2020 will see digital collaboration empowering businesses more than ever.

The integration of digital technology across Asia’s booming economies has given rise to several market leaders whose business models leverage digital platforms and collaboration. By further embracing the Internet and its potential for digital collaboration, Asia’s future will be driven by a sharing economy that is projected to surge past US$300 billion by 2025, according to a joint report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company.

But while the benefits of digital collaboration are well understood by most, realising its full advantages is much easier said than done. Simply encouraging co-workers to communicate, or putting them in the same room is not always the best approach. In fact, studies from Harvard Business School have shown that efforts to make environments more collaborative can have precisely the opposite effect. Even deploying tools specifically built for digital collaboration can sometimes end up denting productivity and sowing confusion at the workplace. So how can organisations mitigate this and work towards empowering digital collaboration?

Start With The Individual

There are a multitude of reasons why people may hesitate to share their knowledge or skills with others, such as a strong desire to maintain autonomy, pre-existing biases, or even fear of disagreement. By providing employees trust and reassurance in these areas, companies can better empower digital collaboration at the individual level.

To kick start the process, it is essential to cultivate a mindset of collaboration from the ground-up where individuals are amenable to pooling their skills and knowledge. This requires establishing resources as shared utilities instead of private property and where communication and negotiation are preferred over command and control. Encouraging diversity of thought instead of following ‘groupthink’ are some individual tenets that each employee can adopt to serve as building blocks for a successful digital collaboration model.

Team Up Around A Cause

Bringing together people from different functions into teams that focus on a shared goal enables companies to tackle multiple digital initiatives simultaneously. Nimble, cross-functional teams are the lynchpin of an effective digital organisation and arguably the best way to move and innovate at the speed and scale that today’s business environments require.

Digital collaboration needs to be oriented around specific goals to ensure proper direction with an emphasis on shared culture and processes that establishes a common purpose within the team. For example, successful collaborative teams have diverse cross-functional composition, actively engage in team reviews and retrospectives, and offer team members fast, timely feedback and insights to speed up and improve value-to-market deliveries.

Collaborative Digital Enterprise

Adopting digital platforms that enable connections between different business segments will break down barriers and provide diverse teams with access to the same pool of digital capabilities. A collaborative digital enterprise, underpinned by such cloud-based software architecture, will have some or all of the following features: robust and elastic software delivery infrastructure, real-time and self-supporting data analytics, integrated, transparent and customisable customer touchpoints.

Finally, while technology can provide the bedrock, it is also vital that senior management gives teams the space and impetus to utilise it.

Looking Beyond The Enterprise

It is becoming increasingly imperative to recognise that each company operates in a business ecosystem where a dynamic network of competitors, suppliers, distributors and customers coexist; and that technology is amplifying both existing and potential links between them.

The meteoric rise of super apps in Southeast Asia such as Grab is a good example of ecosystem-wide digital collaboration in full bloom. Many began with a single service before expanding into virtual environments where their partners have helped support and power millions of online payments and orders across transportation, food delivery, logistics, entertainment and lifestyle services.

Leveraging digital technology such as using quality data sets, machine learning analysis tools and nurturing platforms where startups can experiment freely will hence be vital to any inter-company and inter-industry collaboration. Such an approach will ultimately supercharge the entire ecosystem in 2020 and beyond.

About The Writer

JoJo Swords is a global content strategist and creator, with a passion for telling stories. Her current role involves the strategic planning, creation and delivery of a series of global marketing programmes for Chicago-based software consultancy ThoughtWorks. ThoughtWorks uses a digital cloud-based platform as a knowledge and collaboration hub for some 7,000 individual employees globally. Combining communities, chatrooms and shared documents, the platform allows employees to form teams across various environments and functions to jointly tackle project plans, work with structured data and shift information between various applications.

This article was first printed in MillionaireAsia Issue 54 - December 2019

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