In a recent post, prior to Microsoft’s recent Ignite 2016 conference, we intimated that we hoped that in the push to build the ultimate office tool the core features of the component parts were not sacrificed in the name of standardisation. I can happily say now that post-MS Ignite it appears that, at least for the product we are most interested in Yammer, has re-surfaced as a more integral part of Office 365, without sacrificing its core value proposition. As a Yammer core user, it appears now that as circumstances arise, where our collaboration partners might need to manage content, collaborate in real time, schedule and manage an event, we will be able to seamlessly access these core functions of other components like Sharepoint, Skype, Outlook etc.. Now while of course we know events like MS Ignite are mostly to announce intentions, more so than working products, it is comforting to see a positive roadmap like this.
In effect Office 365 is now offering a whole multiplex of collaboration vehicles. There will be individuals looking for a simple ‘usage matrix’ of what to use when. Yet collaboration can mean different things to different people. Is working in your routine processing team a collaboration? Is reading someone else’s content a collaboration? Is sending an email a collaboration?
How do we define Collaboration?
A couple of years ago Deloitte Australia’s economics unit produced a significant report on the economic value of collaboration to the Australian economy. As part of the process Deloitte surveyed thousands of workers looking for how they spent their time at work, specifically related to collaboration activities:
While the numbers will vary between individuals, we can look at the categories as typical work tasks and then look to map them to O365 components. For me the nearly 10% ‘Collaboration” is a natural home for Yammer, and probably “Socialising”. Routine tasks fit nicely into Sharepoint and Team sites. Outlook for Routine Communication. The individual work maps very nicely to core office 365 tools like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. So what we can see is that O365 can be nicely mapped to the O365 components. But does just knowing this help us use it productively? Who decides how we should interact and how?
Who should control collaboration?
The Deloitte work characterisation separates “collaboration” out from “interactions” as activities that staff engage in to be able to improve the way they work; improvising and innovating. While it may constitute only 10% of their work time on average, the impact is in improving the productivity of say routine tasks, routine communication and even individual work. So is it the role of managers to dictate modes of collaboration for their staff? Maybe its community managers of workplace improvement specialists? As the workplace moves to become more distributed and networked it is quickly becoming beyond that capability of specialist roles to orchestrate collaborative processes, without bloating the middle manager layers.
So what are we left with? I believe that it all comes back to the individual to “negotiate” how they interact and collaborate and how. As it turns out, the one who knows best as to how to improve your productivity is yourself. This comprehensive study on time-wasting by Paychex found that the most effective way to reduce time wasting is more flexible time scheduling or time off. Carpool recently ran an experiment in working from anywhere. Carpool CEO Jarom Reid speaks about the productivity improvements available when you have the flexibility of not being tied to a physical office. In the industrial age we became used to executives jobs being solely about linking and communication. However Reid, being the leader of a digitally enabled organisation, values having personal time where he can feel more productive than in the office. Andrew Pope writes about the dangers of over-collaboration. We all want our collaborations and interactions with colleagues to be productive. We feel we are over-collaborating when we feel we have wasted time in non-essential meetings. Pope suggests that individuals should take control of their collaboration activities to match their natural styles and tendencies, rather than trying to adhere to a particular organisational norm.
How will Office 365 Help?
So how would the new world of Office 365 support individual preference led collaboration? For those of us that have been used to living in Yammer or Sharepoint or Outlook it does put the onus on the individual to become competent in all the key toolsets, if we are to accommodate the potential preferences of our collaboration partners and avoid “tool solos”.
The nice thing about the Office 365 roadmap is that the tool silo walls have become more elastic. We can form a group from Yammer to explore an idea and then form a team to exploit the idea still inside Yammer, without having to move to a Teamsite. Alternatively, we can reach out from a Teamsite into a broader community group inside Yammer, if and when the need arises. The benefits in making this investment in learning is the flexibility it can afford to enable you, as an individual, to be in charge of your own productivity and performance.