It will roll it out to all our users soon. We call it “Connect.” There’s nothing like it on the market. When you first see it, you’ll probably assume it’s another chat platform. But when your employees start using it, you’ll find out why it changes everything.
To fully understand its significance requires an overview of the “collaboration” market. I put the word in quotes because it seems to mean different things to different companies. In fact, it has almost as many meanings as there are companies using it. For some, collaboration means that people can edit a document together. For others, it means forming groups and threads. For still others, it’s task management.
The business market overwhelmingly demands these tools. Everyone knows that productivity has been stagnant for years, and collaboration is certainly part of the solution. But practically all of the collaboration tools we read about in the mainstream press were originally developed without business in mind. Worse, the way those tools are usually implemented can end up lowering productivity rather than increasing it.
We’ll start with Google Docs, or the “G Suite” as it’s called now, since it was so early. The first pieces of it were released in 2007, when Microsoft Office still ruled the business world and when a fully networked version of Office was the only “collaboration” platform most people knew about. Google set out to compete by creating a web-based version of the same thing. It was widely adopted in no time, mostly because it was free, but also because its built-in collaboration features worked so well. (Microsoft copied them with Office 365.)
Despite Google’s success, productivity remained flat. Their app was cool, but it didn’t necessarily make business more productive. One reason why comes crystal clear when we look at another huge collaboration player, Slack. Originally, Slack was a chat platform that game developers threw together to use internally. When their game flopped, they pivoted to providing Slack, and it took off, even though it wasn’t really ready for prime time. One PC Magazine reviewer wrote that “the app felt disorganized to me, cluttered in a way that made me worry I'd lose track of what was happening or miss important information. It also seemed very chaotic.”
But Slack revealed how deep the demand was, so other companies jumped into the space. Facebook’s new Workplace offers a slimmed-down version of their social media for businesses, so people can form groups and chat in a familiar environment. Like Slack, you can form groups. You can set up pages the same way you can in Facebook, and people can follow them. Facebook is marketing it primarily as a way to bring remote employees into the corporate family, and the way it’s used is largely determined by the people using it.
Microsoft, not surprisingly, tried to complete by folding Yammer, the chat app it bought for USD$1.2 billion, into Office 365. Atlassian built similar products. Adobe and Apple built collaboration into their creative suites. It seems like almost any application you use these days includes some communications component.
That helps us zero in on what’s missing from collaboration, and why Connect is a game changer. Right now, all these platforms put the project or the group at the center. You’re in the platform to work on a document. Or you’re there to chat with coworkers.
What’s missing is the “why?” Why are you writing that document? Why is it important to the company’s strategy? Why are you, personally, in that group? What's the group supposed to accomplish? Why? How will you know if you’ve succeeded?
Usually, people just don’t know. But they won't let the lack of direction stop them from succeeding. Instead, they jump in and try to get something done. If it seems like a "collaboration app" might help, they create an account. From then on, any useful intellectual property they create is lost in the app. There's no oversight, no history, no methodology.
Along these lines, the Slack reviewer made a great observation: “Company culture will drive how Slack is used, and conversely, the use of Slack will shape company culture. For this reason, it's very important that people in leadership roles actively participate in Slack.”
Collaborate in Context
That's backwards. The platform shouldn’t come first with leadership showing up later. A blog article that went viral earlier this year, Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You, explains what often happens: “With you [Slack] in my life, I’ve received exponentially more messages than I ever have before. And while it’s been awesome...it has been absolutely brutal on my productivity.” That's the opposite of what business needs.
The solution is simple. Leadership has to come first, and the collaboration platform after. Leaders inspire their team with what the company’s trying to accomplish. They give people the big picture. They explain how each job fits. People simply can’t be productive if they don’t know these things. They are the “why.”
That’s what makes Connect a game changer, and that’s why our beta clients adopted it so fast. RESULTS hold the big picture in front of everyone all the time. Strategy cascades through goals down to tasks. Connect sits next to that. Threads are attached to goals. The goals fit the strategy. Everyone gets it. No one has to wonder “why” — it’s right there next to the thread.
That way, you control the culture, you control the strategy, and when your people Connect, they know exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, and why.