The demand for employees to produce more by collaborating more remains a top priority for organisations of all sizes. Some take strict measures to foster in-person collaboration, such as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer putting an end to permanent telecommuting. Others that don’t find in-person collaboration necessary — or that believe flexibility and mobility help foster collaboration — have attempted to use technology to provide a platform for collaboration. As you have a buffet of options when it comes to collaboration tools, ask yourself these three critical questions to ensure you choose the right ones for your business needs.
1. Do we want users to use collaboration tools relevant to their needs, or do we want a single solution to try and cater for everything? The truth is, many organisations believe an abundance of collaboration tools are currently available, namely online meeting software, phones, email, document management software and spread sheets for project-tracking. This is fine if you want to allow individual employees or departments to pick and choose the collaboration tools that work for them. However, these individual collaboration tools won’t provide one central location for employees to work together and in an automatic sequence. Organisations that want a streamlined approach to collaboration will need a technology integrator to source and tie together these tools to enable employees to work in a seamless, integrated way.
2. Does the solution match the way your employees want to collaborate? The last thing you want to do is purchase collaboration tools that your employees will never use. Ask yourself how the workforce will respond to using new collaboration tools. They should be involved in sharing and developing ideas from their own experience and methods of collaborating. You might even want to set up a pilot-testing committee to trial a range of collaboration tools. The key will be the ability to demonstrate how exactly these tools will drive efficiency and increased productivity compared with the old way of doing business. When you get majority buy-in, these individuals can then serve as evangelists who help indoctrinate the rest of your organisation to these tools.
3. Does the solution offer flexibility and scalability? Because workflow, routing and approval are central to many collaboration tools, the ability to modify these processes is essential. Some systems require extensive back-end work to accommodate even the smallest changes — and often burden your IT staff with the task of making them. As your organisation expands, can new employees be added to the solution with ease? In the event a key employee leaves the organisation, how easily can you replace or bypass this contributor in the system?
Collaboration tools can help your organisation boost productivity and response times, but only if you choose the ones that align with both your business and end-user needs.