Contextual Collaboration - Easier Than Fixing Your Sink and More Valuable
If you have ever tried to do something yourself (change your car’s oil, home repairs/renovations, tuning your bike, sell your house, sizing a new market for product launch) you know how helpful expertise is in addition to the information you have. You also understand the cost of mistakes: project delays, opportunity cost, and the cost of fixing mistakes. I regret to say that I’ve personally lost a week of time, and significant cost trying to change out a bathroom sink. If someone had looked at it with me before getting started, I would have avoided a fit problem with the new sink that left the project half-completed for a week while I purchased 3 different adapters to eventually solve the problem. I wished there was a better way.
In a perfect world, for any work you do, you would have an expert who could answer questions in the context of the work you are doing, and record their answer so you could easily refer back to it. It would be so much easier to get things done if others could see what you are looking at and share their knowledge in the context of what you’re both seeing. This is contextual collaboration at it’s best. Video chat and augmented reality tools aren’t quite mainstream enough yet to deliver this for a lot of the above examples.
The good news is that this is readily available for the vast majority of work that is done every day in the digital cloud-based era we are in. In fact, you can do this very thing with documents and presentations where multiple people simultaneously review and comment in the document while talking about the work they are doing. This is changing the way people work with one another in tools like Microsoft Teams.
Out of context email, chat, phone calls, and meetings are becoming a thing of the past. These classic e-communication tools disconnect us from the tasks and related content at hand, and in many cases slow us down more than they speed us up. These tools also offer zero traceability back to the work being done, so there is no opportunity to learn from successes or failures. Instead of continuous process improvement with activity-based contextual collaboration, we're doomed to repeat costly mistakes with disconnected communication tools and workspaces.
Product development companies in the manufacturing industry stand to gain the most from contextual collaboration. The combination of standard documentation and technical product data makes effective collaboration across all people in the value chain particularly challenging. Which in turn, means there is a large opportunity for improvement that equates to faster cycle times, reduced scrap/errors, and overall cost savings. The leaders in manufacturing are finally breaking free of communication tools like email and chat that limit the performance of their product development teams. And the advantages these companies stand to gain are significant as they move from technical data sharing to technical data collaboration portals that connect people to more than just the information and data they need. It connects them to their teammates, specialists, experts, suppliers and even their customers. Contextual collaboration at it’s finest.