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Today’s data collaboration rituals suck. This is why.

Any data initiative is a means to an end. We yet find ourselves in situations where the objective is much clearer to us than the way to get there. Relevant insights and knowhow to deliver such projects in time, quality and budget oftentimes distribute over many bright minds. Business meetings are believed to be instrumental in gathering all stakeholders around the table to clear the road ahead. Recent studies find that the corporate workforce nowadays spends around 23 hours a week in meetings. In fact, 92% of respondents of a 2020 Forrester study believe that meetings are becoming increasingly important for business-critical decisions. In the same breath, around 50% of respondents admit that these meetings are unproductive - even though they are essential. These statistics invite a verdict most of us do not hesitate to agree with: Meetings are pervasive. Meetings are important. And yet, many meetings just suck.

Where things go sideways

Starting a big data project means navigating a lot of uncertainty. We hate not being in control. Setting up meetings is often one of the first things that comes to mind to cope. In blocking our team’s calendars with hours-long collaboration sessions, we create the hard-to-admit illusion that things will be fine. The tragedy takes its course. We drum up a large group of people in a small room - physically or virtually – and try to work things out. Conceptually, meetings soothe our craving for connection. Each one of us talks to be heard and listens to understand. Meetings should provide us with a stage to fire off ideas, raise concerns and crowdsource opportunities. Sounds like a dream. Sadly, it is terribly hard to live up to this narrative in practice.

Thanks to Zoom, MS Teams and the likes, we are able to fire up meetings in no time. Yet, we rarely attribute enough importance to prepare diligently for most of them. The same holds true for the people we invite to participate. But we can’t really blame them, can we? Surrounded by an ever-increasing number of meetings, preparation time dwindles for meeting organizer and participants alike. In addition, gathering many participants does not necessarily guarantee meaningful action - even with a good agenda. Taking meeting minutes becomes the necessary evil. The making of a good protocol locks time and effort. On the other hand, not keeping a clear record of what is said and discussed becomes the debt of our teams as the number of stakeholders increases. We all know this. It only takes a weekend between two sessions for meeting euphoria (“I feel pumped! We got a plan!”) to turn into meeting amnesia (“What did we decide? Who volunteered to do what?“ How are we going to implement what we came up with?”).

When not in meetings, we succumb to the tyranny of text. Lengthy e-mails or long-winded conversations via MS Teams and Slack. We have all been there. The detailed announcement in preparation of a workshop, the lovingly crafted meeting de-brief shared after a lengthy working session, heated messenger exchanges to clarify, convince, alert. Text is great to share information and facts cheaply, at scale and over a distance. The power of text however cedes when teamwork centers around the sharing of new ideas, the discussion of complex matters or when the attempt to achieve consensus or alignment. Hitting sent on a carefully crafted e-mail gives us a moment of satisfaction and feeling of progress and achievement. But what we essentially do is leaving our teammates in making sense of what we put in writing. The complicated message you shot to your team members triggers chewy back-and-forth which takes up much more time than the matter probably deserves. Comments on documents and conversation threads on project management software further add a deserted web of collaboration residue to the mix.

The ugly truth about collaboration culture

So what does this all mean? Amidst the many options we have to connect at work, collaboration seems to be solved problem but it isn’t. The truth is: Communication tools do not automatically connect us in ways that make great collaboration feasible. Having access a multitude of tools does not promote quality but fragmentation. And lastly, the ability to connect does not ensure that we are actually connecting with one another. We can be certain that collaboration won’t get any easier when the matter to collaborate on is data. Data is hard to converse on but necessitates active involvement from people across multiple knowledge domains to tackle questions of provenance, quality, meaning, utility and analytical feasibility.

At detective, we believe that legacy modes of collaboration cannot keep up with today’s information assets. In recognizing that the medium is the message in determining the possibilities and limitations teams face when interacting or respond to each other, we radically rethink the way diverse teams can successfully collaborate on data. Ready to change your collaboration status quo? Sign up to our newsletter for more interesting reads on data collaboration, our product and services. Request a demo today and find out how you can foster effective data collaboration at your organization using the detective platform.

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