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Enterprise collaboration describes how people interact and communicate across and beyond their work environment. It also refers to the technology that makes this possible by streamlining processes and enabling groups of people to work together.

Why Collaboration Matters

Whether organically or by strategy, most companies’ workforces are no longer at a singular headquarters. At the same time, many are creating more open floor plans. These changes make it that more important for enterprise communications strategies to determine how to establish effective collaboration between enterprise workers.

This is especially critical as companies compete to attract and retain talent, and engage their remote workers – more and more of whom are Millennials with different expectations of their workplaces and employers. Millennials expect flexibility and more freedom to work from their location of choice. Plus, they expect the same level of access to the same technology they use in their personal lives to communicate, including social networking, instant messaging, video-on-demand, and more. Satisfying these expectations is core to avoiding frustration and disengagement.

This puts the onus on enterprises to reduce barriers between employees by enabling seamless communications and collaboration. In light of all these realities, how do IT leaders enable connections and promote engaging interaction to drive their businesses forward?

Gallup estimates actively disengaged employees cost the US $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

The Evolution of Enterprise Collaboration

Numerous trends are shaping the future of collaboration.

Enterprise Collaboration Tools

Generational Preferences Set the Tone

The way Millennials view interpersonal relationships differs from generations past, and this informs how they engage in workplace communications. Because Millennials prefer group interactions, video, messaging, and cloud-based collaboration tools (e.g., Google Docs) are becoming more ubiquitous.

The True Goal of Enterprise Collaboration

Enterprise collaboration is not simply a matter of making it possible for employees to interact; it is in the service of everyone doing their jobs more efficiently. Downstream, this manifests itself in more effective knowledge sharing, transfer, and capture. Upstream, this translates into better business results.

The cognitive cost of toggling between tools

Each time a user has to switch between different tools to perform even simple tasks, it can cost up to 10 IQ points.

Top 5 collaboration hurdles

1. Too many emails:

Team members are overwhelmed by email. With the constant stream of daily emails, staying focused on top priorities is a challenge.

2. Information is not easily accessible:

Who has done what and when? Where can I find the latest version? Project managers experience that timelines, project status, documents and data are difficult to share.

3. Lack of workload visibility:

How can we efficiently keep track of what is going on and who’s working on what? Team members are overcommitted or underutilized resulting in stress, overtime and project delays.

4. Confusing cross-functional team collaboration:

People find it difficult and chaotic to collaborate across departments, functions and offices. Traditional and different ways of working clash, making it unproductive.

5. The bring your own software dilemma:

The vast availability of productivity tools increases the freedom for the individual team member, but can cause communication chaos decreasing team efficiency.

Source: Plainview

The ROI of Enterprise Collaboration

The ROI of enterprise collaboration comes out in many ways:

Higher engagement levels in meetings and overall interactions.

On average, it takes 16 minutes to start a meeting in a physical room with a remote connection. During that time, attention drifts and patience is tried. By the time the meeting begins, the participants are a bit disengaged. Simply improving this factor can lead to significantly better engagement. Plus, when video is used, employees are more likely to attend and participate in a meeting.

Cost consolidation.

By moving from multiple, largely on-premise technologies to a single, cloud-based platform supporting multiple tools, IT can significantly drive agility and cost efficiency in their organization.

App consolidation.

Cloud-based enterprise collaboration eliminates the security and troubleshooting issues associated with shadow IT. With everyone using standardized tools, IT can manage them and the associated data centrally without needing to hire specialists to work at every location.

Higher productivity.

When employees are forced to use multiple tools for communicating and collaborating, they experience friction. Rather than focus on the work to be done, they waste time toggling back and forth between different apps and experiences. With consistency across all the devices they use, including their desk phones, they can more quickly and efficiently schedule, host, attend, and participate in meetings.

Since 2008, the time spent in business meetings has risen each year. It now accounts for

15%

of a typical company’s day.

At the managerial level, the average boss can spend

21of her 47 working hours each week

attending meetings with more than four people.

