Time is a fickle thing. You have an hour to kill before a flight, and the time seems to crawl by at a snail’s pace. But the six hours you have left to complete what seems like a simple presentation for a meeting tomorrow morning is gone in a flash of light. So much of our technological advances have to do with our increasing need to control time and space (it seems), or at least to automate, to streamline, to optimize. All for what? To spend more time with our friends and families? Then why is it that with all of our innovations we are spending more time in front of the computer or with our faces buried in our mobile phones while ignoring our families than ever before?
Now take a look at the changes in the international business landscape. The globalization of business is due in large part to some of these same technological advances. In the last decade alone we’ve seen how the need to have an international presence impacts our product and marketing strategies, not to mention our chances at corporate longevity. But even with all of our advances, connecting teams across geographical boundaries remains one of the most difficult tasks to master, much less connecting our disparate business output in context of projects and workloads that cross time zones. With all of our advances in knowledge management and collaboration, our ability to produce has skyrocketed while our ability to correlate what is produced with the work of others has been in decline.
How can you better connect your business output with those you work with, while in different teams, different office, or on different continents? There are conference calls, of course. Video conferencing and webcasts help. Instant Messaging and the various social computing tools, while increasing productivity, can at the same time be one of the biggest productivity drains. We spend countless hours developing and fine tuning our collaboration platforms, only to ignore some of the basic functionality and…well….never actually collaborate with people using these tools. Instead, they become very large, very expensive file shares. The result is very often the creation of new data silos within the organization.
And so we jump to new tools, with more features. We focus on "adoption" and "engagement" and giving people what they say they want in a platform. But none of this matters if you cannot keep your intellectual property -- your content, your ideas, your output -- in sync, make it searchable, share-able, relate-able. All of your efficiency gains at the individual level are irrelevant if communication and sharing fails at the team and corporate level, and if you cannot leverage your vast treasure troves of experience and knowledge to spark innovation within your organization.
At some point in your career, you are going to run into the problem of connecting people and/or data between two or more locations – or at least managing teams across a great divide. With managing multiple teams -- not to mention multiple geographies and time zones -- come problems of complexity, communication, and integration. How do you coordinate activities? How do you manage build schedules? Which of the three "best practices" we have documented will be the best fit for this new organization? How do legal and compliance standards differ, and how will that impact our approach, our budget, and our deadline?
Collaborating across multiple locations has become the norm. When setting up a new office in a distant location, there are certain obvious steps: communication channels need to be established, for sure, and processes must be adapted to meet the needs of a larger, more spread out team. But we cannot assume that having our data centrally located, in the cloud, will automatically solve the problem of capturing, sharing, and getting value from our intellectual property -- our knowledge assets. As my good friend Paul Culmsee says, this is a "wicked problem" that more and more organizations are running into.
In a webinar next Tuesday, January 27th at 1pm PST, Paul and I will be discussing ways in which businesses can better manage their information assets. You can register for our webinar entitled "Rewriting the Rulebook for Managing Knowledge" and learn how to deal with this complexity. Hope you can make it!