All together now

The world has changed for the digital nomads, the security people, the dev teams, the infrastructure managers, the gig workers and the employees who work from home or the office.
By Tamsin Oxford
Johannesburg, 07 Dec 2022
Nicole Rousseau, PKF Ignite.
Nicole Rousseau, PKF Ignite.

What word defines business in 2023? Collaboration. It’s this wordthat underpins resilience in uncertain times. It’s solutions that empower andenhance collaboration and ensure that the organisation can thrive regardless ofpolitics, economics and pandemics. Collaboration is digital connections, hybridwork, the metaverse, virtual shared environments, physical-digital workspaces,connected experience and skilled leadership.

For Gartner, the key to ensuring that organisations and leaders thrive in the hybrid world and actually collaborate effectively is to empower people. This is resilience on the soft skill level, where collaboration between teams has to be managed across multiple time zones, platforms, cultures and personalities. Managers and leaders need to invest in technologies that connect employees while balancing these tools with flexibility, intentional communication, and connected experiences. Research firm McKinsey agrees, and emphasises the need for companies to ‘re-evaluate how work is organised and how peers collaborate’, and adds that companies must be intentional and transparent when it comes to collaboration, focusing on dropping barriers and cutting complexities through solutions that remove the limitations of distance, culture and timelines. Synchronous/asynchronous communication tools, the opportunity to learn from best practice and optimise processes, and the consistent evolution of skillsets and engagements are the true foundations of a collaborative culture in the modern organisation.

The shifting landscapes of collaboration and connection will also very likely spark further innovation within these virtual and hybrid environments. McKinsey suggests that new models of operating are creating new ways of working, which are igniting fresh approaches to legacy challenges and operational methodologies.

Virtual infrastructure

This is echoed by Gartner – the firm believes that by 2026, 25% of people will spend an hour a day in the metaverse engaging in collective spaces and virtual environments for both business and play. This, Gartner believes, is going to significantly improve collaboration within the workplace as it will allow for organisations to build virtual infrastructure that can be accessed by anyone from anywhere. As this concept evolves and the technology along with it, there is potential for meetings, workshops, networking and training within these virtual environments that will be far more inclusive and cost-effective.

Mental well-being has taken a front-row seat in the workplace.

Lianie Minny, MD of Internal Developers

The 'Forrester Tech Tide: Enterprise Collaboration Technologies, Q3 2022' report highlights the value of enterprises investing in technologies that allow for organisation to achieve all these goals. After all, soft skills, metaverse, connections and collaborations are only as effective as the tools available. For Forrester, the future of collaboration is intuitive, relevant and intelligent technologies built around the employee experience and designed to help the organisation become increasingly agile and flexible in a highly digital business world. The shape of these tools and their integrations will vary from company to sector to niche, but the foundations will remain the same – flexible, sustainable, and resilient.

All hands on deck

Brainstorm: What are the big trends inworkplace collaboration right now and what’s influencing them?

Nicole Rousseau, associate head of PKF Ignite: The questions of ‘to cloud or not to cloud’ and ‘to digitise or not to digitise’ are history. It’s obvious that it’s the only way to remain relevant in business. The change I’ve noticed is the shift in focus to the human factor and realising that you are only as strong as the team you work with. Looking after your staff and really paying attention to creating a desirable and inclusive working environment has become really important, profitable and effective.

Priaash Ramadeen, co-founder of The Awareness Company: Organisations are asking themselveswhat tools they can use to generate the right data so that they can enhance and increase workplace collaboration. And by increasing collaboration, we don’t mean more meetings and phone calls and messages, we mean increasing the shared awareness within the organisation, so the right people have the right answers to the right questions, so that the collaboration is then efficient, clearer and more valuable.

Lianie Minny, MD of Internal Developers: Mental well-being has taken a front-row seat in the workplace. This means there’s a move towards Third Space integration into home and office environments and an evolving approach to a hybrid way of working. This is not just as a workstyle in physical space, but alternating between digital, virtual, physical, visual, 2-, 3-, 4-dimensional spaces.”

Bruce Busansky, hybrid cloud specialist at Red Hat South Africa: In terms of collaboration, organisations are trying to figure out how to make work more visible and manageable remotely. We’ve had to rethink how we manage our teams and their workflows and how we can measure employee productivity. And as collaboration has moved online, having the right tools to enable employees to do so effectively has become more crucial than ever.

Brainstorm: What technologies are shaping collaboration within the modern workplace?

Nicole Rousseau, PKF Ignite: The last two years have solidified the role and importance of video or virtual meetings tools, a centralised database accessible to all team members as well as communication channels and task management systems. We’ve found that it enables all team members to brainstorm, manage and share information in a collaborative manner and, most importantly, in a real-time environment.

Legacy systems can be a daunting exercise to change, so there is often opposition to moving to new platforms.

Nicole Rousseau, PKF Ignite
Brendan Cuthbertson, Cisco head of Private Sector Sales South Africa

Priaash Ramadeen, The Awareness Company: We’re finding that community-building technologies are becoming more prevalent in organisations. How do we build a community around creating collaboration within the organisation? And adjacent to that, data tools as well. Collaboration is not just enhancing everyone’s real-time communication, but also enhancing their historic understanding of the communication.

Shazley Naidoo, presales specialist at CipherWave: Collaboration software and platforms like Microsoft Teams have been expanding quite rapidly. Most organisations are still using Teams to replace face-to-face meetings; again, this is more of a trend around productivity and time management as you can save on travel time and travel cost.

Brainstorm: What’s holding this tech back? What are the big frustrations?

Nicole Rousseau, PKF Ignite: Within the industry, we’ve noticed resistance from certain ‘technophobes’, which seems like an oxymoron within business nowadays. Legacy systems can be a daunting exercise to change, so there is often opposition to moving to new platforms. One could argue that that time and cost investment involved in the move to a collaborative future outweighs the time and cost investment of older ways of working.

Lianie Minny, Internal Developers: Employers are forcing ‘the new norm’ or ‘return to office’ and not allowing integration of new workstyles and workforce mentality. There are also the complications of a lack of reliable and stable power and connectivity, and the ongoing global chip shortage.

Priaash Ramadeen, The Awareness Company: Education is a huge component in terms of factors holding these technologies back. It’s important to make the buyer’s journey easier by helping them understand the potential value of the tech.

Shazley Naidoo, CipherWave: Not everyone has access to good-quality, affordable internet at home, and this does limit how collaboration tools are used and optimised.

* This feature was first published in the Dec/Jan 2023 edition of ITWeb's Brainstorm magazine.


* Article first published on