that the average tech CEO works 300 days a year, 14 hours a day. One third of that time is spent managing email, while another third is spent in meetings. Two thirds of a tech CEO’s time is spent communicating and collaborating, and this issue touches everyone in an enterprise, even Bob in Accounts Payable. It turns out getting work done just takes too much work, primarily due to the number of redundant tools users are given to accomplish tasks. Our application Zang Spaces™ addresses the enterprise communication problem in a big way.

What We Have Today

Desk phones and cell phones are great for communicating, but you can hold only one voice conversation at a time, which is nowhere near enough in our multi-tasking world. Digital transformation may seems like a new trend but enterprises digitally transformed communications years ago with tools like email, instant messaging, and web conferencing. While it’s ubiquitous, email is a horrible tool for collaboration. IM lets you participate in multiple conversations at the same time, but everyone has to be logged in at the same time to communicate, which is just dumb. Online meeting tools bridge the challenges of distance, but once a session is complete it’s usually gone forever. Newer collaboration tools such as on-line storage lockers are great for working on documents, but they’re “unitaskers” which only add to the tool overload.

How to Make Work, Well, Less Work

Cloud-based Zang Spaces doesn’t require anything to be installed in your data centers, or on your PC. You can use Zang Spaces to communicate, collaborate, and manage tasks in a single, easy application.

From One to Many

Zang Spaces can be used to communicate and collaborate with individual users via audio, video, and messaging. Since anyone can use Zang Spaces, you can invite resources from outside of your organization to collaborate. Zang Spaces can also be used to communicate and collaborate with groups of people. Simply create a virtual meeting room, called a “Space,” and invite the members of the team to participate by entering their email address.

Smart Messaging

When you first enter a Space, you see the group’s chat stream. Unlike IM, which requires users to be online to receive messages, Zang Spaces uses Smart Messaging. Unlike plain ol’ IM, you can catch up to the conversation that has happened while you were away, and then add your comments for others to read. The chat stream is synchronized across all of your devices, so you can add quick responses from your phone, and then elaborate when you’re back in front of a PC.

Order from Chaos

One of biggest problems with group chat is multiple conversations happening in one thread. Users lose track of what they’re trying to discuss, and it becomes a mess. Zang Spaces delivers order from this chaos with a tool called Posts. On a single form, your team can have topi- based, threaded discussions, which makes it super easy to stay focused. With Posts, you can even upload files that are relevant to the discussion.

Stay on Task

When you have a team working together, many times there are multiple tasks that must be managed to deliver results. Instead of adding another unitasker to your users’ crowded toolboxes, they can manage multiple tasks in Zang Spaces. Users can create tasks in a Space and assign them to one or more team members. Team members can discuss the task, update progress, and upload files relevant to the task on a single form that makes it a breeze to reference later.

Real Time, Not Real Complicated

When you need to get the team together in real time, thanks to the magic of WebRTC, with a single click in your browser, you’ve created an audio/video conference with team members. No plugins to download or software to install, simply share your desktop with team members, and even offer a dial-in phone number for audio-only access.

Start Now

Zang Spaces is absolutely free to use! Simply visit zang.io, sign up for an account, and you’re set. You can send and receive as many messages as you’d like, you can hold audio and video calls with individual users, create as many Spaces as you need, and even host five-party audio conferences … at no cost. If you need additional capacities, Zang Spaces Plus and Zang Spaces Pro offer huge capacities for a great price.

Want to learn more? Get your free account and then send me a message in Zang Spaces at forcum@avaya.com.

2017 Avaya Customer Innovation Awards Honor Five Companies Leading the Way in Digital Transformation

Every year, Avaya and IAUG recognize a handful of customers who are innovators. These customers are recognized with Customer Innovation Awards. Last year’s award winners included a number of technology firms. This year’s five award winners, recognized on stage at Avaya Engage in Las Vegas, include three customers in the financial services sector, a leading global retailer, and a leader in the film production industry.

Each of these customers is benefiting from the latest Avaya solutions to meet business goals—whether the goals are growth, customer experience, cost management, or risk mitigation.

BECU

BECU, which began life 80 years ago as the Boeing Employee Credit Union, today is the fourth largest credit union in the US, with over $12 billion in assets and over a million credit union members. In 2016, BECU embarked on a digital transformation journey focused on the customer experience. BECU relies on Avaya Elite Multichannel running on an Avaya Pod Fx™ infrastructure.

BECU engineer Rick Webb says, “BECU is rapidly expanding and needed a technology partner that could support that expansion and keep our members happy. The Avaya Elite Multichannel infrastructure does just that, while providing increased flexibility and allowing BECU to better meet the expectations of our more than 1 million members.”

Green Shield Canada (GSC)

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a one of the leading health and dental benefit carriers in Canada, with over 850 employees across seven locations. Starting last year, GSC is deploying the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and seeing strong results. Competing with larger players in its industry, GSC sees strong collaboration among its workforce as a key ingredient for success.

Jim Mastronardi, GSC Director for Enterprise Infrastructure says, “Green Shield Canada has over 850 employees across seven offices in Canada—from Montreal to Vancouver. We saw an opportunity to explore technology upgrades that would enhance company-wide communications and bring our teams across Canada closer together. With just a single training session, employees have hit the ground running with the Avaya Equinox tools. The video conferencing option has provided a solution to overbooked meeting rooms, and the instant messaging feature is already cutting down on the number of emails being sent.”

Scotiabank

Scotiabank prides itself on “being a technology company providing financial services.” As a long-time Avaya customer—and a beta customer for Avaya Oceana™ and Avaya Oceanalytics™—Scotiabank is on a digital transformation journey to better serve bank customers worldwide. Scotiabank contact centers located in Canada and the Caribbean & Latin America region have benefited from a next-gen centralized architecture leveraging the latest Avaya solutions to better serve customers.

Scotiabank has already developed and deployed Avaya Oceana and Avaya Breeze™ apps, and continues to innovate in an ongoing drive to improve customer service and meet customer needs in a competitive market. The success of Scotiabank’s transformation program has enabled the bank to move with greater agility, improved reliability, and speed to market. This has changed the framework for deployment from months/years to days/weeks while improving the overall ROI/TCO.

The Crossing Studios

The Crossing Studios is one of Vancouver’s largest and fastest growing full-service studios and production facilities for film. The firm caters to companies like Fox, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Netflix. The Crossing Studios were unhappy with the stability and quality of the disparate systems previously in place across their seven studio locations. In 2016, The Crossing Studios deployed a Powered by Avaya IP Office solution offered by local provider Unity Connected Solutions.

Powered by Avaya IP Office has improved stability, reduced TCO and provided the advanced features that the business needs to serve a very demanding film industry client base, including high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, and rich multi-vendor HD video conferencing. CTO Mark Herrman says, “We needed something that would support our rapid growth, support our clients, and support our bottom line. Thanks to IP Office and the hosted cloud model, we’re able to keep pace with dynamic, fast-moving film productions, staying as flexible as our clients need us to be.” Estimated savings are in the six figures for the first year alone.

Walgreens

Walgreens is using custom Avaya Snap-ins to bring centralized contact center reporting capabilities to local branch sites, for compliance purposes and to help improve the overall customer experience. Avaya Professional Services were instrumental with the deployment, which relies on an Avaya Pod Fx infrastructure.

These companies are each leaders in their respective industries. As part of their digital transformation journeys, they recognize that when it comes to selecting a trusted technology advisor, “experience is everything.” #ExperienceAvaya.