Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Whenever people start using new technology at work, they are not just simply confronted with a new tool, but foremost with a new way of working. Rather then just telling people about functionality (what does the app do?) we focus on how Office 365 apps are used for a specific productivity scenario.

A work scenario describes what apps can be used for that specific process, or team, or context. Often a scenario describes a combination of several apps, and focusses sometimes on just some features of these apps. This new way of working also requires to stop using one tool or feature, and start using another. Something we usually describe as Stop doing / Start doing patterns.

Not surprising maybe, we would like to stop using email for collboration. And start using something else instead, better suited for collaboration. Organisations need to transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture.


Co-authoring documents productivity scenario

To clarify what it means to ‘transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture’ take a look at the co-authoring documents prouctivity scenario. With all the disadvantages of collaborating through email, there is a very strong need to collaborate more effectively. Collaborating on a file through email is a nightmare. We end up with lots of email threads and copies of the file. The result is nobody knows exactly where the latest version is.

Particularly when we are co-authoring files, we need to stop using email, and start using more collaborative tools. We encourage employees to start using tools such as OneDrive (for their personal work files), or team files (in a Document Library).


True co-authoring documents means:

  • having access to the file in a shared document library (as in Teams Files or a SharePoint Document Library)
  • file versioning is done automatically anytime someone edits the file:
    track who did what and when, and possibly revert back to an older version
  • working on a document with others at the same time
  • we have a conversation about the file in a shared space for questions or feedback (as in Teams Conversation)
  • working on files on- and offline
  • talking to co-editors directly live using audio/video and chat, while in the file
  • stop using email for sending files to your team
  • stop using email for discussion


Train on the How, not the What

With productivity scenarios we train people on the How, not so much the What. The ‘what’ is the features of Office 365 apps. These are changing rapidly. Almost every month great new features or even whole apps are introduced to Office 365. It is not the ‘What’ that inspires people – unless you are an IT person ;-).

Most of your employees fall under the Early and Late majority (combined 68% of your workforce). And these groups in Rogers curve are looking for how Office 365 can be applied to their daily work. One of the common daily work scenarios is co-authoring documents.

Almost all desk workers collaborate around a file: review each others work, write a document together, ask questions and give feedback. There are two ways to do this: using email or use collaborative tools that work better. Therefore we need to train people on how they can change the way they work. So they understand what it means to transform from an email to a collaborative culture. How do we co-author documents using smart collaborative tools instead of email and fileshares?


Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Office 365, and particularly Teams, is perfect to co-author documents. The difficulty is not in getting people to understand the ‘What’. In fact teaching people how Teams and Files works, is fairly easy. The true difficulty is changing the way people work. They need to transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture.


Comparing ‘what’ to ‘how’

This table illustrates the difference between focussing on what (features / apps) or focussing on how (work done in a productivity scenario).

What How
Upload a file to your Teams Files Share a file with your Team
Start a conversation in Teams on the file Notify your team or ask questions or request feedback on the file in the Conversation (with a link to the file)
Edit a file in Office Online Make simple changes in the file while in Teams / browser (no advanced functionality needed)
Edit a file in Office desktop Open the file in your Office desktop app (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) to make elaborate changes to the file (requiring advanced technology)
Add a comment to a file Collaborate on the content by adding comments about particular parts
Start a Skype chat in Office online Chat with people who are also working in the file to discuss process, align who does what, etc.
Sync files using the OneDrive sync client Using sync, you can access your files from anywhere, even when you do not have internet

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

One of the greatest features available in Office 365 is co-authoring. With the current available tools in Office 365 collaboration can really take a productivity flight! There are several features available that allow people to co-create content together. Often clients wonder what tools they should be using. When do we use document libraries, or should we use a wiki or a blog? What can we do with a wiki? When is real-time collaboration online in the browser interesting? I tell them, it all depends on the business goals the organization has, or what collaboration needs their employees have to get their work done faster, more efficient and more effective. We tend to work in productivity scenarios to answer the question when to use what in Office 365 and one of them is co-authoring documents.


