Are you ready for the collaborative work revolution?

Several people work together in an open office environment

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Not only are the tools and applications we use at work undergoing a digital revolution, the way people get work done is changing too. It’s a revolution driven by the need to optimize processes and collaboration in a working world of increasing fragmentation—of software and digital tools, of centralized offices, and of traditional hierarchies.

The wholesale transition to new ways of working means that our reliance on long-established, locally deployed software and applications can no longer deliver the digital dexterity and efficiency required in a world where teams are rarely co-located, and where collaborating across functions, disciplines, and regions is the norm.

A recent Gartner report, Collaborative Work Management in the New Work Nucleus, identifies the key challenges enterprises are up against in the midst of this digital transformation. It highlights the way on-premises applications (centered around Microsoft Office) are being replaced by new cloud-based applications that are mobile, collaborative, integrated, and often enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the Gartner report, “The New Work Nucleus is a collection of ever-changing, multi-vendor, SaaS-based personal and team productivity applications that replaces decades-old on-premises applications centered around Microsoft Office” (see Figure 1).

Transition from old work nucleus to new work nucleus

Figure 1. Transition from Old Work Nucleus to New Work Nucleus reprinted from Collaborative Work Management in the New Work Nucleus, by Gartner, 22 October 2019. Reprinted with permission.

Collaborative work management (CWM) technology is a core component of this new work nucleus, and Gartner offers advice and recommendations for adopting CWM in your business.

How to transition to the new work nucleus.

CWM technology is a centralized, easy-to-adopt solution for managing and collaborating on all types of work through the entire work lifecycle. It helps teams overcome the chaos of excessive emails, unnecessary status update meetings, and a multitude of disconnected digital tools. It enables collaboration, planning, prioritization, delivery, optimization, and automation of day-to-day work.

In helping thousands of global enterprises navigate their digital transformations to achieve CWM success, we’ve identified five key elements every leader must understand and actively support to successfully transition from legacy systems and practices to the new work nucleus: the new way of getting work done.

1. Platform work.

Many areas of business management have already been transferred onto well-established platforms; for example, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provide a platform for customer data records and information sharing, and enterprise resource management (ERP) software provide a financial recording and information platform. But most businesses do not have a universal operational platform for managing the way they work and sharing information on everyday projects and processes. That’s precisely what a CWM solution provides. It creates common workspaces for everyone in your organization, aligning all productivity tools within your business and acting as the enterprise-wide connective tissue that unifies all digital tools used to execute your work.

For a CWM platform to be successful, it has to be usable by everyone, from those on the front line to those on the board, while providing valuable, actionable insights and tools for all. This doesn’t mean everyone has to use the platform all of the time. Specialists within your team will still predominantly use their own tools, but these must also integrate with the CWM system so that everyone can view progress and workflows. It’s all about harmonizing and unifying the tools people use, so that information sharing is simple and seamless.

2. Democratize work.

The beauty of CWM technology is that it can be used by everyone in your organization—with suitable access permissions. The richness and power of CWM technology enables non-IT specialists to model and automate work processes. A flexible, user-friendly CWM platform encourages people to access and use the system, ultimately maximizing its effectiveness in improving business outcomes.

As CWM system use grows within your organization, it’s essential to have effective governance frameworks in place, as you would for similar IT applications. CWM technology should offer effective governance support by enabling you to set access rights, content-organization guidelines, security permissions, and archiving rules. Because non-IT specialists may be able to develop simple applications using these tools, adopt a ‘citizen development’ governance framework, like what’s used when non-IT specialists are allowed to use low-code or no-code development tools to create applications.

3. Boost digital dexterity.

The dramatic changes underway in work management tooling give organizations an excellent opportunity to enhance the digital dexterity of their workforce. According to the Gartner report, “Digital dexterity is the ambition and ability to use technology for better business outcomes.” Choosing the right CWM solution to support greater digital dexterity in your workforce is essential.

The underlying augmentation services within the CWM system that will determine the extent to which workforce digital dexterity is enhanced. CWM solutions are particularly effective in managing and organizing daily, non-routine work that is difficult to plan and is often delivered via ad hoc communication and manual oversight. A CWM system adds visibility, structure, operational governance, and logistical control to such tasks.

Well-developed and augmented CWM solutions with simple user interfaces give individuals the digital dexterity to more efficiently plan, manage, and deliver these everyday tasks—while also providing ease and transparency of management oversight. The result is improved collaboration, task management, and workforce flexibility.

4. Turbocharge with automation.

To take these benefits to the next level, CWM technology can be ‘turbocharged’ with enhancements such as AI, application integration, and data and content analytics.

AI-enabled resource management and planning tools can be built into CWM systems to automatically assign tasks based on key criteria. That saves time for leaders by scheduling work assignments according to skills and resource availability and prevents over-allocation or burn-out of key people or resources.

CWM that integrates with the tools and applications people use across your business enables all workflows and progress updates to be recorded and monitored within the shared system. For example, integration with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Creative Cloud helps Workfront bridge the gap between creating marketing content and delivering it. It enables marketers to balance the work they have to do to keep the project running smoothly, with the creative work they love to do and for which they were hired.

It’s one of the ways CWM technology helps businesses optimize the time people spend on the tasks they were hired to do: a major challenge for employers today as employees are overloaded and distracted by excessive emails and unnecessary meetings. In fact, according to our global 2020 State of Work report, the average worker only spends 43% of their working week on the primary tasks they were hired for. CWM solutions that integrate with the applications and software your teams use are a key part of the solution, enabling your specialists to use their core skills most of the time.

CWM solutions that provide advanced analytical capabilities also enable executives to extract maximum value from the data gathered by the system. They enable managers to plan, manage, and monitor work based on accurate insights and data. They give managers real-time insights into current programs, projects, people, and resources, along with the analytical tools to interpret and organize that data. Such instant visibility of key metrics enables leadership to better support their teams, achieve greater efficiency, and accomplish company-wide goals.

5. Move to enterprise-wide CWM.

If CWM is to support businesses through the digital transformation, it will need to be deployed at scale. As a relatively new concept in work management, CWM has until now been deployed principally on smaller projects. There are exceptions, of course, but as the Gartner report states: “Collaborative work management deployments are still largely small scale and experimental. Large enterprise-wide deployments covering a broad range of use cases are the exception rather than the norm.”

Most CWM tools are being used for project and task management, rather than cross-enterprise collaborative work management. To scale the deployment of CWM, start with areas of your business in which transparency and collaboration are already the norm. In other areas, introduce CWM deployments as part of broader digital workplace programs taking place across the organization.

But it takes more than smart business practices and savvy change management decisions to connect and orchestrate work across an enterprise. Organizations that eventually want to support cross-departmental and even cross-company collaboration should look for vendors that are building platforms with both scale and complexity in mind. The ecosystem of work requires a deep understanding of process and permissions, as well as the ability to integrate with an array of systems and data. There’s a big difference between purpose-built applications and enterprise platforms.

Get ready for the future of work.

The transition to the new world nucleus of cloud-based, integrated applications is well underway. How successfully businesses move towards this new approach to collaborative work will determine how well they are able to compete and thrive.

CWM technology plays a starring role in this revolution, enabling people to connect and collaborate effortlessly and have the right information to do their best work. This is the new and improved definition of optimization and efficiency that will separate leaders from laggards in this new world of digital work.

Gartner Collaborative Work Management in the New Work Nucleus, Nikos Drakos, Jeffrey Mann, Mike Gotta, 22 October 2019

This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document.