Collaboration tools for business leaders

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John MastersJohn Masters, Technology Director, writes on technology and innovation

The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Silicon Valley is remarkable for more than it being the first such visit by an Indian premier for more than three decades. His populist approach, focusing on the personal as well as the economic, is totally consistent with a leader who has embraced social media with enthusiasm.

Mr Modi’s warning to other world leaders that they are ‘not going to gain by running away from social media’ may have been exactly what his Californian audience wanted to hear, but the comment has resonance, and not just in the political sphere.

That leaders in the corporate world should also embrace social tools may go without saying for the executives in Mr Modi’s audience, but that is not always the case elsewhere.

Most organisations make available some form of social platform for their employees, but often such technologies are seen as being for the office, not the boardroom. However, this can be where collaboration tools are at their most useful.

Many companies rely on a weekly (or even less regular) meeting of the company’s senior leadership team. Often, this may be the only time when the group is able to work collaboratively on key challenges. The board may meet monthly at most.

But business is no longer governed by a predictable sequence of quarterly figures and annual reports, of long electoral cycles and pre-eminent national governments. The global financial climate is uncertain at best, skittish at worst. Rumour, fact and supposition travel with equal speed. Currency movements, regulatory changes and policy announcements can alter a market landscape in hours.

Modern management must be iterative and quick to react – able to respond to changes as they occur, even as monthly figures are being prepared or the board report is being written.

To facilitate a more agile decision-making process, leaders should be connected both to each other, and to key analysis of the company’s situation. That is not always easy to achieve, despite what the purveyors of many software packages may claim. Suitability is not just a matter of branding and security, but of integration.

To be truly useful, collaboration and social tools for leaders should be a fundamental part of data and analytics platforms. That way, the conversation is always guided by facts, and decision-making can respond rapidly to market and financial changes.

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