Last month Google introduced Hangouts Chat and Microsoft released Teams from beta. They’re both chasing Slack in the latest lap of the “connected workplace” race that we could say began in 2007. Back then, Microsoft Office ruled the world, and when Google Docs came out that year, people scoffed at it. Who would write on a web app? Who would put their data in an online spreadsheet?
As it turned out, everyone who wanted to collaborate would. Five years later even the Financial Times was enthralled with the connected workplace concept, and all eyes were on an industry that was expected to deliver massive productivity gains. Free instances of Slack spun threads in all directions. Pretty soon everything from Gantt Charts to swimlanes was available for free. Chat functionality popped up everywhere, in the form of Yammer, HipChat, Glip, Quip and even built into your Apple applications.
Now that we’re ten years into connecting everything, most executives and a great many of their A-Players have finally started to wonder why. They look around and it seems like a lot of their coworkers think that producing a deck somehow generates revenue or, worse, that following a tangle of threads is “work.”
And they find that the “connected workplace” is really a series of knots, not connections. Slack spread so fast because isolated teams trying to hit isolated targets inside their isolated tech silo would just start using it. That so many, worldwide, could do something like that on their own shows just how loose and, why not say it, “slack” their plans were at the outset.
It also shows how badly people want to collaborate on a platform. Without one, they feel like they’re flying blind. If they start their own, or use one that sprouts up in an existing app, then they fly blind together. Sure, teams will always want to collaborate in their isolated silo. But if that’s all you provide, then what do they see when they look up from their threads? Can they see any connections outside their silo? Do they understand the big picture?
Usually, they can’t, and that won’t cut it today. In fact, I would guess that’s the main reason a recent study sponsored by Salesforce found that over half of global executives consider their implementations to be “early stage.”
Their advanced stage will actually be a connected workplace. Technology will be part of it, but the real winners of this race will connect people. They won't tolerate a tangle of threads. They'll create a tapestry across the whole company. And while the silos will still exist, they won’t be isolated from one another anymore. Some of those threads will tie them together, so people will have a top-level appreciation of what’s happening in silos other than their own. Everyone can work together intelligently and respectfully.
It’s more important than ever to create that kind of visibility across your organization, especially for smaller businesses that are trying to grow. When people understand how their role fits in, they can execute much more intelligently. Think about those people who started using Slack on their own. They were trying to succeed. They wanted to connect. They wanted better understanding.
But they had to act on their own. That means management was leaving a huge amount of their own employees' willingness on the table. They were wasting commitment. They lost creativity. And Slack didn’t solve the problem. It might have helped the team a bit, but just to an “early stage.”
So skip that and go straight for the advanced connected workplace. When you put all that energy to work, it can improve your bottom line the first quarter. Keep it connected and your team can handle your competition with less stress and more success. Build a culture around it, and you’ve created an engaged workforce moving twice as fast as their competitors, making better decisions – and with no knots.