The future is here—today.
Ever since the earliest days of the personal computer, innovators have envisioned an environment where colleagues and teammates can work together across geographic boundaries in real time. For decades, such an environment felt like science fiction.
No longer. With innovations such as cloud technology, instant messaging and online conferencing tools common to the workplace of today, real-time collaboration is a part of our daily behavior.
Here’s your guide to selecting the best collaboration tools for your company while encouraging adoption, streamlining operations and positioning your business for growth.
Collaboration Without Limits
Collaboration tools have experienced a steady increase in adoption for several years. According to eMarketer, 48% of companies with over 100 employees used collaboration tools in 2017. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that number jumped to 69%, with the most rapid adoption coming in online conferencing tools (from 39.4% in 2019 to 60.7% in 2020).
Collaboration isn’t just about technology, though. It’s also a mindset. To make sure that you’re selecting and prioritizing the right collaboration tools—ones that encourage rather than inhibit your employees as they work from different locations—consider some of the following questions:
A Forrester study of small and mid-sized businesses found that 71% of their employees still use a desktop as their primary work device, and only 26% of these employees have cloud-based tools. To achieve true collaboration, employees need the kind of tools that allow them to work from anywhere, any time, on any device, in real time. And that doesn’t just mean devices; it also means the right apps and robust Internet access.
Ask your employees how they work, and consider how you can equip your team to make real-time collaboration easy:
- Devices: If your company is growing increasingly reliant on remote workers, it may be time to trade in desktops for laptops, tablets and other portable devices. Or consider implementing a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy that gives employees the ability to use the devices they already own. Modern networking solutions include features that allow BYOD policies without compromising network security.
- Apps and integrations: If your team is one that frequently needs to ask quick questions, do you have an instant message or chat option that could streamline this process? If you frequently meet for brainstorming sessions, is it time for a collaboration app where everyone can contribute ideas to a shared document? Analyzing how your team works can help you prioritize what tools make the most sense for your organization.
- Connectivity: With remote work on the rise, employees may need better, more secure Internet options. A variety of connectivity options exist to ensure your team can work from anywhere, on any device.
Projections show that adoption of collaboration tools will continue to increase for the foreseeable future; one study estimates that the global enterprise collaboration market will reach $45 billion (US) by 2025. Even if your company is slower to adopt collaboration tools, there will quickly come a time when external colleagues or customers expect to connect with you via collaborative technology.
With the pace of change today, it’s understandable that companies would hesitate to jump on board the latest and greatest technology. After all, what if it doesn’t accomplish its intent? Or what if the next thing that comes along replaces it and requires an expensive retooling or a new adoption arc?
But adopting today’s tools can help even if you change tools in the future. By using collaboration tools now, you will familiarize your team with working in a collaborative environment and encourage long-term adoption. In addition, keeping your devices and IT infrastructure updated now will make it easier to adopt newer technology as it becomes available.
The global enterprise collaboration market will reach $45 billion (US) by 2025. – Adroit Market Research
For teammates accustomed to working face-to-face, the new collaboration environment offers many advantages. Working together on a document in real time can improve efficiency, and web conferencing allows a new kind of “face-to-face” interaction with colleagues in other locations. But even for those who adapt quickly, issues such as technology fatigue or frustration with connectivity can present obstacles to long-term adoption.
To encourage adoption, consider some of the following:
- Set the example: Leaders should set the example for adoption from the top down. But it’s not just a matter of using tools—it’s also using them in a productive way. Demonstrate how to collaborate in ways that make good use of time. For example, leaders can make an effort to finish video conferences early to allow employees a break before the next appointment.
- Create short training videos or documents: Short, simple training videos or documents that focus on just key features may help employees feel less overwhelmed and more willing to adopt technology.
- Offer guidelines for use: Giving team members basic guidelines for how to use collaboration tools can help make sure everyone is operating with the same information and may prevent tools from being misused.
- Encourage balance: Tools that enable real-time collaboration and connections such as IM can lead to employees expecting that they must always be available to respond, even during meetings or after hours. Encouraging employees to step away outside of work hours and providing time and space to effectively catch up after meetings can change this online software from a task to a tool.
