Enterprise Collaboration Software: Definition, Benefits, Drawbacks, & Trendson 5 February 2020
Enterprise collaboration software has come a long way in recent years. Where before there were niche solutions that addressed one or two pain points, now there are crossover tools that seek to overcome multiple organisational challenges.
This blurring of lines has caused confusion among leaders. Below are the answers to several FAQs that will help clarify key aspects about these types of solutions.
Enterprise Collaboration Software FAQs
1. What is enterprise collaboration software?
Enterprise collaboration software (ECS) enables teams to work together, communicate, and share information across the organisation. ECS systems may focus on a single collaboration aspect, such as communication, or provide multiple capabilities in a single package.
Corporate collaboration software comes in many forms:
- Communication—From instant messaging to video conferencing, communication is often a key aspect of enterprise collaboration systems. While email once reigned supreme as the primary communication method within organisations, tools that focus more on connecting teams instantaneously have been gaining in adoption.
- Social engagement—The rise of social media has impacted the workplace. Most workers are accustomed to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and welcome a similar style of social interaction at work. Hence why many workplace solutions now offer the ability to create social feeds and threaded conversations that are so familiar and engaging. (For one example, see a screenshot of Glasscubes below.)
- Project management—Many projects are lengthy affairs with lots of moving parts and people. Project management tools help keep things on track so work is completed in an efficient manner. These tools assist in managing tasks, and making sure everyone on a project team knows who’s responsible for what and when.
- Content management—Whether it’s blogs, forums, or knowledge bases, content management systems help you create, collect, and organise your organisation’s content.
- Intranet/extranet—Intranet software helps connect people within your organisation, often incorporating other systems and tools such as the ones described above, and keeping your workforce up to date on important news and information. Extranets are nearly identical to intranets, except that they include external parties such as clients and vendors who have limited access privileges to the organisational network.
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2. What should you consider before implementing an ECS?
“Before you implement an ECS, you need to develop a clear enterprise collaboration strategy. And you can’t do that without first considering the user experience,” says Matthew Fox of Valiant Technology. If you implement an ECS that either isn't easy to use or your workforce doesn’t understand, they will avoid using it. Instead, they’ll find ways to accomplish tasks without it—or worse, introduce elements of shadow IT as an alternative.
Fox notes that considering the user experience will help you evaluate:
- What type of system architecture and security is required (such as who has access to the system)
- How the ECS will fit in with other business systems already in use
- How and where information will be stored
Sarah Franklin, co-founder of Blue Tree AI, complements Fox’s point about user adoption, noting that it’s important for leaders to consider how they will encourage (or enforce) the use of new corporate collaboration software in organisational workflows. “Describe how the system will help the workforce, such as in making communication easier or reducing rework stemming from miscommunications and confusion.”
Communication is another important area of consideration—specifically, communication norms. Bruce Hogan, CEO of SoftwarePundit, explains that ECS is great for addressing communication needs, but it can also hurt productivity if the right norms are not established. “For example, it's important that teams agree on when it's appropriate to use the 'alert all' feature in group threads, as that can be disruptive. Also, teams should have clear expectations on how quickly they should respond to new messages.”
3. What are the benefits of an ECS?
There are many reasons for using collaboration tools. The most compelling ones are:
- To improve team agility. ECS provides more flexibility in how members work together to achieve business goals. “This is especially true for smaller teams that are accustomed to adaptability and aren’t bogged down by organisational bureaucracy,” says Fox.
- To remove physical barriers. Fox notes that many enterprise collaboration tools are cloud-based, and can be used wherever workers happen to be—as long as they have an internet connection. “In kind, an ECS also reduces time spent travelling, and provides ways for team members to regularly interact despite geographical distance.”
- To keep everyone in the know. Communication is a key part of ECS, and Hogan calls out group channels as a particularly useful aspect. Group channels are a scalable method for one-to-many communications, which ensures more people know about important happenings, “for example, if your team experiences a crisis and needs to work quickly as a group to resolve the issue. A group channel in your ECS can be used to communicate status, keep everyone on the same page, and record the team's progress. In this manner, group channels are far more efficient than say emails or phone calls.”
- To make better decisions. ECS keeps all documents and pertinent information in a centralised location, making it easier for decision makers to inform themselves. In addition, collaboration tools make updating documents easy, and typically have notification features a decision maker can use to always have the latest knowledge about organisational activities—which beats having to wait for the next scheduled meeting to learn about changes.
- To provide greater operational visibility. “With ECS, you can see things you only guessed at before,” says Will Ellis, founder of Privacy Australia. You can see numerous data points concerning your workforce and their activities, including who’s online, who’s read a message or accessed a file, when a file has been downloaded and by whom, etc. This gives you a reliable audit trail, especially if you have compliance concerns.
4. What are the drawbacks of an ECS?
ECS is not without some potential side effects. Be aware of these when developing your enterprise collaboration strategy:
- It could have a potential negative impact on productivity and company culture. As called out by Hogan above, communication norms can affect your workforce for better or for worse. In extreme scenarios, communications can quickly get out of hand between and among teams, which can have a domino effect across the organisation. “This can be avoided by setting appropriate norms in the beginning, and monitoring and correcting how teams are using the system to interact with one another.”
- Security could be a concern. Ellis explains that although ECS platforms are generally quite safe, this doesn’t mean that you have full reign to send passwords or private information with no worries. There are still potential risks at play, and you should be careful about how you share sensitive information. “For example, a popular communication tool was hacked back in 2015, compromising user data such as email addresses, usernames, and passwords.”
- You could end up needing multiple solutions. If you don’t do your homework to clearly identify your needs and find a solution that addresses them, you may choose a solution that leaves gaps you’ll have to fill with additional tools. There are solutions that address common organisational challenges like file sharing, project management, and team communication all in one package—take the time to find the right one.
5. What ECS trends are on the horizon?
“I see corporate collaboration software continuing to parallel social media and consumer technology,” says Fox. The inclusion of emojis and other types of “reactions” to messages and activity feeds are features that many people use daily in their personal lives, and improve the ECS experience because they are familiar.
Fox says he’s even seeing some solutions including features that hearken back to the early 2000s, like push-to-talk messaging, to increase ease in communicating with team members. “Features like these may prove to be useful, while others may only serve as distractions. I'm sure we'll see a mix of both in 2020 and beyond.”
Another trend? More inclusive solutions—namely in the form of integrations. To shore up the drawback of organisations having to use multiple solutions to address their diverse needs, many modern enterprise collaboration tools are adapting by adding the ability to integrate with other applications. (Tweet this!) “ECS solutions are no longer singular applications with narrow use cases—they are evolving to feature hundreds of integrations to augment their core functionality,” explains Hogan.
Why implement multiple enterprise collaboration software solutions when you can get work done efficiently with one?
Glasscubes is enterprise collaboration software that acts as a hub for communication, task management, file sharing, and more. Threaded conversations are featured everywhere—from uploaded files to social feeds. You can keep everyone on track to success with robust task management features that help you know who’s doing what and when. Plus, share files with key stakeholders—from teammates to clients to vendors.
With 4.5-star rated Glasscubes, you can:
- Store and share files in a secure location, complete with automatic version control. You can even create approval workflows and view clear audit trails of user actions.
- Assign and manage tasks for different members of the team, and track them to completion.
- Create customised workspaces for each project team in your portfolio. Team members can share resources and communicate with one another in their specific workspace, and you can access them all for easy oversight.
Glasscubes may technically be corporate collaboration software, but it won’t feel like it to your teams because of the socially familiar and easy-to-use interface. Start your free trial today.
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