Productivity tools for the networked workplace

* This post is sponsored by Microsoft Office 365 *

I have noticed that the Microsoft Office suite is used by pretty well every one of my clients. All of the larger organizations have and use Sharepoint. These tools are ubiquitous in business and government, so I have agreed to write a few articles on how they can be used to improve work productivity. Since these are the tools that are already in place in many organizations, it might make sense to understand how best to use them.

One of the gaps between enterprise work and more open and serendipitous cooperation is a lack of ways to quickly connect to others in the organization. Email and telephone are often the only choice. Instant messaging may be available, but is not used intensely, like email is. A Forrester research report – The Total Economic Impact Of Microsoft Office 365 Midsize Customers – describes these collaboration needs of mid-size companies:

“Everyone being able to work in a collaborative environment is essential. We can work smarter and fewer hours.”
“We are a knowledge company. IT has to make us more productive, smarter.”
“Without Lync we have no mechanism for communicating across the company – except phones and shouting. Lync will be a huge improvement in terms of time savings.”

The addition of Lync has made a significant improvement to the Microsoft suite, according to several of my clients. I developed my enterprise social network tool analytical framework at the request of a client who wanted to know what mix of platforms and tools was optimal for collaboration and knowledge sharing. From their perspective, Lync was a game-changer.

I continued to refine this analytical framework with two more clients over the past year and all have found it useful. The slide presentation below looks at Microsoft’s Office 365 suite from that perspective. Please note that I do not use any of these tools myself. The analytical framework is my creation but the perspective on each tool were based on client user feedback and other third-party sources. I would suggest doing your own analysis of all your enterprise collaboration and productivity tools, based on the framework.

In the slide presentation, one conclusion offered is that content creation is a way to capture knowledge, even though we know that we can only “capture” a small part of our implicit knowledge by making it more explicit. Conversations and the ongoing narration of work must still be supported. This again shows the gap that Lync is filling; it provides opportunities for impromptu knowledge sharing. As the content creation tools of the Microsoft Office suite become more networked, it will be easier to connect cooperative and collaborative behaviours.

For those who are interested, here is the background of the framework. Ian McCarthy’s honeycomb of social media was an initial inspiration, showing how one could quickly and graphically portray differences between social media platforms. The Altimeter Group’s 2012 report on making the business case for enterprise social networks provided more detail on what happens inside organizations. Finally, Oscar Berg’s digital workplace concretized gave a good picture of what people-centric, service-oriented businesses should look like.

The seven facets identified by Oscar Berg align with some general digital competencies that are necessary for connected knowledge workers everywhere. These also align with the PKM framework that can support the flow of cooperative and collaborative work in a coherent organization.

In my next post in this series, later this month, I will discuss the digital competencies described in Slide #6.

  • Sharing openly
  • Communicating effectively in communities & networks
  • Contributing to knowledge networks
  • Creating content to share inside & outside the organization
  • Coordinating tasks with minimal time & effort
  • Conducting & participating in meetings to maximize impact & minimize wasted effort
  • Quickly finding people best suited to solve a given problem

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Office 365 but I retained editorial control and take full responsibility for what is posted. Contract writing is one of the ways I make my living.

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4 Responses to “Productivity tools for the networked workplace”

  1. Steve Nguyen

    Curious to your thoughts as Yammer becomes more and more an integral part of the O365 environment. Surely, it would/should deserve it’s on slide as it meets many of the traits of the honeycomb.

    • hjarche

      Of course it would, Steve. This analytical framework can be used for any tool. I just showed the ones that we have looked at so far. How do you think Yammer should be portrayed?

  2. urbie

    Cool piece about the components and what each can do. One thing that’s missing is something about why, given an organization that has deployed the components, collaboration might not happen. Maybe it’s beyond the scope of your presentation but it fascinates me that so much of the collaboration tools that are in place sit idle.

    • hjarche

      Excellent point, Urbie. I may look at that in a subsequent post, as there will be 4 in this series, and I have only planned out #2 so far.