“Alright stop: collaborate, and listen!”
- Robert Matthew Van Winkle, also known as Vanilla Ice
The workplace has evolved. The long established strictures and trappings associated with traditional business culture were slowly eroding for decades, and their decline hastened by several factors: a new generation of leaders, an investment culture built on disruption, and a general desire to wear comfortable clothes, to name just a few.
In the wake of the 2020 pandemic office culture has been transformed. While some companies have returned fully to the office, hybrid work has become an accepted part of the new normal. This has raised questions about everything from schedules to the ethics of monitoring employee productivity. These questions may take years or even decades to suss out, but for product managers in the productivity space one thing is absolutely certain: communication and collaboration are essential components of a successful business, and they matter more than ever to your end users.
For over a century businesses have reaped the benefits of the assembly line: a simple concept that, for its time, was revolutionary. An effective assembly line requires a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities. No worker needs to understand what any other worker on the line does, and all that matters is that each person sticks to their role and performs it effectively and efficiently. The assembly line is a perfect model of operational efficiency for a factory. But most modern businesses are not factories.
We’ve all worked with more than a few businesses built like a factory: different departments siloed off, each with their own leadership, their own goals, their own initiatives. The results are always the same: redundant work, mismanaged resources, and, more often than not, interdepartmental tensions. A business built like a factory works hard, but it doesn’t work smart. The end result may be a finished product, but at a considerable cost of time and money.
There’s been a concerted effort in recent years to break down these silos so employees can be empowered to do their best. Employers are looking for tools that make it easier to break down these barriers. If you’re developing an app built for productivity this provides an incredible opportunity, you just need to implement the right features to seize it.
Let me put this as bluntly as I can: when teams don’t talk, bad things happen. In my time I’ve seen or heard more than a few horror stories: a valuable lead taking their business elsewhere after being bombarded by outbound messages from different departments, a large ad spend focused on a feature slated to be deprecated in the next product updated, even a creative director getting approval on a logo rebrand only to discover that facilities installed signage with the old logo.
Costly though these mistakes were, in no instance could anyone argue that every team member wasn’t working hard enough, the problem was that they weren’t working smart enough. With a simple phone call, direct message, or team calendar, thousands of dollars and dozens of work hours could have been saved and directed to other important initiatives.
A good employee is more than their job title. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge, experience, and perspective that is wholly unique. Over the course of their career they have no doubt had to wear several hats, and more than a few of those hats have very little to do with the job they were hired for. An account manager may have worked as a social media marketer after graduation, an email marketing guru may have started their career as a graphic designer, a lead engineer may have built houses for charity.
An app that fosters collaboration and communication between end users empowers your customers to bring the full breadth and experience of their team to bear on their work. Moreover, it makes that software product the place where users can provide vital feedback, a fresh set of eyes, and a different way of thinking that can turbocharge productivity. If your product is preventing teams from becoming dogmatic, processes from becoming stale, and growth from becoming stagnant, it becomes indispensable to your customers.
Having a good culture is a crucial component of running an effective modern business. As one CEO told me, “if I’m going to spend 8 hours a day working with the same people, I should probably like them.” Studies have shown that people who believe they are part of a team work better and more effectively than people who consider themselves cut off from their coworkers. It makes perfect sense: humans are social creatures by nature, we derive joy from collective success. Of course, as more businesses shift to hybrid models split across several offices, or even no offices at all, creating that team environment is not only more difficult, but more crucial to success.
Whether over SMS, BBS, Skype, AIM or Twitter, people who grew up with the internet have spent most of their lives with instantaneous communication with their friends and family. By adding features like in-app direct and group chats, activity feeds, and file sharing to your productivity app you can encourage end users to communicate with each other openly, keep each other abreast of current projects, and smooth out tensions before they become issues.
When you help your customers create an effective online environment for communication and collaboration, you’re making your app the solution to one of the biggest productivity problems facing businesses today.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
- Michael Jordan, star of Space Jam
The workplace has changed. In business as in nature, the demands of a changing world require us to adapt in order to survive. With office culture being separated from the office, a new generation of workers whose social lives are more online than ever, and more tools at their disposal, it’s clear that the productivity applications that are thriving in this new landscape are the ones that prioritize user communication and collaboration.