Collaboration in the enterprise is nothing new, but the myriad tools available to organizations today, from simple chat apps to full-blown project-management platforms, are creating new opportunities and challenges for IT leaders and end users alike. Unfortunately, the abundance of collaboration software has led many workers to feel a sense of app overload, with ever more tools requiring constant monitoring and input.
If you think email is bad, try navigating a complex web of notifications and workflows across a handful of disparate apps, each of which carries its own strengths and limitations.
Many of these tools originate with small teams, growing organically across groups and departments — and sometimes duplicating or overlapping with tools used by other groups. As the number of collaboration tools proliferates across organizations, CIOs are trying to regain control by rolling out one or a few tools companywide, without interfering with viable, effective workflows.
That often involves making tough decisions, says Michael Cantor, CIO at Park Place Technologies, which provides data center hardware maintenance services. “A CIO will likely end up with multiple tools and will have to be strategic in identifying the best one for their organization, even if it means forcing evaluations and stopping the use” of some tools, he says.
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John Peterson, director of web operations at custom apparel maker Custom Ink, says it’s important to listen to stakeholders and take their input into account as the organization selects the tool it wants to scale. “There are some applications that our engineers use religiously, which have become an integral part of their daily work,” he says. “Other tools, which may seem helpful in the abstract, could introduce more complexity than value.” To achieve scale, IT leaders need to understand how the tool is going to be used and who will be using it most frequently, he adds.
It’s important to note that not all businesses need to coalesce around a single collaboration platform, experts say. What works for one business unit may not the best approach for another. Scaling up the right tools for the right teams can dramatically improve productivity and communications where it matters most.
This dynamic is playing out in businesses of all types today, and as a result, IT leaders are learning to support team collaboration while implementing strategies and practices that bring these tools to scale. For organizations that are struggling to scale up team collaboration tools, we’ve gathered six tips from CIOs and IT consultants that will help businesses and their respective employees get the most value from their collaboration apps.