The new champions of collaboration: Frontline transformation stories from European leaders in IT

by Jenny Gruening


IT teams have long been the champions of digital transformation. Before COVID-19 changed the way we work, many businesses rightly laid the responsibility for tech projects at their feet – whether that was a move to the cloud, or an ambitious strategy to capitalise on Big Data. 

The numbers back this up: in Smartsheet research, 68% of businesses saw IT as in charge of digital transformation, with only 52% allocating it to Operations and less than 25% to the Board. Whatever the goal was, IT was leading the team.

But when the pandemic hit, workplaces changed. Businesses found themselves under huge pressure to transform, adapt, and implement new tech. And while they might have ultimate responsibility, IT wasn’t the only team that needed to make it happen.

So – what’s shifted? In a world where everyone has their part to play in driving transformation, how can IT add value as leaders? To find out, Smartsheet interviewed European business leaders, including CIOs, to find out how they approached this challenge and what they’ve learned. We call them our Smart Voices – and here are some of their insights. 

For the full story, jump straight to our report to see everything our Smart Voices think about the future of digital transformation and work: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation.

From an uncertain start to the future of remote working

During the early days of the pandemic, businesses were focused on making the previously unimaginable happen. 

An operations Voice in media & entertainment commented:

"We moved everybody to be able to work from home when they never have. People would have said it couldn't be done, so we made it happen... When I started it at the beginning of the two weeks, did I think we could achieve it? I probably did. Did the rest of my team? Probably not.”

Having completed the scramble to make sure their devices (and everyone else’s) were suitable, secure, and connected, it’s time to get back to more strategic thinking. IT leaders know there’s no going back. And with the nuts and bolts of mass working from home straightened out, there’s plenty more to consider.

Better collaboration

The next step for IT leaders is to transform this brave new world into tomorrow’s business as usual. As well as simply keeping communication going, with the practical concerns about devices, scalability and security, IT might also want to think about becoming collaboration champions, with a particular focus on ensuring the organisation has the most efficient suite of tools in place to support great work. 

Smartsheet’s 2020 research has shown that 51% of businesses rank improving the workplace collaboration and productivity experience as their #1 workplace transformation priority.

In the words of an operations Voice in utilities:

"If you’ve got ... six out of nine of your product team in your office and three are at home on different days, how do you make sure that those three people at home don't get left out?"

Improving your workforce’s experience around collaboration will empower them and help them to stay productive, engaged, and connected. Not only will it make remote working more effective, but this builds business resilience during periods of change and when facing future challenges.

The right tools for the job

The speed at which businesses shifted to remote working meant many workers and user groups took it upon themselves to implement new tools. This was useful in the short term, but IT should take point on ensuring the huge array of tools introduced during this period deliver maximum results. 

Championing collaboration means thinking about what employees will need to work together productively and effectively, while not forgetting the IT basics. Taking the lead on the tools everyone uses can help ensure that they’re the right ones – easy to use, seamless to integrate, and secure.

As one technology Voice in logistics commented:

"Security is going to be [of] paramount importance. [We’ve seen] a lot of attacks recently on many companies and teams ... the hackers are leveraging the mobility factor of our employees for their use case."
"The three biggest themes for the future are scaling, automation, and security."

At the same time, employees need tools with the capabilities that allow them to work effectively.

What to look out for

Remote (or at least hybrid) working is here to stay. IT leaders need to take charge on ensuring employees manage complex work without communication overload.

Focus on finding tools that integrate effectively, as well as being user-friendly, secure, and easy to scale. A truly adaptable solution can be used to replace several, less flexible tools – which is a win for ease-of-use, security, management, and ROI. 

Looking to the future of work

Ready for more thoughts from business leaders about the future of digital transformation and work? View our latest report: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation