How to build a successful connected workspace

Be open to being open, says Dropbox

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Sponsored You hear a lot about collaborative working these days. Organisations talk about ‘connecting the workforce’ in an ‘efficient’ and ‘successful’ way. A brave new world of 24-7 global operations.

But for too many it’s just not happening. The idea of a workspace that brings together people, tools, content and conversations, laying the groundwork for a collaborative culture, is largely just that: an idea.

In reality, our environments are anything but collaborative. We have a proliferation of proprietary desktop applications that don’t talk to each other, aren’t designed for the kinds of mobile devices that are being used on a daily basis, and – most importantly – aren’t fit for purpose across business roles.

This lack of collaboration is a problem that’s getting more complicated as our way of working changes. "The average knowledge worker spends around six minutes per day in each application, which significantly impacts on focused work with workers taking up to 25 minutes a day in transitioning between applications,” explains Andrea Trapp, Head of Dropbox Sales EMEA. This surplus of applications fragments the user’s working day, too, acting as a damper on productivity and resulting in hidden costs to the business.

It’s a mess – and it’s holding back business. According to The State of Collaboration survey by Vanson Bourne for Dropbox, 84 per cent of IT and business leaders believe the success of their organisation depends on them reinventing the way that teams collaborate both internally and externally.

How do we solve the problem?

From an IT department perspective, surely, the simple answer would seem to be to reduce the number of applications and embrace more of a single-vendor approach. But forcing your designer to concede their preferred creative suite for an equivalent package, because it suits an overarching IT business decision on collaboration, is likely to make them as productive as they are happy – that is, not very much.

Users, not IT, are driving the choice of applications and their choices don’t always fit neatly into the world of corporate IT purchasing and support. It can be something used at home, that is relatively niche, or that’s right for a particular team only at a particular time. Ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: in approaching their software stack, IT must be open to being open.

Andy Wilson, Industry Principal for Media at Dropbox, says: “The most important thing for any organisation when making changes to their collaborative working model is to make the individuals do their job better, on the tools that they know and love, and help to improve their productivity. If you can hit those three points, that will be the success of any organisation’s collaboration strategy”.

Is fewer really better?

It’s tempting, if you do consolidate applications, to reduce your suppliers, potentially landing on just one. However, by going down the single-vendor route you could be adding future barriers and costs. You risk locking yourself into that one vendor’s roadmap, which may not deliver what you need until the vendor is ready, and being tied into a proprietary standard, stuck with a limited list of compatible applications. All that, plus support and licensing costs that could prove more expensive in the long term.

Open to being open means selecting the right applications for the team and the task. “If you’re using Dropbox, you can start and create an Office 365 document, or a Google sheet, slide or doc from within Dropbox and you can use the editors that those applications have, but it actually sits within Dropbox. And then you can plug in your communication tools, like Slack, or Zoom,” says Wilson, “so, you can start a Zoom conversation from within Dropbox and pull the content you’ve created in Office 365 into that Zoom meeting.” This is the case for over 200,000 partner applications.

This desire to simplify the IT stack by not allowing in a large number of applications has made the creation of a more collaborative work platform and culture somewhat problematic. It has, therefore, reduced take up. “One of the biggest hurdles that we see are IT leaders, and control and governance teams, and their need to tick every single governance box, for every single eventuality, for anything that could happen, no matter what the probability,” says Trapp.

Trapp goes on to warn that box ticking is likely to end badly: “If all you care about is ticking a whole load of governance boxes, you may have a perfectly controlled environment, but if your teams are not using it and instead are using their own applications under the radar, then there’s really no control at all.”

Balanced approach – how can a connected workspace help?

Creating a successful connected workspace means letting your users move forward with the applications they already use, on the devices they already have, and in the places they currently work from. Trapp advocates a balanced approach to what should and shouldn’t be used, allowing users to have their nicely designed cloud-based tools, yet still offering the governance, security and compliance IT teams need. So what are the steps to moving to collaboration? Dropbox has identified an eight-step process to help:

Step one is to identify the business objectives, i.e. Why are we doing this? What do we want to get out of it? Will it improve the business? Step two is to understand the workflows and the tools the team use, i.e. How do they use those tools? What support do they need? Will that migrate? Step three is around evaluating the current technology across the portfolio of the tools used in the business. Step four is assessing the business impact and the types of ROI you can glean from having a connected workspace, such as increased productivity and time saving. Step five is about securing buy-in from staff and decision-makers. Step six is focused on establishing the task force that is going to roll this out in the business.

Wilson recommends that this has to be a task force that is made up of people from across the organisation, not just IT, and also that the business chooses the right champions to drive it through, to encourage the right behaviour from the new users. Getting people on board is the catalyst to collaborative success. 93 per cent of respondents in The State of Collaboration who have attempted to improve collaborative working, said they still experience barriers such as changing culture and employee attitudes.

Steps seven and eight focus on measuring and monitoring, reviewing how people are working to make sure the business is continuously improving the way their employees are collaborating. However, “the metrics you choose will probably vary from business to business. Ideally you need to choose something that can help to drive the business forward,” Trapp points out.

Collaborative working can create real benefits in any organisation – most of us get that – but when it comes to manifesting that idea, success is not a simple case of ‘build it and they will come’. The secret is in the name: collaboration. That means that winning the hearts and minds of your users is just as important as choosing and working with the right application and IT stack. So, rather than passing the project to IT, start to look outside the department; become open to being open and start collaborating now.

Sponsored by Dropbox.

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