Thinking About How Real Workers Use New Collaboration Tools – the Ford Approach

In How Ford reimagined IT from the inside-out to power its turnaround from mid-2012, Jason writes about changes at Ford’s IT department. Among other changes, he comments on the new approach Ford IT took with helping users understand how to make use of the various tools available to them in their work:

Many IT departments have had to cut back on their help desk and user support in recent years and have ended up leaving users to their own devices — figuratively, and even literally in some cases. Ford recognized that part of its IT transformation had to involve getting smarter about empowering employees.

“About five years ago we started a program we call ‘Digital Worker’ that fundamentally looks at all the collaboration tools we need to drive increased capability globally,” said Smither. “It’s partitioned into four areas. There are the traditional office productivity tools like instant messaging and email and [Microsoft] Office. Data and video and audio [collaboration] is the second area of focus. There’s mobility solutions, so remote access, employee bring-your-own-devices [BYOD], tablets, and so on. The fourth major area is information and data provisioning, which is using [Microsoft] SharePoint as the structured data repository, Yammer for social media, enterprise federated search for being able to search [document] repositories globally. And we’re aggressively integrating those services to fundamentally improve the ability for teams to collaborate around the world.”

Fortunately, Ford isn’t just thinking about the tools but also how real workers will be using them and how IT can make good recommendations for when and how to use specific tools.

“The first phase of Digital Workers was bringing the tools together. The current phase we’re in is how do we maximize business capability in terms of thinking about not just the tools but the process and the integration and how people are actually enabled by the technology to be more productive in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish as opposed to just providing the tool,” said Smither. “We’re [also] doing a lot of work around something called, ‘How I Work,’ which is a scenario-based approach so that people understand which tools to use in what context to be the most efficient. So there’s a scenario around how to run an effective meeting or which tools to use in which circumstances. We’re getting a lot of take-up and driving a lot of ability for collaboration using [our] digital worker framework across the enterprise.”

I like the emphasis on scenarios, and the effort invested to drive understanding.

2 thoughts on “Thinking About How Real Workers Use New Collaboration Tools – the Ford Approach

  1. Thanks for this Michael. I think a lot of people are underestimating Microsoft’s potential in truly delivering fully evolved digital workforces.

    1. Thanks Susan. I agree that Microsoft has potential. In addition, however, I advocate that organizations have responsibilities in how these capabilities are presented to their users, whether those capabilities are from Microsoft, IBM, Jive, or others.

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