Mike Sullivan

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Mike Sullivan is an entrepreneur and marketing professional who tries to keep things humming along as best as possible. From time to time, he updates the AVO blog, but mostly he can be found on Skype talking with someone about virtual offices. Connect with Mike Sullivan on LinkedIn.

6 Best Practices for Extreme Virtual Office Collaboration

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MIAMI – You’ve heard of extreme sports. Now, welcome to the world of extreme virtual office collaboration. Or, as market research firm Gartner calls it, extreme collaboration. As its name suggests, extreme collaboration (XC) is a new operating model and an extreme style of collaboration.

XC is ideal for a distributed workforce tapping into virtual offices. The concept impacts the way people behave, communicate, work together and maintain relationships – often across wide organizational and geographic boundaries – to drive breakthrough performance.

“Collaboration is a critical activity in many operational business processes, both structured and unstructured. An XC environment is essentially a virtual war room or crisis center, where people can come together to collaboratively work on a shared purpose,” says Janelle Hill, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“This environment is available 24/7, thus enabling people to work when, where and how they need to in order to meet shared goals and outcomes. What makes it extreme is people’s willingness to cross geographic, organizational, political and management boundaries, to pool their collective skills and resources to solve problems and move toward the attainment of a shared, ambitious goal.”

Gartner has identified six best practices for moving to a culture of XC from virtual offices or anyplace.

1. Foster the use of virtual, web-based collaboration spaces in people’s daily jobs: Virtual office technologies are easily accessed and almost always available. Virtual environments used to host such spaces can range from process collaboration environments to social networks or on-premises collaborative and social media tools.

2. Exploit the value of near-real-time communication addiction: The surge in real-time, or near-real-time, communication activities, such as texting, tweeting or updating Facebook, is not just a fad and businesses should embrace and encourage such behavior. Establishing real-time communication habits in the workplace enables a freer flow of information and more proactive notifications, so that people can respond more quickly to unexpected events and business disruptions.

3. Use crowdsourcing and popular social media tools to facilitate dynamic communities and collaboration: One good way to kick-start the mind-set for extreme collaboration is to host a “tweet jam” to trigger a dynamic community to brainstorm on a problem. This involves simply setting a time and topic, and encouraging people to participate and get working. Unlike a conversation in a meeting room, all communication is captured so there’s a clear record of what was discussed, who contributed ideas, and which participants excelled at facilitating discussions and problem-solving.

4. Change reward systems to encourage collaboration: Enterprises that embrace XC reward influence collaborative behavior that contributes to resolving complex problems, in addition to rewarding individual deliverables. They design performance evaluations and incentives to foster teamwork and reward exceptional collaborators. The use of collaboration technologies also makes it easier to track collaborative behavior and tie it directly to outcomes achieved.

5. Use social network analysis to measure the collaborative behavior of teams: Another way to measure and reward collaborative behavior is to track how people interact. Social network analysis (SNA) and some social media monitor people’s social network influence. An XC culture is built on openness, trust and mutual respect and SNA is a technique to help process owners and business process improvement (BPI) leaders identify strong social networks where a foundation of trust and respect exist.

6. Plan group events to kick-start real-time communication and collaboration: A few simple steps can help force people out of their “comfort zones” to experiment with new ways of collaborating and interacting, including: Designating mobile-video attendees at meetings; Use game play to spur new forms of collaboration and creative interaction; Consider turning off email for a defined time period.

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