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The Connected Workplace: How connected are you…really?

How connected are you…really?

All this thinking about the connected workplace has made me question just how connected am I…really? My whole life feels like it revolves around connecting with people though technology, both in and out of the office. I spend my days emailing, IM’ing, Facebooking, Tweeting my friends, family and colleagues. Even if I accidently leave my laptop at home, I’m still able to connect through my Blackberry (or Crackberry as it’s more commonly known these days). If I need to check something whilst I’m on holiday, I can pop into an internet café and log into our shared systems in the cloud. Short of an awful accident, there is literally no reason for me to be offline or in a communication black hole. I am ALWAYS available.

I definitely consider myself to be what Forrester’s Simon Yates’ calls in his blog an ‘Anytime, Anywhere iWorker’. I meet his criteria of using at least three connected devices for work (Blackberry, laptop, iPad), working from three locations (office, home and ad-hoc when travelling around the world) and using over 7 applications for work in any given month (Twitter, LinkedIn, Mindjet, DropBox etc.). It turns out that I’m more connected than 84.9% of American iWorkers (Information office workers). Want to see how connected you are? Take the test for yourself and feel free to share your results underneath!

Is being so connected actually helping?

As Parker mentioned in his last post, these multiple ways to connect can often leave people feeling the need to unplug. I have to admit that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes from all of my touch-points and devices – making me feel in need of a digital diet! According to research we conducted last year, it seems a lot of people, at least in the UK, feel the same. So why is it that connecting, something which is supposed to be a help in business, has turned into a hindrance? Surely connectivity should equal collaboration.

A recent McKinsey report illustrates, that connectivity does not necessarily equate to collaboration. In fact, the assumption that being more connected with make you more collaborative could be doing you a lot more harm than good. Effective collaboration isn’t solely about sharing information. Independent consultant, Dr Graham Hill, sums it up well in a ZDNet article. He believes that collaboration requires ‘a conscious effort to create a way of working that promotes cooperation between different parts of the company to achieve their shared business goals’. It’s not about burdening ourselves and our teams with connected devices, and multiple communication and collaboration apps that pop up on our screen and distract us. Instead, it means finding processes that allow us to work better together and effectively utilise and action anything important from the information that we are constantly receiving from being so well connected.

One solution to collaborate us all

There are lots of social collaboration tools out there at the moment: Yammer, Sharepoint, Chatter and Socialcast, to name a few. These tools only address a small niche: file-sharing and instant communication. They arguably don’t provide enterprises enough assistance from a strategic or project management point of view. Truly effective collaboration solutions need to infiltrate every area of working life, for them to drive innovation and initiatives forward. They must clearly show how they can help businesses tap into the 20-25% increased productivity and $1.3 billion savings highlighted by McKinsey. Some of the more mature vendors, like IBM, have acknowledged this and developed service-led models that help customers analyse requirements, create sensible expectations, and deliver against them. At Mindjet we’ve been busy updating our multi-user project management solution with added social planning and task management in our quest to develop a quantifiable social enterprise collaboration solution. We want to provide software that doesn’t require a huge change in the way that people are working today, but instead supports existing work practices, while bringing people, ideas and plans together. I’ll be talking more about this in my next blog post so look out for it.

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