An integrated collaboration platform can help organizations eliminate collaboration silos and maximize user adoption.

Collaboration tools are meant to facilitate communication and information sharing among an organization’s workers. In too many organizations, however, the use of multiple tools from different vendors creates the opposite effect.

A recent survey conducted by CITE Research finds that workers are using an average of four separate team collaboration applications. Seventy percent say these apps generate so much real-time communication they actually make it challenging to get work done.

More than two-thirds of workers said they waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps, and 68 percent said they toggle between apps up to 10 times an hour. It has become such an intrusive and frustrating process that more than half reported they’d rather do household chores or pay bills than navigate their collaboration apps.

It’s not just the collaboration apps, either. Toss in email, phone calls, text messages, social media posts, and web and video conferences, and the typical worker is under near-constant pressure to read and respond to some form of communications. That makes it tough to find the time to actually get anything done.

It gets worse if team members are operating on different platforms, which makes it difficult to even start a conversation, much less share and modify files. The problem is that there is no way to bridge multiple solutions with a single user interface. These applications are built with a walled-garden approach to boost security, but that prevents information in one app from being accessed by another. As a result, people wind up using different apps for different audiences.

The Shadow IT Problem

These issues are magnified when users adopt cloud-based “shadow IT” tools. In fact, collaboration and file-sharing are among the most common shadow IT functions. The cloud has made it easy for users to access collaboration and file-sharing apps instead of running a request through proper channels and waiting for IT approval. This sounds harmless enough, but it can have serious consequences for business. 

If IT doesn’t know an application is being used, it can’t be monitored, secured and controlled. The app will not have been vetted for security risks or compatibility with other tools and systems. Security policies can’t be applied. Activity can’t be tracked or analyzed. It’s impossible to know where data within those apps is located. Data won’t be backed up and won’t be recovered if the app goes down. If the app doesn’t satisfy minimum regulatory compliance requirements, the organization could face fines and lawsuits.

Multiple cloud-based tools also create collaboration silos that hinder communication and teamwork. Users send out meeting invitations using their favorite app, but the rest of the team is forced to download the latest version and navigate an unfamiliar interface. Meetings are often delayed as participants struggle to get the technology to work, and resort to email when they’re unable to share files.

In order to maximize the benefits of collaboration, organizations need to develop a strategy and standardize on a common platform across the extended enterprise. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the people who use the technology will ultimately determine whether your company sees a return on investment.

Maximizing Success

User adoption is the primary metric used to determine the success or failure of an enterprise collaboration strategy. Everyone needs to be on board and actively participating, from the C-suite to the reception desk.

In order to increase user buy-in, the strategy needs to be aligned with business processes and the needs and workstyles of various users. Some users may prefer instant messaging, some may rely primarily upon video conferencing, while others adapt their collaboration style to the various teams they work with. These preferences can often be accommodated by a tightly integrated collaboration toolset that allows users to move seamlessly from one function to another. A consistent user interface can increase adoption of the technology. 

A pilot project can help users become comfortable with collaboration tools and allow them to see firsthand how collaboration will save them and enable them to do their jobs better. In addition, managers should lay the foundation for collaboration by creating and nurturing a culture that’s conducive to collaboration. If the company encourages and rewards the sharing of knowledge and information, as opposed to having employees work in guarded silos, the strategy is more likely to work. Determining the success of an enterprise collaboration strategy requires the analysis of hard metrics such as user adoption and qualitative factors such as reductions in communication gaps.

People have been collaborating for thousands of years. Modern technology simply provides a mechanism for capitalizing on collaboration to improve business processes. That’s why it’s important to develop an enterprise collaboration strategy that supports business requirements and real-world user needs.