The Collaboration Conundrum

Companies are no longer confined to the four walls of the office. External workforces are rapidly expanding as we work with an increasing number of freelancers, external suppliers and international partners. And let’s not forget that people are now working on the move and from remote offices via their mobile devices.

As companies grow, they are at risk of siloing information in departments. Great ideas are getting stuck within teams or even just sitting on an employee’s desktop. It’s more important than ever that we start working together effectively – we need to enter a new era of collaboration.

Collaboration is all about connecting people to content and content to people. We’re seeing a range of new content management platforms emerge in the workplace but it’s simply not enough; it’s essential they include a social element to encourage discussion. The idea is to get people to share ideas and best practice tips so that employers can make the most out of their staff’s expertise.

But driving collaboration internally is only half the battle – and in businesses internal collaboration usually just means email and a shared drive. Online collaboration opens up your ability to collaborate by focusing on creation and communication inside your team, your business and then finally with your partners, suppliers and clients. And online collaboration tools are about solving complex organisations’ problems in simple ways.

How can you improve collaboration at your company? Start by identifying an initial project with a small manageable team, it’s great to get a win under your belt and this will provide a template for other teams to use. Set out clear goals for your project so you collaborate and communicate with a purpose.

It’s important that you constantly communicate with your team; sharing information and providing updates. This keeps everyone in the loop and can spark other great ideas.

Use the tools you have invested in and immerse yourself in your chosen collaboration environment, don’t get regress to old habits – email is not collaborative collaboration tool. Make sure staff are trained in how to use new tools, show them how collaboration will benefit their teams, and more importantly, them personally.

Connect the extended team together – beyond the firewall. Don’t limit collaboration to internal departments; work with your partners and suppliers. With the privacy controls on your collaboration platform you can control who sees what. Finally be mindful of deadlines, at the end of the day it’s about getting the work done.

We want to encourage employees to share information and ideas to work together more effectively; we don’t want to see ideas left on the desktop to die any more.

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His third Internet start-up, Alastair Mitchell founded Huddle with Andy McLoughlin as he was frustrated by existing enterprise technology's inability to help people work together. Spending millions of dollars on a SharePoint implementation, only to watch it fail dismally, was the final straw. In contrast, collaboration apps in our social lives just worked. As a result, Huddle was born. Since setting up the company in 2006, Alastair has grown Huddle to 200 people in London, San Francisco and New York, raised in excess of $40 million in funding and seen sales triple year on year. Alastair's 11 year career has followed the trajectory of the Internet. After his first start-up, an online media business, Alastair moved into online exchanges and he built the first global soft commodities marketplace. When the business got bought-out by one of its investors, Alastair moved to Dunnhumby. Here he led its Web-based marketing intelligence product from zero to $60 million sales within 4 years. He joined the board in 2005 to head up a 300 person global team, running their shopper loyalty practise. When Dunhumby was purchased by Tesco, Alastair started Huddle.