Making the Most of Collaboration Software
“In the long history of humankind … those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
You may be surprised to learn that those words are not the sales pitch of a software company selling collaboration tools. They are, in fact, by Charles Darwin (though some question whether they are actually his). But whoever it was that said them makes a good point; collaboration, in so far as it relates to business, is vital.
A report by Mitel claims that 80% of executives say collaboration is crucial to growth. Yet so many businesses get it wrong. They impose collaborative software on their teams that costs time rather than saves it, leading to stressed and unhappy employees. Here are our seven tips for installing the right collaborative software and getting the most out of it:
1. Identify Current Tools
The chances are that the software you are using has evolved over time. It’s probably a patchwork covering a variety of tasks; file storage, chat, video conferencing, file sharing, instant messaging, etc. As new shiny apps or software have appeared, you have bought into them at the request of members of your team. Some swear by it, others ignore it. On top of that you have shadow IT and apps your staff have downloaded themselves. So start by getting a handle on everything that is being used across the organisation.
2. Establish Tools Used Daily
This is a useful task and one that might surprise you. It may be that some staff prefer one tool or app over another not because it is better, it may be worse, but because it works more easily on mobile.
Find out what tools and apps they use as they go about their daily work, how they use them and with whom. This may not be immediately obvious and what’s more, they may be reluctant to tell you, fearing that you will stop them using unauthorised tools. Your IT department should be able to give you useful input here from data about what shadow IT they are asked about most.
3. Match Needs To Tools
Find out what your team needs and how you are going to deliver it. This will take detailed research but time spent here will save endless hours down the line.
An important point at this stage is establishing how the collaboration software you choose interacts with other software your organisations uses such as CRM or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. Be brutal about cutting out functions that overlap or which are unnecessary to keep things as simple as possible.
Think about platforms too. Something may look perfect on paper but won’t cut it in the real world. According to Mitel, 83% of companies don’t have a strategy for mobile collaboration, this is a gaping hole in many organisations.
4. Roll Out Carefully
Once you have chosen your collaboration tool, its long-term success will rely on how well it is introduced. Take time to explain to staff why it is being adopted and how it will help both them and the company. It is often useful to roll out in stages so that early lessons can be learnt and teething issues are overcome before it goes company-wide.
5. Set Standards and Policies
Like all software, it only works if it is used properly and consistently. Don’t give staff the wriggle room to work around the new software so that they can go back to their favourite shadow IT and apps. Set rigid standards and make sure they are properly understood and enforced. Your IT department will most likely be the enforcer for these new policies so make sure they are 100% on board and know their role.
6. Train Staff Properly
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Train your staff. Then train them again. Give them the supporting documents they need, tell them how they can get support when required and set aside plenty of IT time in the early days when everyone is struggling to adapt.
7. Listen and Adapt
Nothing works perfectly straight out of the box. Keep tabs on how the new tools are being used and where the sticking points are. Listen to your staff and be flexible enough to change standards or processes that aren’t working. Remember the goal is a more efficient company with improved teamwork and better use of individual’s time, so keep refining things until you get it right.