The BroadVision Blog

Tidy up your coils of unstructured process

 

How improved collaboration reduces complexity and enhances user experience

In my last post, I mentioned that “User Experience” was one the topics that delegates at digital transformation conferences name as one of their areas of focus when it came to seeking out help and advice.

What do people mean by “User Experience”? Here’s a definition I like from the Nielsen Norman Group:

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Let’s consider this in the context of digital transformation where organisations are seeking to make themselves fitter and more adaptable to market disruption.

In a white paper “The Agile Enterprise”, PWC explain that organisations have a propensity to become too complex, especially following periods of rapid growth or acquisition. The basic aim of achieving agility is to reduce this complexity.

We are all customers, and we all see the effects of organisational complexity in the dealings we have with organisations. How many times have you chased up an issue with your phone supplier, electricity company, or any other supplier, and found yourself becoming increasingly exasperated repeating the same information over again in different channels? Not great for the customer, but how expensive must all those interactions be for the supplier? And how soon will an innovative competitor jump in with a new service model and take market share?

Living with complexity is not good for the employee experience either, especially for Generation Y. In their paper, “The digitisation of everything”, EY found that,

“Generation Y display the same lack of patience as employees as they show as consumers, and companies must address their evolving expectations to avoid high recruitment and churn costs.”

They go on to say,

“What is more, this generation have significant ideas and are willing to share them company-wide, they represent a useful resource every company”.

So the risk is not only in disenchanting your staff, but the opportunity cost of losing valuable new ideas.

Most digital transformation efforts focus on core processes and those operations that are repeatable and can be automated by BPM, PLM, ERP, CRM, or HRM/HCM software. Companies seek to be more agile by simplifying existing processes, and ensuring that new processes can be quickly and easily created as the business seeks to adapt to new threats and opportunities.

But around these structured and repeatable core processes, there is usually a large “coil” of supporting unstructured activity in the form of conversation, collaboration and the exchange of information and knowledge. In this “coil”, there can be a great deal of complexity because this exchange of information is almost always fragmented across many different tools and methods of communication. So what’s the user experience in the “coil”? Often very confused :

“Does this email have the latest document version attached?”

“Where did I see that information? In a chat, an email, a shared document, or in the enterprise social network?”

“I am just looking at this issue now. How many emails do I need to read to catch up?”

“Haven’t we dealt with a similar issue before?”

“Sorry, this got lost in my inbox”

“Sorry, I turned my chat notifications off. They’re constantly interrupting me with stuff that’s of no interest to me.”

So complexity creates confusion and a poor user experience, both for customers and employees. Reducing complexity is also the aim of becoming agile. So are these two sides of the same digital transformation coin?

How can we address the complexity in the coil, and in doing so, improve the overall user experience for customers and employees? Here are some suggestions:

1. Consolidate collaboration tools. Instead of using many incompatible tools for chat, file sharing, social collaboration, tasks, etc., use an integrated platform that combines all these methods of collaboration and engagement, so users only have one inbox, and one place to find information.

2. Eliminate the use of consumer tools internally. Many people prefer the experience of consumer chat and sharing tools over email (sometimes even when it risks breaching compliance or privacy rules). So offer the same methods of collaboration but using tools that are managed in the business. Your employees will be better connected, and the ideas and knowledge they are creating and sharing will not be lost to the organisation.

3. Have a plan to reduce or eliminate the use of email for internal communication and collaboration. It is not feasible to just “turn email off” by executive order, but email is a very poor tool for collaboration, and provides no accountability. So plan for transition and choose a tool and an approach that allows for a bridge between old and new ways of working.

4. Use your mobile digital channels to bring the (consumer) customer closer. Customers resort to social media channels to raise issues often because it is just easier than emailing or picking up the phone. So why not make it even easier by offering a private, persistent chat channel to each of your customers? They just pick up their mobile, post their question, at any time in the chat. When they do so, if all the context (previous discussions, links to their account, statements, contracted documents, etc) is directly linked to the chat, there will be no need for additional explanations. They do not need to wait for a call centre person to answer, and you can get issues resolved in less time and with less resource. And the episode is not aired in public.

