Collaboration in the time of Corona

by March 13, 2020 0 comments

Soma Tah


The one work culture that clearly differentiates Gen X people from Gen Y and Z people is the latter’s clear apathy for the 9-to-5 work culture. Internet connectivity, and the cloud and mobile-based collaboration tools have eased their problems out to a great deal, by enabling them to get their work done without being shackled to the confines office spaces. 

Studies have also shown that working outside the offices makes people more social, agreeable, empathetic, and trustworthy, and which organization would not want these qualities in their employees? Hence, organizations made a note of that and decided to dangle the ‘flexible work’ carrot to woo the young talents.  

Workforce collaborations are an imperative requirement in the modern-day workplace and millennial workforce. To encourage the new-age workers, organizations have been increasingly embracing remote work culture alongside physical offices; creating agile digital workplace; relying more on collaboration tools to stay productive; and looking out for solutions best suited for individual work-style and preferences.

“If we look at the evolution of today’s workplace and workforce, most large organizations these days have distributed offices, and work contracted to outsourced organizations, across multiple geographical locations and time zones. Then there are millennial workers who might choose to work out of home or other mobile work environments. Considering the above scenarios it becomes imperative to foster a collaborative environment in which teams can communicate with each other across various channels such as voice, chat and video,” says Johnson Varkey, National Business Manager – Collaboration & Customer Experience at NTT India Pvt. Ltd. 

Preferred workplace collaboration tools

Collaboration is an umbrella term for a number of communications tools such as phone calls, email, messaging, audio or video conference, and even working together on a whiteboard. 

Cloud and mobile-based collaboration solutions have become extremely popular among the people and organizations, for the sheer ease and flexibility they bring to the users. The solutions are affordable, easy to use, and scalable than legacy and on-premises solutions and take away the headache of upgrading the hardware, software, storage as well as their management and maintenance.

Sam Mallikarjunan, CRO of the team messaging and collaboration platform, Flock says, “Team messaging and collaboration apps are designed for real-time and faster team collaborations. They are not just any run-of-the-mill chat applications, but come loaded with features that reduce communication lags, increase productivity and fasten the decision making process. Users can create multiple teams, each with a specific purpose, and stay connected with all of them all from within a single platform, without the need to keep switching between multiple tabs.”

Now another issue with traditional collaborative measures is that they engage people in a lot of ‘Work around work’ which is no doubt a major productivity killer. Rashmi Choudhary, Associate Principal Analyst, Gartner says, “Today, employees want to spend the majority of their time doing the actual work and not communicating what they have done or assigning tasks, doing meetings etc.“As a result, workstream collaboration tools that deliver a conversational workspace and help to do the job via a single platform and at the same time improve team coordination and performance are gaining traction,” 

The next line of innovations in the workplace collaboration is aiming to make collaboration seamless by combining applications, text, audio, and video content, live sources in an immersive touch interactive canvas and most importantly, doing that in an intelligent and intuitive manner. 

Tithi and Gautam Tewari, Founders of SmartVizX and Creators of Trezi, an immersive collaboration product say, “Modern collaboration tools can ensure that all stakeholders of a design project, for example, are always on the same page—through an immersive, at scale, and real-time experience of the project data that leaves little room for errors or inconsistencies in perception. It’s as simple as the difference between trying to understand a project’s design through a 2D drawing, as opposed to stepping inside the project and experiencing it for yourself. 

Through the use of collaborative tech, millions of dollars and a significant volume of man-hours can be saved worldwide which would have otherwise been spent on meeting and shipping samples and mock-ups across various geographies, not to mention the environmental burden of such a high volume of material movement, added Tithi and Gautam. 

Collaboration in the time of Corona

Smart collaboration tools have even proved a viable alternative to work-related travel which has taken a hit due to pandemic Corona virus threats. While all the companies are curtailing work related travels, cancelling events, and encouraging employees to work from  home to keep them healthy, there are companies like Twitter and Cisco who have set a precedent by mandating all or most of the employees ‘Work from Home’. Some collaboration tool providers have also extended free access to the uninitated.

In a Tweet message, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai announced that Google would roll out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until July 1, 2020. This include larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call; live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain; and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive. These features are typically available in the Enterprise edition of G Suite and in G Suite Enterprise for Education.

in an official blog post, Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365 announced that Microsoft is also offering free access to Microsoft Teams. Teams is a part of Office 365 collaboration suite. Microsoft said it will also roll out an update to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on how many users can be part of a team and allow users to schedule video calls and conferences.

Nonetheless, Corona virus appears set to create a compelling event for people to change their working habits, feels Peter Quinlan, VP- Unified Communications and Collaboration Product Management, Tata Communications. “If it lasts for more than even a few weeks, as it appears on track to, those changed habits will become permanent.  While it may be unplanned, now is a great time for companies to look at how they enable and empower their distributed workforce to collaborate, and doing so will pay dividends into the future, long after the current threat has subsided.”

(The story first appeared in PCQuest magazine, March, 2020 edition)

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