If your organization employs more than one human, chances are teamwork is a critical part of the daily routine. It’s no small wonder that some of the most innovative business tools today are centered around workplace collaboration. Stroll through the halls of a modern office and you’ll find users Slacking (in a good way!), plotting their latest dev adventure through JIRA, or snatching securely printed documents as they fly from meeting to meeting.
Just how important are collaborative business tools? Polycom, with the help of Future Workplace, took the time to chat with more than 25,000 US workers to find out. Of that large pool of respondents, 79 percent indicated they regularly work with coworkers who aren’t actually in the office. Another 32 percent said their daily commute doesn’t extend past their own front door. Perhaps most insightful? The nearly unanimous vote of confidence—98 percent—in the ability of collaborative technology to unite an otherwise disperse office.
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said for seamless and graceful collaboration. The question is: What’s the best way to go about enabling collaboration through technology?
Aim for Batcave-level business tools
To start, your team first needs to understand what’s possible—and what’s actually needed. What limitations are holding your organization back? What business tools exist to solve these problems? What would Batman do? No, really, if ever you were to aspire toward an office tech goal, the Batcave has to be the ultimate benchmark. Batman always has the right tools in the right place at the right time.
In all seriousness, the collaboration tools at your disposal today are surprisingly good. Take Slack, for example, a collaborative software platform that’s minted some nifty features in a recent update. Modern companies are leveraging its ability to make collaboration as seamless and intuitive as a tweet. Digital conversations between users and teams are kept tidy and visible with shared workspaces. Can’t remember all the topics covered in last week’s sprint meeting? Searchable archives are there to bail you out.
Slack has even found a way to bring some life to one of collaboration’s oldest tricks: screen sharing. While some may immediately find their minds wandering toward basic presentations when screen sharing is mentioned—who doesn’t love a lively PowerPoint session?—these innovative tools go way beyond. Instead of one-way sharing, these tools allow two-way collaboration: You can actively edit the same document, draw together on the same canvas, and code together on the same piece of software—all without being in the same office, zip code, or country.
These workplace collaboration tools don’t just inhabit the digital realm either. Did you know that innovations, like mobile printing, allow you to collaborate the old-fashioned way—with ink and paper—from just about any location or device? Take the teamwork accomplished on Slack into the physical realm by printing those designs, reports, or caricatures from your smartphone on the plane.
Work apart in the cloud
If step one toward building a better collaboration strategy is getting to know what tools are out there, step two is understanding how to use them. Modern offices are becoming increasingly more nomadic in nature, which is good information to have when crafting your collaboration strategy. As your office continues to spread apart—be it via new branches, remote employees, or travel—ensuring your users have the necessary tools to collaborate effectively is a must. To make a long story short, a healthy dose of the cloud is probably the answer.
If your office growing apart geographically, the cloud can be the glue that holds your team together. Whether it’s sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, or simply shooting the breeze, cloud tools tend to be the best tools for the job. As far as integrating these tools into your environment, you’ll want to focus on three specific areas. From a management perspective, manageability, scalability, and security are the points of emphasis. As you’re considering deployment of a solution, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a clear path toward integrating this technology with existing infrastructure?
- Does this technology introduce new vulnerabilities or points of weakness in your security strategy?
- Will managing these tools add or reduce the number of hours spent on the phone with support each week?
- If your company doubled in size within the next year or so, would the previous answers change?
If you can still sleep soundly at night after answering these questions, you’re on the right track with your integration strategy. The next step is to look at it from a user perspective. Are there specific business processes that will be streamlined or otherwise made more efficient with the integration? Are users more or less likely to egg your car after everything is all said and done?
A good strategy involves understanding the quickly changing landscape of modern collaboration technology and making sure you have an equal understanding of the modern office—remote ones, especially. This will help you realize the unique collaboration needs of your environment and the handy tools that can best meet them.