5. Ensure there is an automated process for capturing and organising the knowledge in all collaboration and engagement activities. To avoid confusion, try to ensure there is only one copy of everything (a “Single Source of Truth”). Make sure that the cross-references between activities, content, topics and people are embedded so as to make knowledge re-use, audit, discovery and analysis easy later on.

If an object of your digital transformation initiatives is to make life less complicated for your employees and your customers, you could do a lot worse than look at how your organisation copes (or doesn’t cope) with its unstructured coils of communication, collaboration and engagement activities.

The Collective Intelligence of People Networks

 

I have attended a few conferences recently on Digital Transformation, and it’s interesting to hear what people and their organisations are doing and thinking about under that very broad banner.

Two things struck me as common at these events. One is that they all start (and sometimes continue) with doom-saying thought leaders warning established businesses against complacency; that they are all threatened by Uberization.

The argument goes “Who knows who might be lurking round the corner with the next great idea borne in the crucible of technology that will eat the lunch of Global Enterprise Corp?” The corporate Titanic versus the disruptive iceberg. Well, yes, we all get that now.

The second thing is that the delegates often start from a perspective of asking, “What can I do with…(name one or two current trending topics)… to get our company into better condition to compete against some as yet unknown or little known start-up who is going to disrupt my business model in ways as yet unforeseen?”

In those conferences I attended, three trending topics were especially popular: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Agile Enterprise, and User Experience. Many get very excited about (and often frightened by) AI with expectations of ground-breaking insight into new opportunities as well as identifying where disruptors might threaten.  Often bracketed with culture change, the Agile Enterprise wish appears to be a kind of appeal to the people in the business to be ready for whatever comes; the need to adapt through learning new ways, new skills, new jobs, new ways of dealing with each other, with suppliers, and with customers. And then User Experience which is about ensuring employees and customers both enjoy interactions with the organisation that are consistent, frictionless, friendly, attractive, enjoyable, accessible – in essence, fulfilling that magic adjective, engaging. Obviously important for customer relationships, but also important for employees if they are to welcome what is to come with culture change and Agile Enterprise.

All good so far. But these are Big Ideas and while technologies like AI have unimaginably huge potential, it is noticeable that delegates to these Digital Transformation events struggle with working out where to start, other than by hiring very expensive strategic consultants to advise them. What are the small steps that can be taken first? Can these first steps deliver benefits by themselves, and encourage their executive sponsors to stay onside to support the changes and actions that will come after?

So here’s an idea. Maybe it is not new, but even if that is so, it is worth repeating. As already intimated, digital transformation is about cultural and attitudinal change as much as technology. But it is also about fully leveraging the resources available – especially your people. Organisations have hundreds or thousands of eyes and ears observing and hearing how customers behave, how processes work/don’t work/could be improved, hundreds or thousands of minds assimilating observations and sparking ideas, and so on. There is a huge capacity for Collective Intelligence (CI) in your organisation if you harness it – human sensors of customer experience, and generators of great new ideas!

So how do you harness CI? Well, to make it possible, you have to provide the means – a platform that allows people to connect and collaborate. It must have these properties:

  1. Allows people to choose from different methods of non-disruptive, asynchronous communication (chat, blog, content sharing) with a single user interface. It does not complicate the internal user experience by adding to the number of tools, but can rather replace several of them (including internal email), reduce the number tools to make working life simpler, and foster conversation around knowledge, insight and ideas.
  2. Captures, organises and cross-references ideas and knowledge without adding to the users’ workload. This ensures full context is preserved, so others can get up to speed fully and add value without repeating history.
  3. Provides a “single source of truth” for all the conversation and content, i.e. a single, searchable knowledge base.
  4. Seamlessly allows for ideas to become accountable actions through workflow and task management.
  5. Has the integration capabilities through open APIs, integration bots and native integrations that allow it to become integral to the whole work experience, complementing existing collaboration tools and systems of record. Promotes inclusiveness by ensuring that, for example, legacy internal email users can be included in conversations.
  6. Is supported by a practical, experience-based methodology to ensure successful adoption. Experience says that viral adoption cannot be depended upon for success, there must be a plan with an executive lead, objectives and measurement.