Co-creation is the self-guiding creative collaboration between parties involved in a complex challenge. Typical for co-creation is that the parties reach a consensus through authentic and respectful interactions, on constructing a desired state and undertake actions to achieve that desired state.

What are the productivity gains of new ways of collaborating with Office 365 Document libraries, wikis, or Office online versus old ways  such as file hares and email attachments?

This article will provide a better understanding of the benefits of co-creating content.


Co-authoring is about efficiency

Imagine you are collaborating on a piece of information with 3 others and you need to review each other’s work before you can finalize it. What are the differences in using the different tools from a productivity perspective?

I will compare 4 ways of collaboration:
1. Collaborating on a file sent as email attachment
2. Collaborating on a file using SharePoint / Office 365 Document Libraries
3. Collaborating on content using a SharePoint / Office 365 Wiki
4. Collaborating on a file using Office Online = true co-authoring!

You could look at efficiency in the collaboration process for each scenario in several ways:
• The total time spent: how much effort and time does it take to work together.
• The turnaround time: the time spent for a whole process of collaboration.
• The findability: how easy is it to find the latest version?

I will conclude with a way of calculating value both in ways of quantity and quality!


Collaborating on a file sent as email attachment

Let’s do a quick test:

How many files (copies) will you get when collaborating through email with 3 others and 2 revision rounds?

  1. 4
  2. 10
  3. 12
  4. 52

Tip: remember you need to save, send and receive copies every time a review is done.

Before you take a peek at the correct answer below, let me elaborate:

Collaborating on a file requires creating it, saving it to a folder, and sending it as an attachment in an email. Then the receivers get an email with the attachment, which they most likely save in a folder, then start editing the file, and save it again (either as a new version copy, or overwrite the old one), then send it back through their email. The original creator gets 3 emails with attachments, and saves these to a folder, then needs to merge them into one new copy manually skipping through the contents. And for the second review round we repeat the whole process again!

Now for the answer: it’s 52 !

And this is why:

Tipping Point for co-authoring files

Tipping Point for co-authoring files

Try it for yourself by writing down each and every step. Count all the copies for all the steps in the process of working on a file and sending it through email: remember there is a file saved in a folder, a file sent in an email, and a file received in an email – in every step by every person!

It becomes apparent that collaborating together on information through email attachments is not very efficient. There are many copies of the file in different locations, each displaying different versions. Nobody knows where to access the latest version anymore: email chaos! In fact you could say the tipping point for effective email collaboration is with 2 people and only one revision round.


Collaborating using SharePoint / Office 365 Document Libraries

With Document Libraries there are the following productivity gains:

  • Collaborating in one central place, with only one version and everyone can work with the latest version.
  • To prevent making changes at the same time people can lock the file before they edit it, and then unlock it for the next person to start their editing.
  • Every reviewer can see the work done by the previous one, so there are no duplicate efforts, and no merging is necessary.
  • Apart from collaboration in the file (edit it), people can also use comments. Comments can be questions, tips or remarks about the content, instead of changing the content. Sometimes you want to give advice but not change the file itself.
  • Every reviewer can see the comments made by others so there are no duplicate efforts.
  • The owner of the file can easily take the comments and make changes to the file accordingly.
  • It’s easy to see all the different versions, and the owner can revert to an older version or even restore it.

All this together makes the total time spent on the file by the 4 people a lot less, and because there is no need to await emails with the changes the turnover is also much less. Findability is a good. There is only one file in the library, containing all the versions by other editors.


Collaborating using a SharePoint / Office 365 Wiki

When working in a wiki you are not working in a file created by another application that needs to be opened, but directly in the browser, in a web page. A wiki is a collection of pages that you can link to each other. A wiki therefore, is ideal for creating and publishing structured information such as manuals. The beauty of a wiki is that different people can ach create their own pages. So they can work simultaneously, rather than sequential as is the case when collaborating through files sent as email attachment. This saves significant turnover time! After each editor is done with their pages, the pages can be linked together. Pages can be edited, and the system automatically creates new versions, which can be compared with each other, or can be deleted.

