Digital Tools: Need for a Team Audit? 

| By TMA World

Creative destruction is at the heart of American capitalism, epitomized by the mantra of Silicon Valley – Move Fast and Break Things.  Anyone living through the continuing digital revolution bears witness to the whirlpool of change in tech products and tools.  Every product comes with its own hype machine, and making rational choices gets harder and harder. 

For years, information overload was the demon under the shiny surface of tech, but now worries are increasing about the overload of digital tools.  As an advocate of disciplined collaboration, I welcome the new opportunities for collaborating brought to us by Slack, Google Docs, Trello, Yammer, Microsoft Teams, Box, Dropbox, Skype.  But . . . 

A recent Skyhigh study found that the average knowledge worker is using up to twenty-eight different cloud apps, with an average of 8 apps being used for collaboration alone. 

Team leaders and members sometime use different tools.  In a recent article on CMS Wire, a leader of a product development team described how his team were discussing a matter he was unaware of – “I asked them what they were talking about and they told me it was discussed on Slack – but I hadn’t seen it.  It was very important.” He didn’t use Slack.  (“How to Manage Digital Workplace Tool Overload”, by Kaya Ismail, CMS Wire, Nov 1, 2017). 

Using different tools can obviously lead to lost productivity, and divisiveness on teams.  Ismail points to two possible solutions: Substitution vs. Organization.

Substitution means substituting a group of tools for a single platform.  This strategy can lead to frustration and resistance among those who have adopted different tools, but if a tool can be found with features to suit the team – and with little redundancy – the benefits in terms of efficiency and consistency can be significant. 

I mention ‘redundancy’ because a ‘single’ solution can still be difficult to manage given overlap within a portfolio – Microsoft Office 365 users can ‘message’ each other in Yammer, Sharepoint, Skype, Skype for Business, Outlook, Teams, and the entire Office for Business Suite (see “Collaboration Diffusion Leads to Confusion”, by Tom Petrocelli, CMS Wire, Nov 7, 2017). 

In terms of organization, Mike Hicks, VP of Marketing and Strategy at Ontario-based Igloo Software, says “Problems arise due to silos between tools, since they can’t typically work together and need to be accessed separately.  Integrating all the tools into a digital workplace, into the context of the work of employees and teams, is the best way to decrease inefficiencies and keep employees happy and productive.  The answer isn’t to remove tools that employees use, but to find a way for them to work together better.”  

A starting place for beating digital tool overload is to gather feedback from employees – What tools do they use and why?  What features are most attractive/useful to them.  With more employees bringing their own devices to work or working from home, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.   

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