What it Takes to Ensure Enterprise Collaboration Success

With a well-considered plan and strategic approach, any enterprise can ensure success with collaboration. Here are best practices for addressing the processes and technologies that enable enterprise collaboration. Processes

The challenge for IT leaders is ensuring adoption. Fuze research found that 76% of CIOs say the success of new technology depends on the satisfaction of employees who use it. No wonder 46% of CIOs are focusing on reducing the number of apps within their organizations to simplify/improve the employee experience.

With that in mind, IT leaders should:

Survey users.Employees won’t adopt a new collaboration platform if it doesn’t meet their needs so determine the modes of communications your workforce already prefers and uses. List the ways they collaborate and the tools they use (even if unsanctioned) --- and in use to determine their needs. For example, do they just need to have a quick conversation with someone in another country? Or do they need the ability to share and mark up content in real time with a dispersed team?

Complement what’s already in place.It’s challenging to get people to change their behaviors so choose a solution that is easy to learn and use and provides a great experience in the context of how work is already handled.

Technologies

Today’s generation cut their teeth on consumer-grade tools like WhatsApp and Skype that are elegant and easy to use. This “app generation” carries these same expectations to work. And it can and will get the tools it wants if enterprise tools aren’t good enough.

At the same time, companies need a greater degree of flexibility and connectivity between different technologies and across the organization in terms of support for communications and collaboration. To that end, they need to resolve their technology silos and overlaps. Doing so will reduce significant frustration and expense.

Voice, text, and video are the three pillars of today’s communication experience. For all three to live up to their potential, they need to work together in harmony. The combination of voice, video, and messaging – where the different types of functionality are incorporated into a common software experience – enables an improved end user experience. An end user can group message, place voice calls, and conduct video collaboration sessions all from within the same software client. One client covering multiple interaction modes minimizes the friction that typically comes with shifting between different communications channels.

Enterprise collaboration also calls upon tools that enable knowledge management, content management and the social enterprise (such as LinkedIn, Facebook for Work, Yammer, Jive, etc.). Companies must also recognize that many enterprise workers also live in CRM and other apps, while line-of-business or departmental users rely upon apps that support their specific needs, such as Zendesk for customer support. Data stored in these other enterprise applications can prove valuable when accessed by the rest of the organization. For instance, if a customer contacts the finance department about a billing issue, it might be insightful for the accounts payable rep to see that the customer has an open ticket with the support group.

Within all of these apps, the ability to smoothly interact around content and move from the idea phase to the delivery of a product or service is key. To that end, IT needs to figure out:

Avoid communication islands

Alone, communications tools can create a divide. Together, they can create a bridge for more comprehensive and effective collaboration between teams.

Devise a Plan

Once the IT group has conducted its due diligence and researched and documented existing processes and needs, it’s time to put in place a thoughtful plan to displace existing tools and approaches. On a basic level, IT needs to think through how to activate the new enterprise collaboration service, which on a certain level requires them to take on the role of marketing to drive interest and buy-in. While it’s easy to think the process will be simple when the solution is in the cloud, rolling out to a larger enterprise still requires careful planning. To that end:

Audit to determine the types of devices that must be integrated with the new solution.

Develop a detailed project plan, covering rollout to a small group to build internal champions, training sessions, and marketing materials for communicating the new approach.

Think through what is being used today and how to bridge it with enterprise collaboration. The IT group may need to reimagine collaboration rather than just replace the existing technology.

Partner with a vendor that will help facilitate adoption. The more the enterprise can partner with the vendor, the better and smoother the experience.

Find champions to drive adoption. Identify key influencers within the company who embrace enterprise collaboration but are in groups not usually associated with technology adoption, such as HR, finance, and others. Make them part of the deployment process and tap into them as evangelists for adoption.

At the end of the day, it’s not about what communication methods the enterprise chooses, but how easily employees can move between those methods. The ability to seamlessly transition from one communication preference to another will encourage workers to use the tools available changing the way people work – for the better.

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