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Data Driven Collaboration: Unlocking Potential In Dynamic Teams and Communities of Practice

In the age of digitisation, data-driven collaboration has become a keystone of business efficiency, innovation, and success. We are living in a time where vast amounts of information is at our fingertips, offering unique opportunities to make evidence-based decisions and streamline team dynamics. As businesses continue to adapt to this new reality which is continuously evolving, three key trends have emerged at the forefront: virtual and hybrid teams, communities of Practice (CoP), with a renewed focus on autonomy. This article delves deep into these aspects, shedding light on how they converge to foster a more collaborative and efficient working environment with business value being at the heart of collaboration intention.

Distinguishing Between Attention and Knowledge

Before we proceed, it is important to distinguish between attention and knowledge. Attention can be measured by audience size, but it does not necessarily equate to knowledge, although it can equate to monetary value in sponsorships and establishing brand value.  Attention alone is an unreliable indicator of knowledge, which is essential for making informed business decisions.

It is therefore important to distinguish attention and knowledge when we consider data as a tool to drive collaboration.  Attention is a powerful tool when it is combined with knowledge to create the foundation on which to grow capability and business value.

Dynamic Virtual and Hybrid Teams and Collaboration

The COVID pandemic led to a tectonic shift in how teams operate, and we have seen that virtual and hybrid team models can be as effective, if not more, than traditional team structures. This is why we are unable to ignore this evolving dynamic in collaboration.

In my chart below we can see that the US responded well to the demand for virtual working during the pandemic with 75% working virtually during this time.  EU and UK activated at 42% and 37% respectively.  The challenge today for organisations is the desire to continue with virtual work, which in the US remains almost as in the pandemic at 71% while EU and UK seek almost equal desire to carry on with virtual work at 62% and 63% respectively.

graph data of pre and during pandemic on virtual work

We can conclude from this that employees will seek out companies that provide the opportunities to work virtually or at the very least in a hybrid way.

My next chart draws conclusion between current hybrid work today in US, EU and UK vs desire for hybrid work or virtual work.  A minimum of 50% want hybrid work across the US, EU and UK with between 62% and 71% seeking virtual work.  I believe this comparison is compelling, as no matter what companies are doing today ultimately the demand is widespread and convincing in the need to respond. At the very least, we are likely going to see a major swing towards a strong hybrid working model going forward.

graph data of post pandemic on hybrid work

How Is the World Responding to Evolving Work?

  1. The UK Government has recently implemented new additional flexible work policies
  2. In Europe the discussion for the “Digitally Enabled Workforce” in the European Round Table chaired by Christian Klein the EU seeks a new cross-border framework, legal reform, flex work rights and standards digital skills and digital investment to facilitate change.  
  3. In the US while the ability to implement new legislation is somewhat easier, desire by company leaders seems to daily hit the headline with calls for return for office by many leading companies. Unlike SAP who have implemented new work policies under the leadership of Dr. Christian Schmeichel where people can decide upon the way in which they would like to work. 

What Data Drives Collaboration in Virtual and Hybrid Teams?

A critical success factor in virtual or hybrid team collaboration success is leadership and capability to lead such dynamic teams. I outline in this article “Intentional Steps for Virtual Leaders that there are 7 areas of concern for these leaders, which I summarise in an infographic. Below I outline the key data points that drive collaboration in Virtual and Hybrid Teams: 

  1. Communication: frequency and quality of communication between team members. 
  2. Collaboration: measuring the number of projects completed jointly, the level of participation in team activities, and the quality of work produced.
  3. Decision-making: the speed and efficiency in team decision making.
  4. Innovation: by tracking the number of new ideas generated and implemented. 
  5. Satisfaction: measuring employee satisfaction levels. 
  6. Productivity: tracking level of task completions. 
  7. Cost savings: reduced cost in office space and facilities. 
  8. Employee engagement: tracking employee participation. 
  9. Team turnover: measuring leavers over time.

This information can be used to make changes to the team’s structure, processes, and practices to improve their overall performance and collaboration success.

Communities of Practice: The Catalysts of Collaboration

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are normally sponsored by an executive who has a stake in its collective outcome, with an assigned leader (often a role not a job),  and core members who are key stakeholders for the subject matter, with members formed around a common theme or profession for business value and outcomes across geographies, organisations and lines of business.

Members actively engage in sharing information, knowledge, expertise and key learnings to accelerate skill attainment and capability. In a business context, these communities act as incubators for new ideas, best practices (at a moment in time), and problem-solving techniques. By nurturing a culture of continuous learning and open exchange, CoPs ensure that the expertise is not confined within silos, but is distributed and evolves continuously.

For example, a CoP of data scientists and marketing professionals could collaborate on a project to develop a new customer segmentation model. By sharing their respective expertise, the CoP could develop a model that is more accurate and effective than what either group could have developed on their own. What we seek in CoP is collaboration for business value based on deep knowledge and expertise.

What Data Drives Collaboration in Communities of Practice

I have overseen the creation of somewhere in the region of 100 Communities of Practice (strategic) in my career. There are many data points that indicate communities have a possibility to become thriving learning, innovation and collaboration hubs.

These Are My Top 10 Data Points to Drive Collaboration in CoP:

  1. Active sponsorship, equating to i) ongoing time allocation for leaders, core members and members to attend events, and participate in content projects and innovation activities and ii) sponsorship funding for community events such as an annual meeting, online events, rewards and recognition programs.
  2. Provision of IT services and support
  3. Membership size of community in relation to expected membership size for a given topic.
  4. Number of relevant online debates around products, services, learning, innovation.
  5. Number of distinct participants in relation to relevant online debates, eg 5-10% of community member size.  You can be considered relatively successfully with 10% active participation in online community debates.
  6. New products developed, eg value propositions, new products or services.
  7. Problems solved, eg number of issues resolved through collaboration.
  8. Content data, eg number of items shared and uploaded and downloaded and also views.
  9. Number of attendees to online events indicating engagement.
  10. Number of hours of consumption of relevant online learning  
  11. And one more!! Annual survey data input on community value to the members.  Historically I have seen this question consistently return and 98% satisfaction of community value to its members.  Today we can tie this data point to employee wellness, satisfaction and engagement.

Communities of Practice provide an invaluable source of collaboration in organisations bringing together key people around key strategic themes. They jump over the need for organisational restructuring and with the right sponsorship, leadership and key elements in place can successfully build new innovations while at the same time skilling and building capability. Doing Communities of Practice well makes all the difference to collaboration success.

As we can see across the whole theme of collaboration how companies approach the ever changing landscape of work and the demands of employees will greatly impact their ability to stay ahead of the times. It is an moving target for which all involved need to be ever mindful in team setup, skills and leadership intention.

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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August 27, 2023

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