Access and Feeds

Collaboration Tools: Slowly Eroding the Need for Face-to-Face in Business?

By Dick Weisinger

There’s irony in an IBM report on a summary report of how CEO’s are seeing their businesses changing.  The first page of the report — on a background of white — contains only the words: “This study is based on face-to-face conversations with more than 1,700 chief executive officers in 64 countries.”  While the remark is clearly intended to highlight and emphasize the expense and thoroughness of research that went into making the report, it may also have been placed there to  stand in contrast to a major finding of the report: CEO’s are seeing less value in face-to-face encounters and are increasingly pursuing social media and collaboration technologies for interacting with others.

The IBM report comments that “Although face-to-face will remain the most prevalent form of customer interaction, CEOs expect a step-change in the use of social media. Over half expect social channels to be a primary way of engaging customers within five years.”  The report found that 20 percent of CEO’s said that social media already is one of their most important forms of interaction with others, and 57 percent thought that within another 3-5 years social media would become important.  Currently 80 percent of CEO’s see face-to-face interactions as very important today, that’s expected to slip to just 67 percent who will feel that way in 3-5 years.

CEO’s are seeing collaboration increasingly as a tool that can be used to bring about team building and cooperation, allowing executives within the organization to work cross-functionally.  Collaboration tools allows all disciplines within the company to work more closely together.

Bridget van Kralingen, vice president of IBM Global Business Services, commented on the report’s findings saying that “Rather than repeating the familiar lament about de-personalising human relationships, this view leans heavily in favour of deepening them, and using dynamic social networks to harness collective intelligence to unlock new models of collaboration.”

Pierre Morin a partner at IBM Global Business Services, said that “Some senior leaders that I have met with are trying to create a more seamless connection with their CEOs.  That means they want people across the organization to feel comfortable reaching out to the CEO to share ideas or engage a discussion.  Social media is a mechanism to do that. People use social media tools to facilitate communication across all levels of the company.”

The IBM report concludes that “To lead in unfamiliar territory amid constant change, CEOs will need to learn from their own networks. They will need to assemble those networks like portfolios—with generational, geographic, institutional diversity. Then, they’ll need to help their organizations do the same.”

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