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Freeing your people to do the right thing

By William Buller, Mobility Consultant at Telefonica UK

One thing always strikes me when businesses talk about collaboration: that the challenges it throws up are nothing new. At its heart, collaboration is really just about people, what they know and how organisations can make the most of it. And achieving these goals is as old as the hills.

In an era when instant messenger, conference calls and Sharepoint-style services rule our working day, it’s surprising how many customer meetings start with a discussion about improving information sharing. Five system integration partners later and the organisation still doesn’t really know how to effectively identify, manage and leverage the knowledge within it.

At O2, it took much self-examination and cultural fine-tuning to create the truly collaborative and flexible working environment we have today – alongside, of course, some shiny new tech. Because the sheer freedom that today’s collaboration solutions deliver definitely is new, empowering us to act as if we’re all in the same room while freeing us to be wherever we need to be: at a customer site, out in the community or at home getting the kids tea. With flexible working constantly appearing as a top three critical factor in employee satisfaction surveys, there is now real pressure to rapidly get this right.

That’s where the cultural piece comes in. Yes, new consumer-style collaboration tools let us knit virtual working groups together. But in our public and private sector worlds, chat and opinion aren’t enough. We need to structure collaborative networks intelligently and create systems that tell us not just what is being shared but by who, so we know what we should believe and why we should care. As more of us work remotely and we pick up less soft information at the water cooler, so building an online directory becomes invaluable, sharing information on people’s roles, specialisms and background. Context makes collaboration meaningful and actionable.

There’s also that perennial question: How do I manage someone I can’t see? Trust helps but we need checks and balances in place too; agile management tools that let us set and track objectives and a culture that encourages managers to think strategically about objective setting. That lubricates the whole collaboration process from the top down.

One other great truth often strikes me: that sometimes, face-to-face simply can’t be beaten. If you’ve ever seen a sales team reinvigorated by their weekly scrum, then you’ll know what I mean. Police teams often prefer to kick off investigations with face-to-face briefings. Many social workers, lawyers and healthcare professionals like to end their day mulling over complex casework with colleagues. Successful collaboration then becomes about having a continuum of approaches at hand. Often at the start of a relationship or project, face-to-face rules. As relationships become more established then Yammer, Skype, phone, email, even text can take over.

Ultimately, success is about living that great O2 mantra: People First. Taking away management and device constraints and freeing people to get on and do whatever’s right.

Why not explore O2’s flexible collaboration approach here?

Ready to scale up your business? Call an O2 business specialist on 0800 028 0202 or call free from your O2 mobile on 8002.


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