Contrary to the modern workplace evangelists who are wearing a brush, and lot of pink paint, people in business are the ones who need to deal with this brave new world, its challenges, promises, difficulties and failures.
By definition, a modern workplace as we consider it today aims to help employees, customers and suppliers collaborate, share, and organize information using modern technologies, anytime, anywhere, from any device. So, it is all about collaboration, after all. Collaboration is a hot topic since many, many years, and only in the past few decades it has something to do with the IT. Telephone was the first major revolution in the enterprise collaboration. Then fax, email and file shares followed. Collaboration tools like Microsoft SharePoint were the next logical and important step, which brought order, rules and governance into the concept of collaboration. That explains the major success of Microsoft SharePoint and similar tools.
But every collaboration tool since email had one major issue: lack of communication. Communication is in the essence of the human nature, and, furthermore, it is the cornerstone of collaboration. It is great that SharePoint & co. can show users the difference between different versions of a Word document, but they will still not know why those changes have happened on the first place. Communication was not in focus of those tools. We might even say that SharePoint has tried to discourage the communication, and to make information workers just a part of the work flow. It was then a natural urge for users to skip SharePoint, and to send the new version of “that document” via email, and to explain the differences in the email body. This is how they were closing the communication gap. This was the major problem of all collaboration tools, since… well, since SharePoint. There was this SharePoint cartoon, from Dan Lewis, back in the MOSS 2007 times, where a guy uploads a document into the document library, and walks over to his colleague, to tell him that the document has been uploaded. It was a good laugh about that guy, who presumably didn’t understand SharePoint. Or maybe there should be instead a laugh about SharePoint, not understanding the nature of human collaboration?
Modern Workplace, with its promise to enable mobile and remote workers as well, came with the promise to also close this gap in collaboration. The promise first came with the social collaboration tools, such as Yammer or Facebook Workplace, but this approach was doomed to fail, since those two, as well as all other major social-only tools, had a lack of fundamental collaboration functionalities: procedures, policies and governance. Social tools can, and if properly used will, significantly increase effectiveness and quality of collaboration. No more email CC hell. No more review comments hell in Word Documents. But it will fail on its own, if it is offered without collaboration and content-related communication. And this is what Microsoft seems to understand now, introducing in 2017 Microsoft Teams, as [to the largest degree] governable and controllable platform, which relies on well-established building blocks such as SharePoint, Exchange and Skype. Social tools should not aim to replace collaboration tools, they should aim to leverage them and enhance them.