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How Do We Stay Connected, Even When We Have to be Far Apart?

by Tom Barfield 03/17/2020

john-price-FE7ATjzRRMs-unsplashHow do you turn distributed knowledge workers into a force that unleashes enterprise intelligence?  

I am most effective and enjoy my work most when I am actively collaborating and partnering with other people.  For me this happens best in-person.  Yet, in my work, circumstances require me to spend much of my time working independently and virtually.  Even under normal conditions, the best people with the best skills frequently aren’t located in the same place – they are scattered across the globe.  Beyond the expense of travel, there often isn’t enough time to get everyone in the same room.  And then there are increasingly frequent events like coronavirus when safety and health concerns mandate we work apart from each other – even when we are in the same town.   

Right now, we are operating in what some call the Age of Epidemics. Maybe that’s extreme, but the reality is there are periodic events that require precautions that limit in-person collaborationAt these times, it is important to think about how we achieve team building and collaboration goals in a world that is increasingly – and at times necessarily – virtual. These goals include: 

  • Aligning team members on key objectives and activities  
  • Fostering strong personal and professional relationships between colleagues 
  • Respecting the time of team members  
  • Sharing knowledge with someone across a virtual network as effectively as across a table 

Leadership and IT teams are about to find out how effective their collaboration systems really are. Companies that have under-invested may suffer a variety of ills – including information overload, incoherent cross-channel communication, team misalignment, unexpected expenses, and ultimately unhappy customers and missed revenue. 

There are many approaches to mitigate these risks and successfully maintain virtual effectiveness including 

  • Townhall calls 
  • Group/team collaboration tools (Microsoft Teams, Slack…) 
  • Building social activities into virtual meetings 
  • Investing in knowledge sharing strategies and technologies 

The last point turns out to be tricky, however. While most companies have standards for products and services, rarely do they have standards for how information is collected and disseminated. Yes, there are corporate taxonomies and rules for publishing official content, but companies struggle to reproduce the magic of in-person knowledge sharing in virtual settings. The difficulty of connecting people to knowledge – while managing different content types and permissions – is why the enterprise search industry persists. But what could be farther from brainstorming over coffee or riffing across a table than conforming data to a taxonomy and indexing it in a server that someone might search sometime? 

Surely connectivity, machine learning, and integration can deliver a more engaging and effective knowledge sharing experience. Actually, as a Keeeb employee who uses our product daily to connect with and contribute to communities, I know it can.  

Every time I use Google, Keeeb brings information collected and/or created by myself and colleagues – collected news articles, files stored in SharePoint, email, Salesforce notes, etc. – into my workflow. And every time I collect something or contribute a new piece of content, Keeeb streams that into the workflows of my colleagues. All while maintaining permissions and managing different data types. This doesn’t just keep me connected to people I work with every day. It expands my community and exposes me to new content and insights. This is invaluable anytime and critical when work and collaboration become entirely virtual.  

So, while I like many of you settle into working remotely in the hopes of keeping myself, my family, and my colleagues safe and healthy, I will also be staying productive and connected. Hopefully, your organization’s collaboration systems hold up (and, okay, maybe you get some extra time for yourself and your families). And if you want to experience how Keeeb can bring collaboration and connectedness to your virtual organization, get in touch. We might not be able to meet around the water cooler, but we can meet around a Keeeb Collection! 

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