Collaboration is typically viewed as an enterprise business solution that allows very large organizations to connect widely distributed teams, departments and branch locations. After the disruptive events of the past year, small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are now making collaboration a central element of their business activities.
Small businesses everywhere discovered the potential of collaboration platforms when the pandemic forced them to adopt remote work models. In fact, 28 percent of SMBs in the U.S. adopted collaboration tools for the first time during the pandemic, according to research from the Analysys Mason management consultancy.
The Agile SMB
Collaboration ranks behind only the cloud among SMB IT priorities for 2021, according to TechAisle’s annual survey of SMB IT priorities, challenges and business issues. In all, 96 percent of the companies with fewer than 100 employees surveyed say collaboration solutions are important for unlocking business value. In addition to improving teamwork and decision-making, most say collaboration contributes to revenue growth through improved business agility.
An increasingly mobile and remote workforce is key to that agility. Untethered from traditional company-owned PCs, today’s workers can get things done from just about any location at any time. As the logistics of work change, collaboration solutions that combine voice, video, chat and file-sharing are essential for enabling the pervasive connectivity agile businesses require.
A decentralized workforce is only effective if employees have the ability to communicate, share ideas and work together as a team. In the absence of a physical meeting space, collaboration tools allow distanced employees to remain connected, share ideas, solve problems and coordinate efforts.
Collaboration tools such as Mitel’s MiCollab platform allows users to access unified communication features through either a desktop client, a softphone app or supported iOS and Android mobile devices. With MiCollab, users can collaborate from any location on any device with the same set of tools and a consistent look and feel. They can use advanced conferencing features such as remote desktop control, screen sharing, and public and private chats.
Here are some of the ways these capabilities can drive agility, efficiency and innovation for SMBs:
- Faster collaboration. Setting up a video call with remote and mobile colleagues is much faster than trying to coordinate an in-person meeting.
- Quicker decisions. Sales proposals, contract questions and other business decisions can be settled quickly with a web conference, eliminating delays while trying to track down a manager or supervisor.
- Increased efficiency. Collaboration tools automate many project management and administration tasks such as recording minutes and distributing summaries to participants, allowing users to focus on more productive work.
- Enhanced teamwork. Easy collaboration helps remote workers remain fully engaged with colleagues, reducing feelings of isolation and building camaraderie.
- More innovation. The process of sharing ideas sparks critical thinking and creativity, often leading to inventive new approaches to problems or challenges.
Because of these and many other benefits, analysts predict a strong increase in SMB spending on collaboration solutions in the near term. The Analysys Mason report forecasts a 13 percent increase in spending this year, with total revenues reaching $43.2 billion in 2022. The firm says the increase will be driven by three factors: 1) a continued demand for cloud-based tools, 2) businesses rehiring furloughed employees and 3) a transition from free consumer-grade solutions to purchased business-grade solutions.
The pandemic forced most SMBs to wing it last year as they figured out how to remain operational with a remote workforce. In the process, most discovered that collaboration solutions helped them maintain unity and productivity. Going forward, these solutions can continue to drive improvements in agility, efficiency and innovation.