Gia Lyons on navigating digital workplace pitfalls
Three sections stand out…
Most so-called “digital workplaces” started out as basic company intranets — well-suited for publishing company news and serving as link farms for soon-to-be-outdated team sites and documents, but not much else.
These one-way, business-to-employee tools aged about as well as GeoCities communities.
Anyone that remembers GeoCities (or MySpace, for that matter) will know exactly what Gia is referring to.
While some have touted lightweight team-based communication apps as the answer to email overload, too often the hype overshadows the limited use cases. These tools often end up creating even more distractions and silos than before.
While chat-based apps are certainly a step up from email, they may not live up to expectations — especially if a company relies on it as its primary collaboration tool. Not only can they result in frequent context shifting and disconnectedness (if they don’t link directly to the document being discussed), many users — especially those in different time zones — report exhaustion from being “always on.”
There’s no missing what platform Gia is specifically referencing here either… Slack. Whilst I’m a fan of their UI and approach to integrations, Slack in no way replaces the intranet in terms of company wide communications or for non-team-based communities of practice or interest. Even for its most obvious use case, that of intra-team always-on backchannel, the Slack-lash has well and truly started.
Document-centric solutions fall on the other side of the spectrum. While promising a one-stop shop for collaboration, their rigidity undermines people’s ad hoc collaboration needs.
You have the structured document collaboration on one side, teamware on the other and a traditional company intranet thrown in the middle. Bolting them all together might seem like a good idea, but if the disparate tools aren’t integrated effectively, this Frankenstein can end up costing a company far more than it bargained for in support and upgrade costs.
We’ve all seen this all too often. Either a full-on ‘best of breeds’ approach, where for each new requirement there is a corresponding new tool procured, leaving users confused as to what goes where, and which stream is the one to follow. Or else a massively complex (and expensive) integration project where tools are mashed together in attempt to take the best from each, only to end up with a platform that is so much less than the sum of its parts – often even when those framework products come from the same vendor!
So what’s the answer? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, according to Gia it is the interactive intranet:
Good interactive intranets also capture collaboration in small groups. When seamlessly integrated with people’s document, email and chat tools of choice, employees no longer have to hunt through long email threads for action items, which enables collaboration at scale.
By capturing corporate memory and improving employee’s meta-knowledge and ambient awareness, modern intranets can drive greater productivity, improve business process efficiency and encourage innovation over time.
When employees work in the ways that fit them best, they experience their digital workplace in the same way they do their personal digital lives.
Well worth reading the entire piece.