To some, this might seem circular. Successful adoption of new digital tools requires a change in habit and attitude, and a more agile mindset, but to achieve more agile working requires new tools. To break that circle, and make the first transformation steps that deliver quick wins, it is much easier to provide the means first with a digital workplace platform that combines collaboration with knowledge management and supported by an adoption programme, than trying to start with nebulous concepts of wholesale cultural change.

 

Why Knowledge Management Matters More Than Ever

In the early 2000s, everyone was talking about “knowledge management”. But over the years, it has been attracting less and less attention.

This seems strange, because knowledge management matters more than ever. Here are five reasons why…

Read Transcript

Business is Digital
The last decade has seen more and more of our communication, information and transactions moved online. Now, many organisations are embarking on major digital transformation projects to accelerate that. With the physical filing cabinet becoming increasingly obsolete, the need for better management of digital knowledge is obvious.

Business is Mobile
The mobile revolution has meant that more and more people are working away from the office. But they still need access to the collective intelligence of the company, wherever they are, and whatever device their using.

Business is Global
Whether it’s co-workers, customers, business partners or suppliers, more and more organisations work with people distributed around the world. Waiting 8 hours for someone on the other side of the world to start their working day and answer your question is inefficient and frustrating, so global companies need to organize their knowledge to make it available, whichever time zone you’re in.

Business is Continuous
Employee turnover is fact of life, but far too many organisations lose valuable knowledge when the employee leaves. Capturing that knowledge as it’s created enables seamless transition for new employees and prevents corporate amnesia.

Business is Regulated
For companies in some industries, this retention of knowledge and communication isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a legal necessity. It’s essential to report accurately who said what to whom, when, and see this in the context of steps leading to key decisions or transactions.

Vmoso
Vmoso preserves knowledge by capturing it at source. Every message you send, and every file you attach immediately form part of the ever-growing collective knowledge base, and is connected to all other referenced information. So when you, your co-worker or your successor needs to go back and find the information later, Vmoso has it ready and waiting.

Enterprise Digital Summit, London

BroadVision are proud to be sponsoring the Enterprise Digital Summit in London on November 23rd/24th. I’ll be speaking on the 24th about how organisations can address the way their business communication is becoming more and more fragmented across incompatible services and tools.

In advance of that, I spoke to Bjoern Negelmann of Kongress Media and described BroadVision’s perspective on the current state of social collaboration and digital transformation initiatives.

 

Group chat isn’t the panacea for those wanting to replace email

Chat, Chat, Chat…Short bursts of information between two or more people has become all the rage. Like instant messaging a decade ago, group chat is the current communication platform de jour. You’ve heard the names, Slack, WeChat, Hipchat, Redbooth, Facebook at Work, Yammer and many others.

If you are considering a communication and collaboration solution you need to first ask three basic questions.

1. What is your ambition? What are you trying to change or accomplish in your organization?

2. Do you want a one “trick” simple solution that addresses one aspect of workflow, workplace communication or collaboration; or a multi-function solution?

3. How important is a mobile-centric platform? Is mobile part of your workplace roadmap and employee engagement?

This is just step one. While group chat is generating noise, but are you signing up for the game changer you have been led to believe?

The very nature of the word chat says short term, disposable…informal communication. Many believe chat is the email replacement tool. Moving to a group chat solution is not the answer even if email has grown to be used for more than basic electronic communication.
How we communicate has a direct influence on how we work. Are disconnected and informal business tools the right ones to address complex problems?

Effective communication is critical for the success of any organization. One major challenge is the fixing or correcting of workplace errors because of poor communication. Using a chat tool, that perpetuates an informal communication style, will not address the challenge of moving today’s information into tomorrow’s corporate knowledge.

Don’t listen to us. Listen to an unbiased review of group chat from Jason Fried, Founder & CEO at Basecamp. Co-author of Getting Real, Remote, and NYT Bestseller REWORK. In his March 2016 manifesto – “Is group chat making you sweat?” he describes the FOUR positives and 17 negatives with simple group chat solutions.

