Collaboration in the Information Age

Matthew March, CIO, Colony American Finance
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Matthew March, CIO, Colony American Finance

Clear, concise and timely communication is the key to any successful relationship and collaboration is more critical today than ever before. In today’s fast-paced, digital world, communication and collaboration must transcend time and space. Geographically dispersed teams around the globe working across multiple time zones require robust techniques, tools and technology to effectively communicate and collaborate, often in real-time. Technology must continue to evolve to support effective human collaboration, successfully bringing people together, anytime, anywhere.

The advent of technology to support collaboration continues to evolve for specific industries, applications and use cases. The Google platform began as the low-cost, collaborative tool of choice for students and colleges, facilitating real-time meet-ups, multiple-user editing of documents, white-boarding and video conferencing. Intranet portals such as Microsoft SharePoint are utilized by business to centralize employee communication and to facilitate user interaction and knowledge sharing. File sharing solutions like Box.com or DropBox for example, allow for online, cloud-based document management and collaboration by teams, companies and multiple-tenant organizations. One recent collaboration vertical, however, is long over due and may prove to be one of the most valuable; real-time collaboration in business intelligence.

In today’s information age and the continued exponential increase of data generated by the trillions of digital transactions that occur every day, the ability to extract actionable knowledge from ever-increasing information is superseded only by the need of the users of the data to interact, to communicate and to collaborate in real-time.

  â€‹Communication and collaboration are the keys to success in the information age 

In the past, when anomalies, trends or actionable events were discovered in data, collaboration occurred slowly and ineffectually. A copy of a report would be communicated to other users via email. Some users would be included in the initial discussion, other pertinent users would be inadvertently omitted from the discussion altogether, while other users would be added or dropped from the ongoing discussion. To complicate the communication and collaboration further, attachments would be lost when a recipient “Replied-all” or new attachments were subsequently added, but not forwarded to original recipients. Users would be required to read the entire email chain, from the last email to the first, in hopes to glean an understanding into the context of the data, the questions being posed and the problem being solved. All in all, communication and collaboration within business intelligence, information and data-centric decision processes were archaic and wholly ineffective.

In recent years, incorporating communication tools and collaboration capability directly within business intelligence platforms and enterprise reporting technology has gone through a quantum evolution and maturation process. Real-time alerting on data-driven events, errors and exceptions has been around for a while, but embedded communication and collaboration tools within business intelligence technology is revolutionizing the industry and further improves the ability for information users to discuss, collaborate and reach collective decisions in real-time.

Business Intelligence companies, such as Domo, have embedded real-time chat and incorporated social collaboration around data, reports and dashboards, directly into their business intelligence solution. Within a report, a user can begin a conversation with other users, discuss data trends, anomalies, correlation and causation. The conversation can be expanded to include additional participants, in real-time, across mobile devices, all without having to utilize email or other channels of communication or collaboration. Business Intelligence platforms and solutions that do not embrace integrated, real-time communication and collaboration are less-effective and will become obsolete.

I recently experienced a real-world example of the power of integrated collaboration and communication within a business intelligence platform. A marketing department for a financial services company had been working diligently on a critical email campaign that took a few extra days to obtain the required review and approval to send. The email campaign was launched on a Friday and the following morning, the president of the company was reviewing the marketing dashboard and noticed that the new email campaign was performing poorly; the open-rate and click-through-rate were below expectation. The president contacted the sales vice-president in real-time, who subsequently analyzed historical data trends and came to the correlation and causation that email campaigns performed better historically when they were sent at the beginning of the work week. They realized their customers normally do not work weekends and because the email was sent late Friday, their customers would not check their email until Monday and when they did so, the email campaign would be far down the list of emails in their inbox. The email campaign was resent the following Monday and the click-through-rate and open-rate performance improved to normal, expected levels.

Communication and collaboration are the key to success in the information age and this real-world use case is a perfect example where the value of business intelligence was greatly enhanced by the ability to collaborate and communicate in real-time. Interaction, communication, analysis, collaboration and execution all occurred through the use of integrated technology. Leveraging technology to facilitate communication and to enable collaboration is here to stay and will only continue to improve. Companies that adopt collaborative technology and promote these capabilities across the enterprise will have a definitive competitive advantage.

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