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Why collaboration is necessary for innovation

Published: October 16th, 2015 By: IT World Canada Staff

Rogers

Workers have always collaborated, but thanks to an increasingly global workforce and a pressing need for innovation this is becoming even more important — even critical — in today’s economic environment.

By 2017, 25 per cent of organizations will lose their market position due to “digital business incompetence,” according to Gartner. The research firm blames this on the lack of a holistic response to consumerization trends in the digital workplace.

We’ve already seen this in Canada. The country received a C on its latest innovation report card from the Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think-tank. Canada isn’t failing, but it’s not an A+ student either.

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Enterprise collaboration tools and technologies can help, but only if employees actually use those tools and technologies. Gartner says organizations need to undertake a strategic rethinking of how people work and how tools help employees get their work done.

These tools — which include integrated voice, mobile, video, instant messaging, chat and presence — can foster increased knowledge sharing and teamwork. Multiple users can attend a meeting or work on a project simultaneously, even if they’re based in different cities or countries.

Where lack of personal contact (and cultural differences) can hinder collaboration — and therefore innovation — tools such as video conferencing, virtual whiteboards and screen sharing can help bridge the divide.

We’re seeing a glut of new ideas and activist customers, which necessitates innovation, according to Deloitte. But we’re also seeing more dispersed workers. “In the digital age, collaboration tools are a significant enabler of openness,” says Deloitte in Digital Collaboration: Delivering Innovation, Productivity and Happiness. “Openness correlates to engagement, to innovation and most significantly to the happiness of the workforce.”

Innovation can mean identifying bottlenecks, reducing lead times or finding operational improvements to create better products or services.

Over the past year, we’ve seen an evolution toward a single, unified platform from unified communications (UC) providers, marrying voice, video, web conferencing and mobility. And managed cloud-based UC solutions are becoming attractive options, particularly as IT departments find themselves under pressure to lower costs or work with limited staff.

Video conferencing has evolved to include screen sharing and interactive white boards, offering more opportunities for workers to engage and collaborate. And the technology has extended from the boardroom to personal desktops, tablets and even smartphones, making it even easier to jump on a video call — no telepresence room required.

We’re even seeing the potential of wearables among field workers and technicians to boost collaboration in the field among traditionally independent workers.

If implemented correctly, collaboration tools and technologies can provide a number of benefits, from accessing internal expertise to improving customer retention and boosting profits.

Some of these benefits are easy to measure (such as lower travel costs or faster time-to-market). Others might be harder to quantify, such as breaking down silos and increasing innovation — but they’re equally as important. Indeed, innovation could be the most important factor of success moving forward to prevent that “digital business incompetence” trap.