According to Jason….

“…group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense.”
“…the method and manner in which you choose to communicate has a major influence on how people FEEL at work. Frazzled, exhausted and anxious? Or calm, cool and collected?”

Jason is someone who has been at the forefront of enterprise group chat for over a decade. Chat isn’t bad, it just isn’t the pancea. Check out this video where we describe in detail Jason’s positives and negatives of group chat. Vmoso vs Group Chat

vmoso - and group chat

Chat isn’t bad.

If all you want is a persistent chat tool, you can “PAY” for any of the apps discussed or use a free instant chat platform like skype.

What is group chat good for?

It’s fast and immediate; if your team or group needs to discuss and hash out something quickly…chat will do the trick. It is a lot easier for multiple people to read, respond and discuss in a chat setting than clogging up an email in-box.
There is a sense of urgency and it is one way to circulate information to a large audience.
Chat is fun and collegial, but if ordering an Uber or a pizza while discussing a $50 million dollar business deal with the team is mission critical, then Slack is right for your company.
Group chat also provides a collaborative platform to build inclusion and create a sense of belonging. This helps build a powerful organizational culture. This is the ultimate goal, but group chat falls short in the long run.

Where chat fails –

But, if group chat is the primary method of communication across your enterprise you are not focused on the big picture.

Active or passive participation in group-chat can be exhausting. Unlike overloaded email in-boxes that require time set aside to scan, read and answer emails, group chat creates a feeling that you always need to be following.

If your team is communicating solely in group chat, the same problems with email are magnified but only cosmetically different. Instead of scanning email multiple times a day to make sure nothing important falls by the wayside, group chat creates the always on need to monitor.

One-line communication is worse that long-form email and more difficult to conduct in-depth discussions. The nature of business is to solve big problems, over time, with details. Big picture communication requires conversation not disconnected monosyllabic comments one line at a time.

Group chat is nothing more than comments piled up one after another. There is no real linkage of one thought to another. Instead of a pyramid being built, a giant landfill emerges.

Accessing knowledge or finding information is challenging. With most chat tools, what happens three weeks in and you need to go back and review an important conversation from two weeks ago; what do you do? That was 375 scrolls earlier. The upward escalator of fragmented pieces of information has reached the 100th floor. After three hours of searching you find what you wanted, but where is the context? Remember, chat, is an endless stream of short comments.

Collaboration’s value is in the discussion, but a discussion that arrives at a collective conclusion with action items and deliverables. Chat does not provide the context and platform to easily make this happen.

The basic concept of group chat is a positive step forward in powering a collaborative workplace culture, but it is only a small step.

What’s missing?

• A universal inbox
• A single source of truth
• No organizational structure to information
• No personal structure
• Inability to integrate outside of the team or specific channel created
• No file versioning so everyone in the channel are actually working on the most current document version
• No analytics
• Poor integration with email. There will always be late adopters who still rely on email to communicate.

Do you think these are important?

You’re ready to make changes in your organization and improve productivity. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Take your time to figure out what problems you want to solve before implementing a solution that stops far short of where you want to go.

If you are leaning towards group chat listen to what a 10 year veteran of group chat has to say. You might be surprised by what you hear. Check out a video on group chat.

Productivity and Worker Engagement in the Modern Workplace Infographic

workplace-productivityThroughout history, technology has led productivity revolutions. The last fifty years have seen the greatest leap forward. But, the rate of increase has drastically slowed. Business leaders have to look inward to how people work and not to faster processors or fancy machines for growth. For organizations to become more productive we must change the way people work and leverage innovation to accomplish that goal.

Communication and collaboration are words carelessly thrown around as if they improve by the wave of a wand: but they are at the core of improving business productivity. The data included in the BroadVision’s infographic “Productivity and Worker Engagement in the Modern Workplace” illustrates the problems and challenges facing everyone.

Over the next few months, we will outline the problem, challenge and solution to the productivity challenge.

Check out the infographic here. 
Let us know your thoughts.

5 buoni motivi per convertirci alla Collaborazione Mobile

Ormai Smartphone e Tablets fanno parte della nostra vita privata: li usiamo per svegliarci la mattina, consultare le notizie del giorno mentre facciamo colazione, durante la giornata ci permettono di comunicare, distrarci nei momenti liberi, ci aiutano negli spostamenti durante la giornata, son sempre più utilizzati per comprare di tutto, prenotare viaggi, ed infine per vedere l’ultimo telegiornale prima di addormentarci.

Ovviamente anche nella vita lavorativa i dispositivi mobili stanno cambiando il modo in cui comunichiamo e collaboriamo, purtroppo però non con la stessa velocità di adozione: infatti tutti percepiamo i benefici in termini di efficienza e praticità e siamo sempre pronti a provare nuove applicazioni consigliateci da amici e parenti (io ad esempio nella vita privata utilizzo senza problemi più di 4 strumenti diversi di instant messaging e 3 di cloud storage…), tuttavia, nel momento in cui dobbiamo comunicare per lavoro, diventiamo tutti più cauti e formali e spesso finiamo per ripiegare sulla email (attualmente la vera killer application della comunicazione mobile aziendale), con tutti i difetti e le inefficienze che ben conosciamo e di cui tutti ci lamentiamo.

Mobile Communication

Ecco allora 5 motivi per convincerci ad adottare più in fretta possibile la Mobile Collaboration e godere dei benefici di questa rivoluzione tecnologica anche nella nostra vita lavorativa:

