Digital team first: the fourth phase of collaboration

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

By AGSM Aug 4, 2017 

At AGSM’s Future of Work forum on 13 July, we heard from Kevin Bloch, Cisco’s Chief Technology Officer, on digital disruption and the ever-evolving way in which we work. 

He says workplace leaders need to start making their organisation’s default method of communication digital – which he describes as ‘digital team first’.

“Currently we’re in the third phase of the evolution of our workplace . This phase is a confusing combination of a variety of different tools for calling, meeting, messaging and sharing data, often with multiple tools for the same function” says Kevin. “We urgently need to move into the fourth phase and focus on people, projects and teams with a digital team first assumption.”

He says now more than ever, the success of an organisation is less governed by structure and more a result of the malleable way projects and teams form quickly, easily and dynamically.

What does ‘digital team first’ mean?
“The digital team first approach means if you want to meet with someone or form a team or project, you do everything digitally by default. If you meet physically, consider it a bonus or exception,” says Kevin.

For a first-time client meeting, Kevin still believes in a physical meeting in most situations. “There’s a lot the brain takes in when you meet someone in person, but once you’ve got that, the second meeting can be done virtually.”
At Cisco, the monthly senior leadership team meeting is held in their collaboration platform, Spark, which allows the team to use telepresence, share and present documents, chat, message and screen-share from anywhere on any device. “It saves us time, money and everyone agrees it’s effective and convenient,” says Kevin.

But once a year, they’ll get together physically. “Physical meetings may only be one out of 12. It’s not all or nothing, but you need to evaluate when it’s necessary to be physically present and when it’s not.”

How to shift into digital team first
Kevin says a digital communication platform needs the following key attributes to make this movement effective for collaboration across the organisation:
1. Access from any device
2. Easy to use
3. High quality
4. Reliable
5. Programmable
6. Secure

“It needs to be as human-like as possible, with clarity of face and voice. The platform needs to be reliable, without delay or an inability to connect to one another’s screens. And programmable, so when teams discover what they need, they can digitise inefficient processes to continually increase productivity.”

Flexible, efficient, engaging outcomes
With the rise of flexible, inclusive workplaces, it’s becoming imperative for teams to collaborate effectively across physical boundaries – and for digital technology to support this.

And with a workforce increasingly dominated by tech-hungry millennials, Kevin says leaders need to empower this digitally savvy cohort with effective, efficient technology.

“By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Gen Y. They are already familiar with digital technology and are used to interacting socially ‘digitally by default’. We need to support their preferences and expectations aligned to what they are familiar with, by giving them the right tools, but within the right framework,” says Kevin.

Organisations with a digital team first approach will also find it easier to attract talent and retain staff. “People want to work with leaders and they want to work in a progressive workplace,” says Kevin. “They want to be challenged and have exposure to trying new things.”

Most importantly, he says this movement needs to be driven from leadership down. “This includes establishing the right digital team culture and etiquette, ensuring the workforce is regularly trained in the technology and that leaders are visibly encouraging this movement.”

You can hear more from Kevin Bloch and the future of work experts by listening to the panel podcast here.

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