Unlock your competitive edge with work management

by Mark Mader

February 9, 2023

To stay competitive in today’s market, business leaders must rethink how work works. To gain an edge, this exercise must go beyond navigating work schedules and locations. How work gets done has become more important than when or where work gets done. This is true whether leaders are looking to drive revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risk across the business.

Companies that innovate around how work is done will have an outsized advantage. This requires new expectations, new processes, and new technology.

A key to success in the coming year will be elevating collaborative work management (CWM) tools beyond team-centric task management to a consistent, connected platform for work management at scale. Here’s what business leaders need to consider as they assess, or reassess, collaborative work management tools in the coming year.

Cross-functional collaboration becomes a competitive advantage

Today, communication is table stakes. The exchange of information is a given. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, and Slack enable discussion and serve as channels for decision making. But they aren’t well suited to structure, automate, or report on work. 

Workers need a way to exchange, organize, and structure information in the context of their work. They need to work together to achieve and report on results. And they need to go beyond producing results to deriving insights that can inform future work, and even drive down the cost of similar projects. 

Often, people try to solve for efficiency gains at the team level. Yet today’s opportunity for collaborative work extends beyond the team level and stretches across (and beyond) the enterprise. To unlock their full value, work management platforms cannot operate at just the team level, but should engage everyone who works within, and with, the enterprise. 

People need to work with a large, diverse group of people internally, often across functions. And collaboration is not restricted to coworkers, but extends across organizational boundaries to customers, partners, and vendors. Yet CWM tools are often limited by subscription models that require any user who contributes to the work to have a paid license. Leaders who choose platforms that eliminate barriers to collaboration gain a competitive edge. 

Leaders should also look to provide people with a platform that has the ability to support robust workloads, yet remains understood by and useful to virtually any employee. This needs to be true whether they are highly technical, or functional experts in marketing, services, operations, sales, finance, etc. Having a common language for working together is a significant advantage.

Common languages have historically been limited to basic productivity tools: video, messaging, authoring. Yet over the past five years, we’ve seen this evolve. To drive outsized returns, collaborative tools such as CWM platforms are providing higher value, structured languages in which everyone can be fluent.

Work management moves from managing tasks to driving meaningful outcomes

This year, more organizations will need their investments in CWM to move beyond individual productivity. There is a limit to how much personal productivity can add value to a business. As work becomes more interconnected, productivity must become more systematic so that organizations are best positioned to mobilize against higher value programs. It’s time for leaders to focus on enabling the people who are managing the work being done, whether they’re project managers, program managers, or in operations. When the people directly responsible for making sure the work gets done are empowered to develop and optimize effective workflows, they provide a multiplier effect that creates more value for organizations. 

Leaders should also look to gain insights from completed work, so that resources can be more effectively deployed on the next program or initiative. As businesses are forced to make the most of every dollar, more will look to connect their budgets with planning through to execution — and invest in initiatives that produce the best risk-adjusted return. Scale and impact will be measured less by how many users are on the platform. Instead, they’ll be measured by the degree to which a platform unlocks high value opportunities. 

Unlocking the value that comes from executing higher-order, complex business initiatives at scale is about more than connecting people on one platform. It’s about ensuring consistent execution — and the ability to repeat what’s working without starting from scratch. Workers can achieve this through the management of portfolios that enable consistent reporting with operational controls and automation, and the ability to make changes across the entire portfolio at one time. This allows for greater transparency into what’s really going on across the business, and can speed decision making at the leadership level.

Security and governance gain equal footing with speed to value

It’s no longer enough to have software up and running quickly. All businesses need, and should expect, security and governance that meets their needs now and in the ever-changing threat landscape. Advanced governance and security controls are fundamental to how large enterprises run their operations and protect their corporate and customer data. And increasingly, companies of all sizes are focused on how they can future-proof their businesses.  

As security threats increase in number and evolve in nature, business leaders should better position their employees to succeed on the security front. This is neither something that should be solely relegated to IT, nor can we expect business users to identify and avoid threats every time. While every chief information security officer would love for team members to be vigilant and constantly scan for threats, the work at hand usually receives the focus. 

The security stance for software needs to shift. It’s no longer about making controls available to users with the expectation that they will know when and how to apply the controls. Business leaders must adopt a proactive posture that provides extra protection — without having to rely primarily on a change in user behavior. And a critical factor in proactively providing secure communication and collaboration is trust. But trust-based capabilities can range from simple to more sophisticated.

One everyday example is email. Today’s collaborative work is more dependent upon notification emails and messaging than ever before as work crosses team, organization, and company boundaries. And this is exactly why attackers are focusing their efforts on exploiting email with phishing and other social engineering attacks. Leaders should choose solutions that enable users to effortlessly determine the authenticity and validity of email. The ability to trust email is not just helpful to users as they collaborate, but it is also critical to ensuring the protection of data that is being shared. Data protection in collaborative work is not a nice-to-have — it is a necessity. And collaborative work management solutions that have security as a foundation don’t just help users address security requirements. These solutions are also more efficient for IT teams to implement, and that equates to measurable business value. 

Your true competitive advantage

Today’s competitive environment will reward business leaders who keep an offensive mindset. I know this might seem a little counterintuitive, as investors react positively to margin improvement over growth at high costs. Yet by investing capital thoughtfully, and investing in the right tooling, you can stay on an offensive footing while expanding margins. 

Today, your competitive advantage is the mobilization of your teams in an integrated fashion. This is grounded less in figuring out how teams can drive efficiency in what they already do well, and more about unlocking and scaling previously untapped opportunities through the use of new technologies.

To unlock your organization’s latent potential, enable your employees to access modern work management platforms that help them work together to solve high-order business problems and drive innovation. They — and your customers — will thank you.