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Three Strategies for Shifting Out of the Dark Ages to Modern Work Management

It’s time for a workplace makeover.

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BY Rebecca Hinds - 01 Apr 2019

modern work management

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Today's business landscape is characterized by rampant change. Companies are recognizing the urgency of being nimble and dynamically adapting to new environments. But too many companies are missing the mark.

According to a 2018 study conducted by Forrester Consulting, 35 percent of enterprise projects fail to meet their original business intent. Today's business environment calls for a different approach to work management.

1. Conduct a tool audit.

Fixated on digital transformation and agile methodologies, organizations have morphed into SaaS-powered enterprises. The number of SaaS apps in organizations doubled from eight in 2015 to 16 in 2017, according to a 2017 report by BetterCloud. Workplaces are swarming with a potpourri of apps and communication tools. More often than not, these tools are haphazardly stitched together.

The result is a Frankenstein'ed tool landscape that invites context shifting. Workers are constantly distracted by the string of pings emitted from their tool stack. A 2001 study by researchers at Loughborough University found that most workers react to incoming emails within a mere six seconds and proceed to squander an average of 64 seconds before resuming work. In a typical eight-hour workday, distractions by email alone amass to 90 minutes wasted.

Forward-thinking businesses are embracing the value of conducting a tool audit, an end-to-end inventory of how workplace apps are being used (or not), which ones are duplicative, and which ones are improving (and impairing) productivity and collaboration. The more companies are able to consolidate and integrate tools, the lower the risk of context shifting.

2. Adopt a centralized work management system.

Not too long ago, project management was the exclusive domain of certified project management experts. In recent years, project management has been democratized. The need for greater project management proficiency across all teams has increased by 70 percent, according to the Forrester report.

Alas, work management tools have become just another rung of the Frankenstein'ed tool stack. Companies are relying on a hodgepodge of different tools--including Evernote lists, paper to-do lists, Google docs, Trello, Slack, and more. The result is noise, a lack of transparency, and organizational silos. 41 percent of companies lack collaboration between IT, data and analytics, and business functions, according to a 2017 report by Forbes Insights and EY. The most common hurdle that knowledge workers face in using enterprise collaboration tools is ensuring that all employees are using the same tools and all stakeholders are included.

Research has shown that collaboration improves when workers are co-located in the same physical environment. The same philosophy applies to collaborative technologies and work management solutions. When stakeholders rely on the same platform, collaboration and productivity increase. Without a central system of record, workers won't have a unified view of organizational objectives and understand how their work funnels up into broader company goals. It's no surprise that 78 percent of companies view collaboration across silos as critical and 69% view transparency across silos as critical to delivering on top business objectives, according to the Forrester research.

3. Measure collaborative analytics.

Despite the fact that enterprise-grade social tools have infiltrated the workplace, most companies aren't paying attention to how collaborative work is getting done, and the cost of collaborative activities. Research by Babson College's Robert Cross revealed that three to five percent of people in an organization account for 20 to 35 percent of the useful collaboration. Organizations need to recognize the importance of evaluating collaborative analytics.

It's especially important to assess the "dark side" of collaboration--the people who have a disproportionately negative impact on collaboration and fuel collaborative overload. Collaborative overload causes burnout, drives attrition, slows agility, and creates friction in networks. Cross' research has also revealed that when a worker is heavily sought out, such that more than 25 percent of the people around them want greater access to them, burnout is especially common. One study found that the attrition rates around these individuals were more than 200 percent higher than leaders who were not overloaded.

Traditional organizational network analyses (ONA) informed by often-biased survey results do not shed light on the true extent of collaboration. Organizations need to measure collaborative activity by the digital exhaust of a company--the collection of email exchanges, chats, file transfers, and task assignments. When all this raw material is housed in a central work management system, the results can be transformative. Collaborative analytics can help prevent collaborative overload, reduce redundancy, and identify the individuals who are driving the most value-added collaboration. Research by Aberdeen Group found that collaborative intelligence can speed up decision-making by 46%.

Today's business dynamic is calling for a different approach to strategic execution. Organizations can't afford to fly blind in their implementation of workplace tools. The philosophy that "more is better" is a recipe for disaster. The onus is on leaders to critically examine tool stacks and strategically select centralized tools that encourage transparency and a shared understanding of how individual tasks funnel up into larger organizational goals.

 

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