A “Connected System” Approach to Collaboration

Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

While the underlying chat technologies within Microsoft Teams, Slack, and other competitors have been around for decades, the advent of the cloud and the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence capabilities within the enterprise have moved us into a new era of end user productivity. While the past 20 years of information technology have largely been focused on broad, system-based solutions designed to process and “templatize” data through centralized and sometimes rigidly constructed, governance-heavy content management platforms, the next step in technological evolution will instead revolve around the end user. Command-and-control systems will be displaced by personalized solutions, process and templates replaced by frameworks and standards through which social signals and data will be consumed through dynamic and mobile applications that work with, and across, any device. In this next phase of enterprise collaboration, successful organizations will harness these personalized applications and platforms and turn their focus toward improving the end user experience.

How teams collaborate and connect are changing. Tools that overtly manage and manipulate content are becoming more seamless and integrated, and the lines between the tools we use at work and at home or blurring. While some of these new capabilities are released as standalone products, many of the more powerful tools and services are becoming ubiquitous — tools for the desktop finding their way into our personal devices this blending helps minimize the learning curves that end users spend less time figuring out how to use the technology, and more time focusing on business productivity.

There’s a great quote back from 2014 from former AIIM.org president John Mancini talking about the world of content management moving from a “system of record” to a “system of engagement” model. He stated:

“Forrester talks about how the combination of cloud, SaaS, mobile, social, and analytics dramatically changes the nature of collaboration making it possible for the first time to truly address all of the grey areas of our business processes. They called this opportunity “smart process applications” and I think there is a great deal to this line of thought. Every industry has processes that, at first glance, seem automated. And at the surface level they are. But the reality beneath the surface is that most processes have countless branches and outcroppings where right now a lot of manual and ad hoc collaboration occurs. It is in the automation of these “exceptions” that enormous opportunity lies.”

One key failure of most content and knowledge management strategies is the tie to infrastructure and line-of-business integrations, architected in a way that does not allow the organization to quickly adapt and change as the needs of the business change. The future of collaboration will not see fewer of these connections — in fact, the complexity of systems and datasets tide to the enterprise will only increase, from transactional systems like customer relationship management and ticketing systems, to more dynamic data signals from purchasing behavior, geographic information systems, and public and organizational social interactions.

According to IDC, the size of a typical SharePoint environment is just over one terabyte of content, with growth rates of 50% to 75% annually. On top of that, end user needs are constantly maturing, changing at an equal or greater rate than the systems they are using. Our ability to adapt and grow beyond the scope of our tools outpaces the speed at which our organizations can deploy these solutions. To remain competitive — and to retain top talent — organizations need to do a better job at providing solutions that allow end users to quickly leverage the latest and greatest technologies, and the most relevant content.

The goal is to create a “connected system” where knowledge and innovation are “crowd-sourced” from across the network, and the best ideas and solutions are contributed from the organization, and to clients. By leveraging the power of this connected system, information will be more accurate and relevant because employees are more engaged and able to leverage their strengths and knowledge, as fits each customer scenario.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (https://rencore.com/), leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.