In the competitive world of technology, there is a little meme that circulates widely – suggest a technology solution is dead, either because it is likely to be no longer supported, an acquisition is likely, it fails to work, or because it’s time has passed. This meme is very common in the world of collaboration because there are many competitive products, new product launches and because the work of collaboration itself is hard. Instead of falling into the trap of focusing on who may or may not be dead, organisations would be better investing in the change to make their collaboration solutions effective.
So is it Dead?
I won’t link to all the post suggesting, insinuating or otherwise discussing the imminent death of Yammer. While the rumours continue, Microsoft is investing heavily in the Yammer product roadmap, deepening its integration to Office365, clients are getting value from the tool and Yammer is a key part of both the Office365 stack and Microsoft’s collaboration offering, including Teams. We can do the same analysis for the rumours of the demise of many other platforms. This parody was rather easy to write as a result. Most of the time the simple question “what is the agenda of the author here?” raises some insights into why something might be suggested to be dead.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of death have a way of being ‘greatly exaggerated’. Let’s take a tour of recent examples. I’ve heard a rumour that the IT departments may be dead. See this post on IT transformation, this one on the death of IT or this one and ask your IT team about how ready they are for a radically different way of working. You can also produce articles from leading publications that declare HR dead, Marketing dead, and so on. Declaring something dead is a good way to get a headline and ‘bad news’ is more viral.
As a general rule, it is usually a waste of time to ask people to confirm rumours. Hidden truth comes out in its own sweet time. It is also mightily hard to disprove something that doesn’t exist.
Making Quality Architectural Choices
What ‘everyone says’ is a poor guide to IT decisions. We need to ask our IT specialists to do what IT departments are meant to do on important architectural choice questions – do their research. There is a sophisticated literature on IT architecture and plenty of reputable analysts to help organisations make better choices.
Making these choices is more than just picking the best tool on the market. The best tool for your organisation’s strategy requires you to understand the specific organisational value that is to be created through collaboration, what use cases and behaviours are needed to be supported and then picking tools capable of sustaining that work and realising the value. The commonly agreed ‘best tool’ may not be the tool that works best for your users. In addition, you also need to understand what you need to invest to realise that value through changes in user behaviour.
Invest for Success.
IT specialists should also be advocates for the total project investment required to see a solution to success in achieving its business objectives. Anyone who has researched collaboration knows deploying a collaboration tool is barely the beginning of the work. Any IT specialist who simply deploys the tool and walks away is wasting their organisation’s time and money.
As I stress repeatedly on this blog, any collaboration technology depends on the culture of the organisation, the support for change and ongoing community management. I have experienced or been told of a range of failed implementations of collaboration across all the major platforms, including the current wunderkinds Workplace and Slack. There are no magic bullets in changing how people work together.
On the broader question of whether collaboration solutions are dead, the evidence is that we are only just beginning to experience the maturity of the platforms moving beyond sharing and into work. Vendors are investing heavily in all these collaboration tools, because they have seen the value of collaborative work across organisations. Millions of employees around the world are connecting, sharing and solving business problems with these tools. The organisations who invest in helping their employees to leverage the platform are realising significant value and readying themselves to be more effective in digital transformation. If that is “dead”, then let’s enjoy the cemetery, it is a good place to be.
The Work We Need to Do
The arguments about the death or not of the various products are deeply secondary to the work of engaging the employees of organisations in better ways of working. That’s what matters to CEOs and users. Every vendor is working to support that, but the hard work of making it happen comes down to the customers and the employees.