Clearing The Path Towards Collaboration And Communication In The Multi-Generational Workplace
The advances being made on the technology side of business, such as cloud, social media and smartphone apps often have to stop and wait for the human side to catch up. Resistance, fear and inertia are rampant in companies whose managers and senior decision-makers remain distrustful of the openness of new technology. Email, an inelegant devourer of time and context, for example, remains the mainstay of internal communication, and the silo mentality abounds not only in work hierarchies, but also with regard to the tools used to process actual tasks, and especially in the way that activities such as meetings, self-directed work and delegated work are carried out.
There is an extant need for centralization of communication; a need for human beings to collaborate in a way that breaks down walls and fosters synergy and time-efficiency, and this is becoming more and more urgent as successive generations of young professionals butt heads with their elders over work and working conditions.
Avinoam Nowogrodski understands this. As CEO of Clarizen (www.clarizen.com) he recognizes that operational excellence can no longer exist in formalized hierarchies, but must instead be laid out in an open concept that takes full advantage of the cloud.
Building on the success of his previous enterprise, SmarTeam, his new company, founded in 2006, focuses on revitalizing the lifecycle of an object – something as simple as a document – by moving the process of idea-draft-approval-delivery into an open area where people can feel engaged and can contribute their talents most effectively.
“We are trying to answer the question of what is the best way to get work done,” he says. “Fundamentally you need engagement and participation. People participate when there is clarity of the impact of their participation.” Nowogrodski likens this to the principle of democracy, where citizens possess an understanding of the impact of their participation.
Clarizen’s flagship product is touted as “collaborative project execution software,” and is designed to assist in making projects of any size and scope succeed.
It would be unfair, however, to label this application as simply Project Management software, since this would then attract the interest solely of people who deal in project management, which is still, sadly, a silo unto itself.
What Clarizen is, is more than a tool for managing a specific project. It is a tool for collaboration and conversation; a repository for thoughts, ideas and teams, which, through its proprietary features such as Team Board and Work FunnelTM which actually help get things done.
The approach that Clarizen takes reflects the overarching idea behind the cloud itself: that work is everywhere, there is a shift towards agility and accessibility in real time, and ideas morph into products and then into revenue by broadening channels of communication.
Clarizen is enjoying great success with its product and has a formidable client list that is growing by 100 new names per month. Large organizations such as Ricoh, Mazda and DHL are not only purchasing this SaaS application, but, Nowogrodski proudly points out, the adoption and usage rate is between 50% and 90%, meaning that most of the employees of these client companies are using the app for their day-to-day productivity needs.
The implications of this product are huge, not only as a revitalization of the previously formalized approach to Project Management, but also as a bridge between the age groups that now occupy a workforce. As Nowogrodski points out, project management best practices need to be optimized so that they remain familiar to Traditionalists and Boomers while appealing to Gen X-ers and especially Millennials, “who were raised by their Boomer parents to have the collaborative, social relationships modern-day workforces should be emulating.”
He adds that while “older generations may find working from a desk during traditional business hours works best, Millennials are choosing to work at any time from anywhere. Traditional project management can’t handle both.”
Nowogrodski points out how even long-established companies such as Microsoft are embracing the dynamism of cloud-based communication technology through, for example, their recent $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer. Although such acquisitions may be the expected actions to be taken by industry behemoths, Nowogrodski illustrates that the lesson here is one that all executives should take back to their office and ponder over: sometimes an innovation does not always come packaged with its end functionality clearly marked. A decision-maker must remain attuned to the principle of awareness and the willingness to invite change. Something is happening. The executive may not understand why these things are happening, but he/she must ensure that the change is monitored and its potential is assessed.
Clarizen gets its name from the combination of the words Clarity and Zen, with the Zen component highlighting the peace of mind that is achieved when teams are empowered to manage their work. This single word serves as a reminder to well-educated business people everywhere: Zen is an ancient practice that encompasses all around it. In this modern age there exists an all-encompassing wave of change, innovation and improvement. This is being carried into the hallways of business on the cloud. Clarizen stands not as a result of this change but as an usher or chaperone: a real-world tool that highlights the new necessity in business thought and action.
By Steve Prentice