If we would use a wiki in a site to do the same collaboration, there would even be more productivity gain, especially in turnover time.
Next to the automatic versioning, and comparing of versions (like track-changes functionality in Word) wikis allow people to work on their own piece of the puzzle, simultaneously, because each can work on their own pages, and afterwards a structure for the whole can be formed through wiki links.

Another great thing about using a wiki for documentation that is continuously updated, is that in order to change parts of the information only that particular page needs to be updated, and not the whole document (as with a file). And it is immediately clear to readers which page was updated.


Collaborating using Office Online

Using Office Online for true co-authoring of a file will result in the following productivity gains, on top of those with using Office 365 Document Libraries: almost no turnover time!
True co-authoring can occur, because all reviewers can work in the same file at the same time – in the browser, or in their Office application – resulting in almost no turnover time. It’s like sitting in the same room all writing on the whiteboard at the same time. There is no waiting on each other’s work, and on top of that the reviewers can communicate about their work using Skype Chat, or comments.

Collaborate in Word Online in the content or through comments

Collaborate in Word Online in the content or through comments


Collaboration is like making music together

Compare collaborating on a file in a sequential way – as with Email attachments – with collaborating on a file simultaneously – as with Office Online – with the following analogy:
Musicians that each play an instrument in a song each record their part separately and sequential in a studio and finally it is all merged into a song. But suppose they would all play their instrument together. I mean, not as a band live show, but REALLY together:


Calculating co-authoring value

Let’s now put all collaboration methods in a simple overview to calculate the win in cost-reduction due to better efficiency based on total time working on content, and turnover time to create content in a co-authoring process.

Calculating productivity value compared to email collaboration

Calculating productivity value through email collaboration

Calculating productivity value in a Document Library in Office 365 through versioning

Calculating productivity value in a Document Library in Office 365 through versioning

Calculating productivity value in a Document Library in Office 365 through versioning and co-authoring

Calculating productivity value in a Document Library in Office 365 through versioning and co-authoring

We can now compare the above results and get the following efficiency wins:
Collaborate on a file in a library vs in email 40%
Collaborate on file in wiki vs in email 56%
Collaborate on file in wiki vs in library 26%


Co-authoring impact

Co-authoring is a creative process and has impact on both the quantity and the quality of the contributions. If you want to calculate the value of co-authoring, you could look at gain in time (cost reduction), and the gain in result (quantity and quality of the content).
Working together has a positive impact on the co-creation. Through social interaction colleagues learn and build on each other’s knowledge. Pleasant cooperation results in a state of pleasure. People will always pursue this feeling, so will continue to do this. Resulting in an increase of the quantity of co-authoring content. Because these colleagues visit each other again and again, give each other feedback, vote and appreciate the quality of the content is also increasing. By the aggregation of information by groups working in co-creation, the results (decisions, proposals, contracts won) are much better than one could achieve as a single individual. Something known as ‘Wisdom of the crowds‘.

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

How to make a collaboration real? Cisco case

“I’ve yet to meet a CEO who didn’t want his or her company to move faster,” wrote Ron Ricci, a Cisco executive.

Indeed, nowadays in this complex market will survive those companies that can adapt to business environment that is changing constantly. Doesn’t matter in which market you work, you have to always be dynamic, growing and learn a lot. Hence, collaboration sounds like a right approach to have and it’s something that we all know is good to do in principle. But it is definitely easier said than done. People say it is good to analyze examples and learn from them. Let’s take a look at a good one that was done by world famous company Cisco: its way to have a collaborative company culture that helps to work effectively and grow.


