Collaboration has always been an integral part of the way enterprises get work done. Moving a product or service from brainstormed thought, through to design, then into production, and then finally to the customer, takes cooperation and teamwork. However, in the modern enterprise, where a workforce may be dispersed and mobile, much of this collaboration must take place with the assistance of technology.
This theory of a mobile-first, cloud-first modern workforce is why Microsoft has re-tooled its Office 365 productivity suite to include team collaboration features in every application. It is also why, Microsoft continues to innovate and implement new features and applications—because, how collaboration takes place in businesses today may not be an effective method tomorrow.
To this end, Microsoft conducted a survey of over 14,000 business people working in various capacities and at various stages of their career. The results reveal a subtle but important shift in how employees choose, or at least prefer, to collaborate. It is a cultural shift that enterprises should consider very carefully as they plan for their future.
SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (Tech Pro Research)
In modern business, assembling a team of employees to perform a task and setting them up for ultimate success requires technology. But the real question is which technology? For example, Microsoft's survey shows that the youngest members of the enterprise workforce, Gen Z (18-21), prefer to collaborate using text and chatting applications. Substantially more so than any of the other age groups.
Does this result mean that enterprises should spend resources establishing collaboration frameworks based on chatting applications? Or, aware of this preference among the Gen Z workers entering the workforce, should enterprises spend resources re-training this up and coming generation how the enterprise wants teams to collaborate?
Every business is going to have to decide what is best for their situation, but whatever the decision, the process is bound to be complicated. When survey respondents were asked whether they felt changes in communication tools was stressful, the youngest members of the workforce topped the list. Apparently, members of Gen Z prefer the communication tools they know.
If enterprise leaders and decision makers blindly believe that younger generations in their workforce are willing to change communication and collaborative tools without any resistance, they are going to be sorely disappointed. According to Microsoft's survey, the youngest members of the enterprise workforce like their technology tools, but they like them on their terms.
As more Gen Z employees enter the workforce, successful enterprise collaboration frameworks will have to include text and chatting applications. But there will be more to it than just chatting apps. The successful enterprise will also want to create a flexible collaboration framework that allows every worker, regardless of generation, to have access to useful communication tools they want to use.
Of course, Microsoft believes their productivity applications in the form of Office 365, Azure, and Windows 10 can provide that flexible collaboration framework. And, for the most part, the company's offerings accomplish that strategy, but competitive pressure is coming from all angles and resting on previous laurels is just not possible. The business world is changing fast and the tools needed to make business successful are changing with it.
- Five ways Microsoft SharePoint can help teams collaborate (TechRepublic)
- Why collaboration is the key to innovation (TechRepublic)
- How to choose a workplace communication and collaboration tool (TechRepublic)
- Unlocking the power of collaboration (ZDNet)
- Survey confirms collaboration and the apps that come with it still suck (ZDNet)
Interestingly, older people like me are less stressed by technological changes. I wonder if that is because technological change has been a prominent part of our experience for so long? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.