What if there were a tool to help employees complete projects 30 percent faster?
And what if that same tool helped reduce email traffic and the number of meetings too?
Those are just some of the benefits that businesses are seeing when using collaboration tools, says Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and experiential solutions at market research firm IDC.
“IDC research suggests that there is a significant time savings when a company has the right collaboration solution for them,” Kurtzman says.
For example, he says, status updates and questions about deliverables can be handled in a chat stream, eliminating the need for future meetings and allowing employees to better focus on the work ahead.
“The work gets done in real time,” he says. “That’s responsible for speeding up deliverables.”
In the end, he says, this improves the company’s bottom line.
“Businesses that embrace collaboration behaviors and technologies will be able to save significant time and money, be more responsive to their customers and be more attractive to prospective employees,” Kurtzman says.
Collaboration Technology Streamlines Workflow
Aruna Ravichandran, vice president and CMO for Webex Collaboration Global Marketing at Cisco, says about 95 percent of Fortune 500 firms use Cisco Collaboration tools — making them a “common necessity” for many businesses.
She says the right collaboration tools improve workflow, enable employee productivity and ultimately create better customer experiences.
“Collaboration tools become a key element to link teams together where work gets done and to be more responsive to changing market conditions, customer needs and more,” Ravichandran says.
Still, there are some challenges that businesses should be aware of when selecting and deployment these technologies.
Too Many Collaboration Tools Hurt Efficiency
According to “The Modern Workforce Insight Report” by CDW, 41 percent of businesses consider it “very challenging” to find the right combination of workplace solutions, software and services. Data shows that employees at larger companies report these challenges at higher rates.
“Overloading a team with too many options can actually make the working environment less organized,” explained Paul Gentile, senior director of product marketing for LogMeIn. “Scattering assets and insights in different screens, browser tabs, and apps can make it harder to get prompt answers.”
Collaboration Tools Must Work with Company Culture
Kurtzman says that some companies struggle with collaboration tools after introducing them to a small group rather than through an enterprise-wide rollout. That often leads to employees using different platforms to communicate about the same project.
There also may be cultural hurdles to the adoption of collaboration tools, Kurtzman says. Some companies are heavily siloed, for example, and while collaboration tools can help break down walls, that doesn’t often happen without encouragement from corporate leadership.
Ravichandran notes that to be successful when using collaboration tools, “organizations also have to support a more collaborative culture.” That includes rethinking the definition of a “team,” which often goes beyond an organization’s own employees. “Collaboration tools need to make it easy and secure to include partners, vendors and customers to be truly effective,” she says.
Deploy Modern Security Tools With Collaboration Tools
While collaboration tools are touted as a way to boost efficiency, they can also open up companies to security risk, which has prompted some businesses to ban their use. Cisco recommends against this. Instead, companies should consider investing in enterprise-grade security, which can help safeguard file sharing and encrypt valuable content, Ravichandran argues.
She also suggests they select collaboration tools that are compatible with other applications and devices already in use.
Kurtzman, who uses 10 different collaboration tools for comparison, says that collaboration tools ultimately are about people. “Collaboration online is like collaboration offline,” he says. “It’s about people first. Technology is the enabler.”