This example showed three main obstacles that appear on the Cisco way to more collaborative business. First, the goals were unclear. Second, was the lack of a decision making process that is related to employees. And the last one, was that top management of the company was not sticking to the process of changes. According to two representatives Ron Ricci (a Vice President, Customer Experience Services at Cisco) and Carl Wiese (Senior Vice President until 2015 January) simply by bringing these elements into the culture, Cisco was able to move relatively quickly to save millions. Since the company started to use their collaborative process they reduced the number of contractors from 5,000 to less than 1,000. The collaborative process helped to establish a more transparent, cross-functional process, so employees can reduce duplicative work by contractors by checking the scope of current projects already under contract.

Mr. Ricci emphasizes the importance of the clarification to the employees why one or the other decision was made. “There’s a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision-making process,” affirms Ricci and Weise. “When you’re open and transparent about the answers to three questions — who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real — people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made.” This approach reflects the values of managers in Cisco company, as they want to give the opportunity for all employees to succeed, in meaningful work, where the rules are fair and visible to all.

From the experience and from all those ups and downs that Cisco encountered with on its path to become a more collaborative business the company shares few suggestions how to make changes easer.

• Establish the clear vocabulary for the company culture
Looking at the Cisco example, this company has 29 key performance indicators to which employees can refer to keep a conversation on track and a team focused.

• Create a crystal clear and collaborative process for making changes
The agreed-upon decision making process in Cisco is to set the vision, then the strategy, then execute. This means that the leader is expected to explain why this strategy and this goal was chosen. What is more, he/she needs to describe the process that must be used to reach the conclusion.

• Prove you trust your employees’ judgment
Set up clear “decision making rights” at every level of the company. Try to engage all employees into decision making process. By doing this, the company boosts their employee’s involvement and let them feel more responsible for making the right decisions. What is more, it reduces the attitude that only one or few people came up with a certain rule. People feel that they all agreed on the rule instead. This enhances the acceptance of the new regulation and reduces the friction among employees.

What we can learn from this big-worldwide known company and its great ambitions to start a successful collaboration? There are two visible and important aspects that has to be taken into account. One is about making the goals clear and the other one stands for the value of respect all employees and get them involved into the process of changing. If you want to read more about the importance of collaboration you can find some more information in the article How to Put Collaboration at the Centre of Your Business.

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Motivating  employees to change behaviour

Resistance to change is what you’ll get without a proper change strategy for your collaboration platform. Collaboration software implementations traditionally were an IT project. And IT people tend to be more ‘what’ people. Tools is what they do, and what they like. They get excited about functionalities and features. But unlike IT people, business users are not necessarily thrilled about new technology, features and functionalities. They have their work to do, and IT is just a means to an end. It’s a tool that needs to be used without costing extra time or effort (to learn, to execute tasks) for actual work. Without a proper change strategy employees will show resistance to change.

So getting business employees to start using a new collaboration platform they should have a clear understanding of how the new tool(s) can help them in their daily work. They want to see benefits for using the platform for their business goals. And they want to understand why the new platform is helping the organisation to achieve the business goals or take on challenges.


Wanting to change

Most employees will need to be motivated differently (then just having the platform) to start a new way of collaboration. They are firstly asking themselves ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘How does this help me in my daily work?’ Think of the new collaboration platform needing a marketing strategy for your user adoption. It is all about motivating people to want to use the collaboration platform. We should motivate people to embrace the change, and implement a new way of working. And motivation means employees want to change, rather than must change.


Resistance to change

In any organisation employees will adopt new technology in a different pace, as made clear in Rogers Adoption Curve. Each group therefore will demonstrate resistance to change in a particular way.


Figure 1: The S-Curve in Rogers Adoption Curve displaying increasing natural resistance to change.

The S-curve indicates what the standard changeability is in a group of people. A very small group of people is always looking for a challenge, for change. Their biggest fear is routine. It implies that 97.5% of your employees will not take the lead in the change (only 2.5% Innovators do)! These people will need to overcome a threshold. One can say that the S-curve represents what happens if you do not or hardly do anything during a change process. The curve describes a natural development.

