Aug 22 2016

Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools Can Enhance Communication Across Offices

Businesses should capitalize on mobile technology, enterprise file sharing and social tools to gain a competitive edge.

A truly collaborative company requires digital connections to enable free-flowing ­communication among employees, partners and ­customers. By empowering people to work together, individuals can come together to execute projects, achieve goals and boost the bottom line, regardless of physical location.

But while almost all business professionals use technology to collaborate, the IT solutions accessible to them are often lacking. According to a 2015 report from Dimensional Research, 59 percent of knowledge workers say they face challenges with the collaboration tools their companies provide. Not surprisingly, dissatisfaction is highest among millen­nials who prefer to work together via chat and text and want tools that help them quickly work through problems.

Among the challenges cited within the Dimensional Research survey: disparate tools and exclusion of stakeholders, inability to easily measure who’s doing what to evaluate individual contributions, outdated documents, and difficulty knowing when a task is complete.

Those shortcomings impede teams from reaching their full collective potential. Factor in distance and it can be difficult to get teams to march in lockstep toward ­common goals.

IDG’s “2015 Unified Communications and Collaboration Study” finds that 49 percent of small to midsize businesses currently use collaboration ­solutions, and 66 percent plan to implement or upgrade within the next three years. Most seek to deploy collaboration technologies to improve employee interactions, productivity and workers’ flexibility and mobility.

Cloud Collaboration Tools 

Given the rise of cloud computing, the time has never been better for IT ­managers to explore the latest collaboration technologies. Indeed, 71 percent of organizations currently using such solutions say cloud computing has spurred adoption.

Hybrid, hosted and cloud technologies provide SMBs with collaboration capabilities they might otherwise not be able to afford. Organizations should also look to the cloud for robust security, the ability to meet their goals, ease of use and low total cost of ownership.

When people hear the term “collaboration,” they tend to think about traditional IP technologies such as advanced telephony and call management, unified messaging, audio ­conferencing and IM.

But it’s the latest collaboration technologies that can truly drive business transformation. Social tools; enterprise file sharing; high-definition video conferencing; and mobile collaboration hardware, software and apps are all in play here. Emerging technologies can give companies greater flexibility to deliver, manage and support all types of communications. Forging seamless connections between far-flung workgroups certainly enhances employee productivity. In turn, closer employee relationships can strengthen interactions among partners, suppliers and customers.

Finding the Right Solution 

A good way to start is to investigate file sharing and online tools such as Box, Google Apps for Work and Microsoft Office 365, which can help team members tap into vital knowledge instantly and disseminate it organizationwide. Because many businesses already use a productivity platform, they may already have access to some of those tools.

To improve the quality of meetings, companies might also want to explore room- or cloud-based video conferencing technology (just be sure to look for solutions that provide low levels of latency, jitter and packet loss). Because mobile solutions are critical to operations, explore mobile collaboration platforms that can support employees better than traditional business applications.

Deploying modern ­collaboration tools lets businesses bring their employees closer, whether down the hall or across the globe, and transform how they ­communicate and collaborate — ­basically, redefining how they do their jobs.

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