A 2020 survey of over 3,000 executives found that the most important factor in making remote work sustainable was introducing digital collaboration tools. – Deloitte
With the wide array of collaboration tools on the market, how can you make an informed decision about what’s right for your team? Do you need different devices? Better connectivity?
Here are a few questions to ask as you look at your options.
Chances are, if you’re even thinking about collaboration tools, you are probably already using one or two. Before jumping into a tool that won’t serve your needs, consider some of the following questions:
- What are we already using, and how will that tool integrate with other tools? Many cloud-based or collaboration tools are already designed to integrate with other tools. Take stock of what you already have, what needs it serves, and what integrations it includes.
- Where are the gaps in our collaboration environment? Survey employees to find out what they need to be productive. Do they need more adaptable devices? Better Internet options from remote locations? Conferencing tools that allow them to connect and meet virtually?
- Are the tools we’re using and considering adaptable for the long-term? In general, collaboration tools that come from companies with a history of developing such solutions will continue to remain useful well into the future.
- Do these tools, either existing or under consideration, keep our data—and our customer’s information—private and secure? Anytime information passes over the Internet, security becomes an important question. Be sure of your solution’s security features before adopting it.
Of course, every company is different, and collaboration looks unique in every situation. But some of the more common collaboration tools include:
- Cloud-based calling options: If your office is still relying on traditional desk phones and carriers, it may be time to look at cloud-based calling options. With cloud technology, employees have one phone number that works for multiple devices, enabling them to have clear, reliable connection with colleagues and customers from anywhere, on any device. No need to wait till employees are at their desks; now they can connect from anywhere.
- Web and video conferencing: Web and video conferencing has rapidly become a business imperative. A Fortune Business Insights survey projects that the global market for web conferencing tools will reach $10.46 billion (US) by 2027. Not only do these solutions allow internal teams to collaborate more easily, but they also give an additional way to connect with customers and colleagues outside the organization.
- Shared software and apps: In a business environment where teams regularly work together on one project, document sharing and collaboration apps are a vital piece of streamlining work. When team members can update documents and project status as necessary, everyone can stay updated on progress and get projects finished faster.
- Secure, reliable Internet access: Don’t neglect this piece. While Internet access itself is not a collaboration tool, it’s a vital piece of the puzzle in enabling teams to work anywhere. Connectivity should be secure, robust and reliable to give teams the access and connection they need to truly collaborate.
Here are a few features to look for:
- Expertise in telecommunications
- Integration with your other software solutions (open API)
- Current and future artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities
- Flexibility and efficiency
- Advanced capabilities for insights and metrics
- Hyper personalized experiences with enhanced, easy-to-use self-serve options
- Predictive analytics
- Supervisory dashboards and reporting
An experienced solution provider will take the time to evaluate your unique needs and situation.
Typically, you’ll be asked to join a personalized “discovery call,” where an expert can answer your questions, assess your needs and propose a customized solution.
With Allstream’s wide array of communication and collaboration solutions, you can stand out from the competition while increasing your team’s productivity, even during times of disruption.
Allstream offers a full spectrum of collaboration solutions to make your team more productive than ever. We partner with industry-leading providers such as Mitel and Cisco to help you find and implement a setup that works for your team.
Our solutions give leaders the tools they need to allow employees to work from anywhere, on any device, while still providing an excellent customer experience. With a customized collaboration solution, you can improve employee satisfaction, meet customer demands, and remain flexible in the face of disruption.
- Flexibility and adaptability: Collaborate from anywhere, on any device.
- Budget control: By carefully considering your specific needs, we can help you choose a solution that fits your budget now and scales up when you’re ready.
- Business continuity: Disruption will happen in some form. With the right collaboration solutions, your company can keep working through whatever disruption comes your way.
- Reliability: Allstream’s network includes the redundancies you need to ensure your tools are always available when you need them.
Ready to get started? Explore Allstream’s array of collaboration and remote work solutions.
Call Sales at 1-833-603-6600, or let us know more about your needs and an Allstream expert will be in touch. Our experienced representatives can make a personalized recommendation for you, based on your business’ specific situation and requirements.