However, as an organization you are able to influence that natural development. What you want to know is what the nature of the resistance is. What are those who are staying behind afraid of, and what do they need to get in motion? We can group employees in a change project based on what they need. This is also known as Rogers Curve.

Do you wonder why sometimes, even in the face of a changing environment, or an existential threat, companies or people still don’t change? Even when they say they want to, often they still do not.


Why don’t people change?

Although change is inevitable, people tend to resist it in a rational response based on self-interest. Resistance hinders adaptation and progress.

We can divide resistance to change into 3 levels: Individuals, Groups, Organisation.

Resistance to change

Figure 2: Resistance to change in 3 levels


Bend reistance to change readiness

Change readiness comes about under the influence of a number of cognitive (rational, thinking) and emotional (feeling) aspects that together determine the individual’s behavior (the required change). The model enables us to effect change readiness during change processes. To implement new collaborative behavior successfully, 3 motivations play a role: attitude (want to change), subjective norm (have to change) and control (can change). Each motivation has underlying sources of changeability. These three variables determine the intention (change willingness) of a person to display the goal behavior.

Change readiness

Figure 3: Ajzen’s model to bend resistance to change to change readiness.


If we elaborate further on this model, using the DINAMO for willingness to change model, we discover underlying sources that influence employees change readiness.

DINAMO model for Change Resistance

The DINAMO for willingness to change by Metselaar is one of the most used instruments in the Netherlands to support change processes in organizations. DINAMO is based on Ajzen’s model of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991).

The DINAMO for willingness to change by Metselaar is one of the most used instruments in the Netherlands to support change processes in organizations. DINAMO is based on Ajzen’s model of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991).

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Rogers Adoption Curve helps you understand your employees

Rogers Adoption Curve shows how your employees typically adopt new technology in a different pace. Only a few people automatically start using a new collaboration platform (2,5%) just because it is there. The majority of your employees (81,5%) will however need different motivation, targeted per group. If you do not apply a well-thought-out change strategy, using Rogers Adoption Curve, you will be met with resistance in many forms. I have met with this resistance to new technology many times before: with PC’s with CD-rom drives (companies took them out because they thought employees would game all day). And also with the introduction of ‘the internet’ (companies wanted to shut down access), with email, with mobile phones, and with social media for example. Indeed, resistance to change as a result of new technology is nothing new.

It is important to motivate each group in Rogers Adoption Curve differently, and appeal to their specific needs and communication styles.

With every technological change you see the same chronology of acceptance: a small group of Innovators easily and firstly participates in the change. But most people take a long time for the change (Early Majority and Late Majority). These are the individuals and groups with increasing resistance, for example, having a lack of functionality in the new tool. The resistance this group shows is therefore very normal.

Silverside's Rogers Adoption Curve

Figure: Typical resistance per group in Rogers Adoption Curve

The technology adoption lifecycle is a sociological model developed by Joe Bohlen, George Beal and Everett Rogers at Iowa State University. They used earlier research conducted by Neal Gross and Bryce Ryan who had the purpose to track purchase patterns for new technology by farmers. It was transferred to a model to predict the adoption (and penetration) of new services, products and technologies using the graph showing the Rogers adoption curve.


Follow Rogers Adoption Curve in your change strategy


The first usage lies heavily in the hands of ‘Innovators‘ (only representing 2.5% of any population). It is the first link to see if there is a possible market because of these brave people that are willing to try new products/services. Being one of the few to be actually using the new product/service is the main reason for their adoption. They accept that new products/services often contain bugs/problems/hick-ups, but view these as an acceptable process. They are ideal to release early versions and participate in first testing. The opinion of an Innovator has a strong influence on the Early adopters.

Early adopters

The ‘Early adopters’ represent 13,5% of the population and are the most important target group. They are the bridge between Innovators and Early majority; combining a total of 50% of the total population. They can make or break the adoption gaps making an implementation successful or not. While Innovator’s advices are more driven by embracing change and new technology, the Early adopters primarily focus on practical advice and recommendations on things they find valuable. They also give more practical advice on flaws and issues which leads to a more assured adoption by the majority.

