Recently I’ve had the privilege to work with an organisation who is implementing a well known work-based collaboration application for customer data management. I have admired this platform and the company from afar for years, and now that I’ve have played with it, it hasn’t disappointed.
For the team receiving this application, they are facing 2 changes – the introduction of a mobile tablet to their day-to-day tools of the trade, and the application itself. The cloud-based application enables real-time customer data entry & retrieval. It features a feed, like a Twitter feed, of new information as data is shared. The hyperlinking of data between views is phenomenal. And, the reporting will be amazing.
Okay, already there is 1 new concept I have introduced in my description – data is not just being entered and stored – it is being actively shared.
I know I’m not the first to write about the themes associated with the transition to work-based collaboration tools, but until my immersion in this very role-specific application (as opposed to collaborative learning evironments which are fleeting in use in comparison), I didn’t quite realise the enormity of the change and what it means to issues of transparency, reputation and accountability. The transition needs to be thought about carefully; talked about and supported.
This application has phenominal power to search and manage client data ‘in-time’. The reality is, everything entered is time stamped and associated with a profile name and picture. This means, perhaps for the first time, there is an overt way to monitor the quality and timeliness of data entry. Everything team members do or don’t do is very noticeable – activity is very obvious.
With transparency comes reputation. Are you a regular and timely contributor or not? Do you share useful information or not? How is your ‘air time’ in the Twitter-like feed received by the team? Personal online work activity may cause team members to develop different perspectives about each other.
With transparency comes accountability. Every entry is shared and seen by others many times a day. And, it cannot be removed. The data entered must be of good quality, useful, succinct and appropriate.
What does this all mean?
I love collaboration platforms. But my nature and motivation is well suited to them. I prefer to be transparent; wanting to reassure clients’ trust in what I am doing for them. I like to share my thoughts by the written word, building an online reputation for both business reasons and for altruistic reasons. But not every user will share my preferences.
Many will be suspicious of authority, of the root reason why the platform was implemented. Many will tire of adding and looking up data in a timely manner – this was not the required practice before. Many will get annoyed by seemingly useless Twitter-like entries until a norm is established. Many will prioritise other work-based activities ahead of contributing to the platform.
How do we prepare staff for work-based collaboration tools?
Communicate, Educate and Model the new behaviour
- Communicate honestly the reasons for the change in work-based practice and workflow. Let’s face it, this tool is as much about productivity, profit and measurement as it is about collaboration, team-management and, in this case, customer service.
- Help staff, especially teams, establish norms on how they will work together in the new online space.
- Reward positive behaviour.
- Ensure the executive team demonstrate the behaviour expected of staff by contributing, and responding to others regularly.
- Communicate the positive outcomes that come from the platform being used well – outcomes that are meaningful to end users.
- Actively search for and detect the not-so-positive consequences of implementing the platform into staff practice. Ask staff to be open with their experiences, and deal with issues quickly, with the same level of transparency the organisation expects of it’s staff.
If you have a personal experience of a role-specific work-based collaboration tool, I’d love to read it. Please leave a comment. Thank you.