Curbing the collaboration chaos

This article was first published on 16 November 2020 and updated on 24 November 2021.

The introduction of collaboration and content sharing tools has been brilliant for organisations during, and following, the initial COVID-19 period. Imagine how difficult working remotely would be without them? It’s changed how we work and enabled us to collaborate far more efficiently. 

However, in some organisations, ‘information chaos’ has ensued and a wide and deep sprawl of information has started to occur.  

What’s caused the chaos? 

The extremely fast uptake of tools such as Microsoft Teams may have caused people to start using information in ways they never have before. A number of clients have told us they have information stored within Teams, OneDrive, within email attachments, and they're finding it increasingly difficult to work out what’s what. 

With tools so easy to use and accessible from all of our devices, not understanding the best methods for collaborating with documents or having no clear rules about how to do so can quickly create a headache. 

If this is allowed to continue, we're going to find the introduction of these tools may create a significant technical debt. Information will be harder to find than ever before. 

What issues has this raised? 

Not being able to find information makes knowledge harder to capture, harder to retrieve and reduces the productive capacity of your people. 

Rather than improving productivity, as these tools are intended to do, difficulties finding information and the need to rework information due to poor version control may lead to general frustration. In some cases, clients have reverted to network folders and paper documents, because it’s all just been too hard. 

Further, this minimises the value of your IT investment in these tools. 

The next steps 

Giving structure to the way information is stored to will enable your people to find it quickly and easily. However, if your organisation is already finding issues, ask yourself these questions: 

Do I know where the issues are? In the initial COVID-19 lockdown period, we commonly saw a proliferation of “Teams” or “Channels” that ran out of control and are still likely in existence. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to address the issue, as it will only get more cluttered over time. Better provisioning of sites will help control this, but it’s important to make the process quick and easy. 

Are some areas of the business collaborating better? Are there areas of the business that are obtaining significant benefits from the collaboration tools? Are there still areas of the business that are struggling to do so, or are not following the rules? We often find training is one of the keys to success in adopting these tools, so perform an assessment of how well change management was conducted when, for instance, Teams was rolled out. Providing quick reference guides and setting up a Community of Practice or Centre of Excellence can aid this. 

Did we try to do too much, too soon? Due to the increased need for rapid adoption, some clients tried to do too much, too quickly. If information is starting to run out of control, now is the time to put key elements of governance and proactive administration in place. This will help prevent any further pain and will enable the maximum benefits from your IT investments not only during COVID-19 restrictions, but in a sustainable manner into the future. 

There are so many benefits to having information structured correctly, used correctly and ultimately, leveraged correctly. If you’re seeing signs of chaos, it’s imperative to take stock, perform a health check and put the key elements in place to make sure your collaboration tools don’t create further confusion and productivity loss. 

Get in touch with your local BDO adviser if you’d like to discuss any of these issues or solutions further.