Early Majority

The ‘Early majority’ (34% of the population) is willing to try new concepts and technology when presented in an usable and practical form. They are open to the ideas and opinions of Early adopters and will give it a try. They do demand that the innovation is tested and that bugs and/or flaws will be solved in a certain (acceptable) time frame.

Late Majority

The ‘Late majority’ (also 34% of the population) is more sceptic than the Early majority. Only when they see success / benefits with their own eyes they are willing to accept change. When they are told to use new technology they will do so; but when bugs and/or flaws arise they will point out it was a wrong decision to make them so. The success in this group heavily relies on the acceptance of the Early majority and a good support process for problems.


The last group is the ‘Laggards’ (16%). They simply don’t get it and/or don’t want changes. They will only accept change if their old way is not possible any more (and they are creative in keeping old ways alive!). As long as paper and pencil are available we recommend not to focus on this group.

Typically, in any group during a talk, a workshop or training, you can tell by comments being made (often among each other) what type of person you are dealing with. What you see in the image is those typical remarks.

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Be Productive by Choosing Productivity Scenarios: the Efficiency of Collaborative Approach

Most experts agree on benefits that collaboration can bring to business and claim that effective collaboration enhance the work productivity. The combined brainpower of intelligent people can solve complex problems and successfully work on achieving wonderful results.

Without talking too much about the clear benefits of a good collaboration Silverside presents more concrete information and shares the knowledge on productivity scenarios. It provides a structured way of exploring the effects of a new collaboration platform on how teams work. Scenarios paint a picture of a possible near-term future where new tools combined with better practices can create more effective and efficient ways of working. Scenarios specific to an organization are the most impactful—and this process of discovery is something Silverside can help you with—but there are also generic scenarios that apply across most teams at many organizations.


• Smarter Meetings. Hold better meetings that save time and drive an outcomes-focus, by preparing appropriately for meetings beforehand and spending the actual meeting time on making well-informed decisions. Use new meeting technologies that enable remote participants to join, and shared repositories for distributing meeting materials, documenting decisions, and tracking next actions.

• Finding Expertise. Make your experience accessible to benefit yourself and others by maintaining an online profile of your expertise, knowledge, projects, education, and interests. Identify other people with common interests, and learn from their experiences. Your up-to-date profile helps other people find you for new projects and assignments that will grow your career and also enhance organization’s productivity.

• Running a Project. Run effective action-oriented projects to create something new, by pulling together the right team members based on their expertise and knowledge, and using a shared project space for project documents, discussions, decisions, and deadlines. Shared project visibility enables everyone to pull in the same direction.


• Co-authoring Documents. Create valuable and validated content together with other people, by embracing new generation online document authoring and editing tools. Be productive and stop emailing documents to other people for review and input, and instead work together on a shared collection of documents that alert on changes and enable seamless online/offline synchronisation.

• Onboarding People. Introduce people to new processes and information they need to be across, both when they initially join your organisation and when they move into new projects, departments, and areas of contribution. Helping people more quickly get up-to-speed enables them to make a better contribution faster.

• Collaborating as a Team. Create teams with a strong identity, clear objectives, and members with well-defined roles and responsibilities. Hold open discussions, smart meetings, and inspire out-of-the-box thinking. Use a common digital place to store the team’s current work, and keep task lists real and relevant.

• Smarter Decisions. Make informed and intelligent decisions at the right time, integrating both thinking and feeling into decision-making processes. Be clear on decision criteria, evaluate the options, get input from the right people, and make a strong decision to guide future action.

• Sharing Information. Create collective intelligence to grow shared knowledge by using open documentation and discussion systems rather than private document collections that hide knowledge from everyone else. Discovering other people with similar interests and shared expertise enables deeper learning.

Take the new approach and evaluate the power of collaboration.By choosing right productivity scenarios you can bring your business to the new level. More about collaboration and why it is necessary for our business How to Put Collaboration at the Center of your Business.