5 Keys to Succeed in The New Collaborative Workplace – Webinar Q&A

Thank you again for joining us on October 22 for our Expert Webinar Series featuring guest presenter, Jacob Morgan, principal Chess Media Group and authority on the future of work as he shared 5 Keys to Succeed in the New Collaborative Workplace. Many of you indicated the content and pace was perfect while others wished we had more time to go into further details and answer more of your questions.

As promised, please find below the questions you asked during this webinar and responses from your two expert webinar hosts, Jacob and Kirk Trachy.

Q: The company I work for is very much modeled like your examples and we are 100% work from home. We are an international Project Management company and work with many clients, large and small with varying methodologies and work structures. Email seems to be the way most outside companies communicate with us.  How can we suggest, without alienating customers, better ways to communicate?

 JM: We do this all the time with our customers. We simply leverage a collaboration platform and invite customers to the platform.  We tell them, “in order to make things easier for all of us we created a collaborative workspace where we can put in all information related to the project.”  We have never had anyone pushback on this but you need to have the technology to be able to do it.

Q: I’m guessing some companies are further along in this evolution than others – do you have any data to share on which industries are on each end of this evolutionary scale?

JM: I don’t have data, but I can tell you from the companies that we speak and work with that it’s all across the board.  Strangely enough, financial institutions have been very receptive to these ideas and are making big investments.  Manufacturing might be a bit behind the curve though.  Aside from that, I’ve seen everyone from grocery retailers and banks to home improvement companies and fast food chains getting on board!

Q: How is this playing with Yahoo and “no more remote work?”

JM: I believe that is a temporary thing for Yahoo!  When this effort first started for them they didn’t have the infrastructure and standardization in place to support it.  Meaning, they didn’t have a strategy, policies, or the technological backbone to make it work.  There were some people there who had entire side jobs!  However, having said that, there are still plenty of people who do work from home there.  The media tends to exaggerate things a bit :)

KT: Alexandra Levit wrote a thought-provoking article for The Fast Track about  Yahoo’s work from home strategy you may find of interest.

Q: People in our company are enamored with e-mail listserves, and are resistant to give them up.  Any ideas on how to convince folks to “move on” to better tools?

JM: Thankfully I have a whole book on how to make this happen but there are a few ways.  Start playing around with the technologies, conduct an employee survey to show that this is a problem, build a case for it just like you would for anything else, attempt a grass-roots movement around it.  If you can get someone from the executive team to be a “sponsor” you will have a much easier time with this!

KT: I found a couple of helpful articles on The Fast Track that have some helpful advice on how to get people to adopt better tools for team collaboration:

Pushing Coworkers to Adopt New Technology
7 Steps to Ensuring End User Adoption of Your Application

Q: ­What does Jacob have to say about the etiquette of flexible work?  For instance, is it acceptable to have your dog barking in the background as you conduct a work-related call?­

JM: It’s the reality of working from home or a co-working spot. There are going to be some noise and distractions. It’s not as if you can’t get things done. You just say, “Excuse me, my dog is barking, hang on a second,” and that’s it.  It’s not that big a deal.

Q: ­What companies are good examples of those who are forward-thinking in these employee management ideas?­

 JM: Companies such as TELUS, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Yum! Brands, IBM, EA (Electronic Arts), just to name a few. There are some case studies at ChessMediaGroup.com/Resources with details.

Q: ­Email is getting out of hand and unmanageable. How does one help their organization understand how to use email appropriately?­

 JM: The key here isn’t to help organizations understand how to use email (although that can be a short-term solution) it’s help organizations realize that email isn’t the only or the best way to communicate or collaborate.  There are better ways! Some companies have gone to the extreme of having managers create auto-responders for people indicating they are only checking email once a day and if urgent to contact them at their collaboration profile.

Q: How does one create a balance b/w data security and empowering employees to use tools to collaborate? If they take such decision in their own hands wont this be dangerous?

KT: This is a common insecurity that people early into SaaS adoption express.  That isn’t to say that this is not a valid concern so do your homework, choose a reputable company, insist on viewing a company’s independent security audit.  Most companies have policies around just what kind of SaaS offerings are permitted.  Many have security checklists.  Intuit QuickBase owns their own data centers, provides daily backups and satisfies the security concerns of over 50 of the Fortune 100 Companies. If you look at it from an infrastructure standpoint, SaaS providers have a higher burden than many other businesses in this regard, and it’s taken very seriously. From the business standpoint, I think it’s much more elementary of a discussion. You either trust and empower your talented workforce to make good decisions, treat company assets as they would their own, and follow policies and procedures designed to keep company assets safe. If you don’t trust your employees this way, that’s another concern entirely. Should you desire more information about QuickBase, contact your QuickBase account contact to obtain a copy of our most recent independent SOC2-2 Security Audit. Our Chief Architect, Depankar Neogi, also wrote an impartial three-part blog series on how to select a cloud-based business process vendor that may answer more of your security concerns.

