Successfully implementing collaboration software isn’t just as simple as picking the right features, sending out the user and invitations and instantly having a more productive workforce. You have to find a collaboration platform that is built to grow as your organization does. In the last decade, hundreds of tools have emerged to help enterprises get stuff done, from internal social networks to screencasting and video chatting. Sharing happens throughout your organization all the time, but likely not in a consolidated or transparent manner. All too often, despite all that sharing going on between employees, there isn’t an easy way to turn all that chatter into actionable ideas.
It’s a tough nut to crack, and the traits of the new world of work create new expectations for the software that supports it. In our years building a unified collaboration platform, we’ve come to prioritize certain features that we think are central to getting the most out of your team. In full disclosure, you’ll find all the stuff we believe your collaboration platform should have in our product, Redbooth.
We believe these are the most important trends in good collaboration software, because we’ve arrived at them from listening to organizations like yours and using the product ourselves every day. But ultimately, as you shop around for the product that’s right for you, we encourage you above all else to find software that keeps your collaboration in one place. It’s about more than collective checklists and shared folders. Productivity tools should reflect a world where the average organization dedicates 80% of its salary costs to information work1; Here are a few traits of software that will move you in the right direction:
Keeping your individual projects organized is table stakes. Demand a platform that can see the whole picture. There’s an organization beyond the project-to-project flow that needs managing, too, and it’s too easy to lose sight of it. You need ways to maintain visibility into larger strategic goals. The best collaboration platforms can manage the overall portfolio of your business and help your employees think about how different projects fit together.
At the end of a project, you need to be able to take those lessons learned and apply them across the organization. Your collaboration platform should support post-mortem project evaluations and help hard-won insights live on. If certain activities are frequently duplicated or recreated, there should be a living repository of assets and task templates so that there’s no time wasted redoing the same work. In today’s world, you need a collaboration platform that is able to handle the iterative, ongoing work as gracefully as the regularly scheduled activities.
All in the Cloud, All in One Place
People have gotten really good at instantaneous (read impulsive) sharing, but to make big things happen, teams need a better way to remember. Things get lost. Inbox counters climb precariously high, until they don’t matter anymore. The best collaboration platforms create an institutional knowledge library the whole organization can count on. It’s in the cloud, so employees don’t have to think about where to look. Need to access the project schedule on your way to a meeting? Want to have a quick one-on-one with your offshore development team? A cloud-based collaboration platform can unify your efforts and let you spend your time more productively.
Uninterrupted Task Flow
People don’t think in terms of device—desktop activities versus phone activities—it’s about completing tasks. We live a multi-device lifestyle, and all of our devices need to work together to support what we want to accomplish. Don’t settle for a collaboration platform that compromises the mobile experience, simply assuming certain tasks won’t be done on a smaller screen. Your employees should and will do whatever they need, on whatever device they have with them. Select a solution where switching from device to device won’t get in the way of getting something done.
Every organization has unique needs. Shoehorning a generic solution into your workflow is a quick way of ending up with a “solution” that no one uses. A collaboration platform should offer you a high level of control over features, security permissions, and third-party integration. Already have a preferred email client? Have a defined process on how tasks flow from design to development? Make sure your collaboration platform is flexible enough to fit in with the way you work and can support the tools and applications your workforce already uses.
Similarly, think of adopting a collaboration platform as adding a member to your staff. If it’s going to be adopted, it has to be able to get along with everyone. That means the interface has to be user-friendly, and dressed up with a flawless user experience. The platform should be the hardest-working member of your team, up and running 100% of the time. And, since you’re investing time and resources into bringing it on board, it needs to pull its weight and justify its cost with measurable value additions. Just like everyone else in the company.
5 Key Questions to Ask Potential Collaboration Platform Vendors
Once you have a pretty good idea of what your organization needs from a collaboration platform and a shortlist of potential candidates, it’s time to talk to some vendors. But how can you ensure that you pick a collaboration platform that shares your company’s mindset? These questions should help you narrow down the type of vendor that “gets you” and your team. They’re not easy questions, but a good partner should have answers to all of them. Don’t hesitate to ask potential vendors:
- What criteria should we use to measure the success of your collaboration solution and the impact it has on our business?
- What are some of the potential pitfalls of adopting a new collaboration solution? How do you help us avoid them?
- How does your solution fit in with the technologies we already use?
- What steps should we take to ensure every employee is properly trained on using your software?
- What are the most critical organizational challenges your software helps your clients solve?
Guide to Online Collaboration Tools
For more questions you should ask potential vendors, and a handy requirements checklist for assessing your collaboration platform vendor candidates, download our free Buyer’s Guide to Online Collaboration Tools.
1 Edwards, Richard. “Collaboration 2.0.” IBM Insights, Ovum Butler Group (2009): 2-3. Accessed February 28, 2014.