Written by Renata Cooper for Dynamic Business
2015 will see us, as a society, work together more than we ever have in the past. Technology, shifting work ethics and the need to deliver greater good has seen collaborative practises going mainstream in workplaces, manufacturing, consumption, resource management, recycling and how we perceive competition. Increasingly, we are working together for our benefit and that of those around us.
Beyond classic examples such as eBay and the less decorous ones such as Pirate Bay, many community driven collaborative movements are shaping our economy and culture. From 3D printing, co-creation, software as services technology allowing brands to connect directly with customers and consumption platforms such as Freecycle, our world is getting smaller and more intertwined.
So how will collaboration impact small businesses and entrepreneurs this year?
Social media as important as email and phones
Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2016, 50 percent of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and that 30 percent of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today.
Entrepreneurs and smaller businesses will take cue from this trend and use social mediums to build brands and manage conversations. Social engagement will become an important part of their business plan and strategy. Community managers – internal employees or external facilitators such as CloudPeeps – will play a bigger role in channelling relevant information across different platforms.
Likewise, the role of content will evolve to focus more on key influencers, leadership and relationships. Businesses with global footprints will also use social platforms to create more cohesive workforce across cities and countries – at a fraction of the cost.
Employee voice and new work structure
In the past, employee performance management was reliant on management teams and the opportunities they provided. Flatter work structures and access to social networks, within and outside the organisation, has given a stronger voice to employees to showcase their work, interests, skills (both intuitive and taught) and potential.
Employees will be more empowered to work with entrepreneurs and businesses that fulfil, not just pay check requirements, but also support them through collaboration and be part of their interests. Employers who do this well will have a more motivated and passionate workforce that produces better results. Silos will be broken down in the pursuit of work structures that are more collaborative and accepting of how people live and their individual interests.
Integration of technology and people
Technological integration across different systems, processes and data is very much a given. 2014 saw organisations scramble to get their CRM, cloud, content, ERP, social and other data management systems talking to each other. For newer businesses, it was a relatively easy process and for others such as hospitality, where legacy systems had to be integrated, the approach has been slower. 2015 will see more collaborations take place with organisations aiming to put more data into action through sharing, analysis and application.
Owing to technology, last year also saw greater collaboration in areas such as resource and team management. Gone are the days where employees were brought on board to work 9 to 5 for a job, over a certain period of time, at a given location. The collaborative nature of technology has benefitted entrepreneurs greatly as, with limited budgets, they have been able to pull together the most effective teams for the job – without geographic and time constraints.
Small businesses have just as much access to the best personnel suited to the job as bigger organisations. This plug and play business model will continue to gain popularity this year.
Early in 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article noting that collaboration is the new competition. The article highlights how, in an effort to tackle today’s complex and interconnected problems, leaders and organisations are putting aside self-interest to build a new civic infrastructure and advance shared objectives.
While competition will continue to drive many people, the nature, parameters and desire that craft it will shift to a more collaborative model.
Increasingly, non-traditional partners are coming together, and will continue to do so, to embrace a new way of working together. From angel investment and funding to launching new publications, the measure of competition will be more collective. People will pool in resources to support collective and individual growth. As entrepreneur Janine Garner notes in her book From Me To We, to succeed in a ‘we’ world, we need to learn how to engage as commercial collaboration is key to future proofing the economy.
As the economy continues to get reshaped, collaboration’s role in the new culture and the very fabric of business will continue to evolve. The above noted trends and new ones that pop up through 2015 will become a more intrinsic part of how we do business and interact with the world around us.