 Q: Why isn’t email the most effective way to communicate? What do these collaborative tools offer that is better than email? 

KT: Communication is the process of using words, sounds, symbols or behaviors to exchange information or express ideas and thoughts with others. The question is: to what end? There is usually a purpose and a goal. At work, communication almost always is in support of a process, goal, project, task, or objective. The fact that work communication is inextricably tied to a process or objective makes the use of email a less-than-effective tool in many cases. Communications about a project should be visible and accessible to anyone who is working on the project. Communications with a customer should be accessible to anyone who has a direct or indirect interest in that customer’s history and behaviors over time. Work communication that is locked in each employee’s inbox is useless to the entire organization and can actually hamper the productivity and effectiveness of teammates. Using a collaborative tool like QuickBase that marries communication to process and workflow delivers all of the value of transparency and accountability with the convenience and familiarity of using email.

Q: ­ About half of our employees are not technically savvy – to the point that we have had to teach them HOW to email. We also have a small language barrier with one employee. How can we work to overcome those challenges?­ ­We are spread out over 5 locations and need to be more mobile but struggle to do so.­

KT: QuickBase is and can be the “one source of truth” for any organization.  Having one place, service and location to where all employees rally is very valuable to multi-location companies.  QuickBase recommends you land on a common language with which you collect data.  Companies however can use custom forms to precondition web forms to help groups using alternate languages.  For example one form may be in Spanish, another in French and another in English.  The form labels and supporting text may be in various different languages but the field data collected would be common.

Q: ­Do you have any recommended readings to continue to grow project management skills?­

KT: Yes. Please see our new eBook: Managing Projects: The Essential Guide for Non-Project Managers as a starting point. I would also recommend subscribing to The Fast Track (our blog) or checking out these articles by Esther Schindler on The Fast Track for additional readings related to project management for non-professional PMs.

Q: ­How do you reconcile flexible work hours and collaboration?  In other words, if team members are working significantly different hours, isn’t collaboration delayed and then stagnated? ­

 KT: The strong value proposition of SaaS is that data is available 7x24x365 when and where ever a user needs access.  Many customers have teams all around the globe contributing on their own time zone.  QuickBase becomes the “One source of truth” reducing confusion and saving time and money by normalizing process, resources and making information always available.

Q: ­I am thinking of using QuickBase for tracking projects and encouraging design-phase communication.  Can you give me an example of how QuickBase can be used for this type of thing?­

 KT: Over 75% of people that use QuickBase use QuickBase for some type of Project Management.  Their invocation of QuickBase is not cookie-cutter but one that matches their workflow and need exactly.  There are over 45 project management apps in our QuickBase Exchange, where users find valuable QuickBase apps already created by Intuit or our community.  Find one that is close to your business process and adapt it to your process.  If you don’t find what you are looking for, let us know; we are glad to assist.

Q: ­How does QuickBase compare with Sales Force & Chatter?­

KT: Other SaaS solutions such as SalesForce are narrowly focused on certain applications, such as CRM, while QuickBase is a flexible workspace enabling end users to create just the application types they need and expand their use to manage different business processes or data management issues as they arise.

Q: ­People in our company are enamored with e-mail listserves, and are resistant to give them up.  Any ideas on how to convince folks to “move on” to better tools?­

JM: I address a lot of this in my book, but if she is a senior level employee, it’s much easier, since she has the opportunity to help drive change, but if not, one of the easiest ways to do this is to get support from someone on the senior leadership side or try to build up a grassroots effort, in other words, band together with employees who are upset with email and find a different technology that group can use. Use an auto-responder that you’re only checking email once a day and here’s another way to get in touch with you if urgent.

Q: How would a company convert their company from email being a primary to a secondary mode of communication.  We currently have QuickBase and all employees do use it.  Email still being primary.  How do I sell this to the owner of our small company?

JM: You can tell your colleagues that you will no longer be checking email and that if they want to get ahold of you they need to leverage whatever collaboration platform you are using. You can build a case for it by showing examples, highlighting research, etc.  It’s never easy but the good thing is that’s it’s a problem everyone can relate to. Focus on the pain point and come up with a solution, then show it.  You can also build up a grass-roots effort.

Q: How do you influence management that working from home has it’s benefits?  And how do you maintain confidence with WFH?

JM: Identify why it’s a problem, come up with a solution, and then present the solution.  There are plenty of examples and lots of research to support this.  Why not ask management why they DON’T support it and see what they say? :)

KT: We’ve written on the subject of working from home several times. Check out the following for some ideas to  help influence management on WFH policy.

6 Tips to Work from Home Successfully

How Not to Look Like a Slacker When Working from Home

In Office Workers are Less Productive Than Telecommuters














Alex Forbes

Alex is editor-in-chief of The Fast Track and Marketing Manager for Intuit QuickBase. Developing valuable content and engaging with readers and customers are just a few of his work related passions. Skiing, riding his Kawasaki Versys, and day tripping with his wife around New England are passionate offline pursuits. Follow him on Twitter or Google+

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