  1. Flex Time (ovvero: rispondi quando lo ritieni più opportuno, considerando però le esigenze del tuo interlocutore): nell’era del PC utilizzavamo prevalentemente l’email oppure la chiamata voip o la chat se vedevamo il nostro interlocutore online. Però in questo modo la velocità della comunicazione non era dettata dall’urgenza di ottenere una risposta, ma dalla disponibilità del nostro interlocutore o meno: infatti se per qualche motivo chi cercavamo non stava lavorando al PC, non potevamo contare su una sua risposta tempestiva, oppure dovevamo disturbarlo sul  cellulare spesso senza ottenere quanto sperato “scusa sono in riunione, sentiamoci più tardi”. Nell’era dello smartphone sappiamo che il nostro interlocutore può essere sempre raggiunto dalla notifica del nostro messaggio anche nel mezzo di una riunione importante; quindi, segnalando opportunamente l’urgenza della richiesta, possiamo ottenere l’informazione che ci interessa in tempi rapidi. Se invece siamo noi a ricevere la richiesta, possiamo valutare se è necessario rispondere tempestivamente, magari con poche informazioni importanti, rimandando a più tardi di fornire maggiori dettagli. In questo modo possiamo essere tutti più efficienti e ottenere le informazioni che vogliamo, evitando di interromperci a vicenda con chiamate inopportune.
  2. Innovative Collaboration (ovvero: per comunicare sfrutta al meglio le potenzialità offerte dalla tecnologia mobile): nell’era del PC le comunicazioni erano prevalentemente testuali, con eventualmente qualche allegato multimediale raccolto e faticosamente trasferito dalla macchina fotografica o videocamera al computer. Nell’era del Mobile la versatilità degli smartphone attuali ci permette di essere molto più creativi ed efficaci costruendo comunicazioni testuali arricchite con foto, audio e video trasmesse istantaneamente anche in mobilità. In questo modo perdiamo meno tempo in lunghe descrizioni (“un’immagine vale più di mille parole”) e forniamo le informazioni con più tempestività a chi è in ufficio e magari sta aspettando la nostra comunicazione per prendere delle decisioni o per fornirci supporto.
  3. Bridging Workforces (ovvero: fornisci nuovi modi di collaborare fra chi lavora in ufficio e chi lavora in mobilità): nell’era del PC, è sempre stato un dilemma trovare modi efficienti di collaborazione con chi lavora spesso in mobilità come ad esempio la forza vendita. L’email si è dimostrata chiaramente inadeguata come canale di informazione per chi lavora lontano dall’ufficio: troppe informazioni in entrata senza possibilità di discriminare in termini di priorità, troppo tempo passato in attesa di ricevere risposte importanti e necessarie per rispondere al cliente o terminare un lavoro. Alla fine ci si affidava a costosi contact center dedicati a dare supporto ai colleghi in mobilità, quasi come se fossero dei clienti. Nell’era del Mobile l’accesso alle informazioni diventa immediato e la velocità della comunicazione viaggia sull’onda dell’Instant Messaging: certo c’è sempre bisogno di qualcuno che risponda rapidamente, ma certamente la comunicazione asincrona (“Flex Time”) permette di ridurre le dimensioni del contact center dedicato. Inoltre garantendo l’accesso diretto dal Mobile ai documenti e alle applicazioni aziendali, i lavoratori in mobilità possono essere più autonomi e tempistivi nello svolgimento dei propri compiti e nel rispondere a eventuali richieste da parte dei colleghi.
  4. Effective Social Collaboration (ovvero: fornisci e ottieni informazioni dai tuoi pari in modo efficace – finalmente): nell’era del PC le piattaforme di Social Collaboration aziendale non hanno dato i risultati sperati in termini di reale collaborazione peer-to-peer, soprattutto perchè si accedeva solo sporadicamente al Social Network per verificare gli aggiornamenti rilevanti, mentre le attività di lavoro e le relative comunicazioni avvenivano altrove. In questo modo era molto difficile ottenere in tempo adeguati le informazioni necessarie, relegando l’uso dei Social Network solo alle attività più marginali e secondarie (“devo portare un cliente a pranzo: che ristorante mi consigliate vicino all’ufficio di Milano?”). Nell’era del Mobile, opportunamente configurando le notifiche sul nostro smartphone in modo da non esserne sommersi, siamo sempre aggiornati sulle eventuali richieste che vengono dai nostri colleghi e nei momenti di pausa  magari possiamo aiutare un nostro collega con una informazione veloce, o viceversa ottenere l’informazione essenziale per chiudere un contratto mentre siamo in riunione con il cliente. In pratica siamo passati dall’era dei Part-Time Lookers sul PC, cioè coloro che accedono alla piattaforma via web saltuariamente, ai Full-Time Checkers sullo smartphone, cioè coloro che controllano regolarmente le notifiche sullo smartphone per rimanere sempre aggiornati e collaborare in tempo reale!
  5. High Touch Engagement (ovvero: trasforma la comunicazione con i clienti in reale coinvolgimento): nell’era del PC gli utenti finali ricevevano dai loro fornitori di servizi di Telecomunicazioni, Energia, Banca, Asssicurazione, etc., delle notifiche email senza possibilita di risposta che ci rimandavano al sito web per scaricare la fattura, il resoconto dei servizi etc. La comunicazione verso gli utenti era estremamente frammentata e dispersa, e nel caso di richiesta di informazioni si doveva necessariamente accedere tramite il contact center, con lunghe attese e tempo perso a fornire sempre le stesse informazioni prima di ottenere supporto. Nell’era del Mobile molte aziende si stanno attrezzando per fornire ai loro clienti una User Experience più efficace e coinvolgente, tramite un canale persistente di comunicazione bidirezionale, su cui convergono tutte le comunicazioni per ogni singolo cliente. In questo modo i clienti accedono più rapidamente alle informazioni di cui hanno bisogno, chiedendo chiarimenti attraverso il canale dedicato attraverso una interfaccia facile da usare, direttamente dalla Mobile App del fornitore di servizi oppure tramite un collegamento con la piattaforma di Instant Messaging preferita (Wechat, Telegram, Whatsapp…); Così facendo si ricorre al contact center solo in casi eccezionali, con un notevole risparmio di tempo e minor stress per gli utenti finali e riduzione dei costi per il fornitore di servizi.

Per concludere, stiamo affrontando una vera trasformazione digitale che offre infinite possibilità per migliorare l’efficienza delle aziende e la qualità della nostra vita anche in ambito lavorativo, quindi non lasciamoci sfuggire l’occasione di esserne protagonisti adottando per primi questi nuovi paradigmi di comunicazione: ne vale la pena!