The face of business is changing. As customers, we no longer expect companies to have expertise in everything they touch. However, we do expect amazing products that work not only at home, but also at our places of employment. In order to meet this demand, the new approach is for companies to form partnerships with other companies - they can then specialize their expertise and deliver top-quality goods and services to their customers. This is why enterprise collaboration is taking off. The future is collaboration — not only internally, but also with other organizations. In order to stay relevant, you must learn how to work with and keep your business allies.
The following article is a guide to enterprise collaboration. You’ll learn what it means to have a collaborative enterprise, which industry advances allowed collaboration to occur, and why you would want to collaborate internally and externally. We also discuss the common pitfalls and challenges of collaboration. Then, our experts weigh in on the future of enterprise collaboration. Finally, we discuss software to support your endeavors and give you some additional resources for your own study.
What Is a Collaborative Enterprise?
A collaborative enterprise is a business that combines the knowledge and capabilities of diverse workers, and unites them in a common purpose and support structure. In other words, it is how knowledge workers in modern organizations get their work done. In today’s world, projects are not simple: They often require a diverse set of skills and expertise. Now, businesses hire experts in many different fields and use them across their organizations when necessary. In this way, you can expand or contract your talent pool at will, creating the agile organization you need to be successful. This approach fosters innovation, efficiency, and scalability. With a collaborative model, companies are producing higher margins on knowledge-intensive work.
Enterprise collaboration (EC) can be internal or external. When we hear the term collaboration, we often assume it refers merely to internal collaboration: It is easy to picture tasks such as popping into each other’s offices for advice and quick asks. However, enterprise collaboration can also happen externally; for instance, on social media between brands and their consumers. This external action can help brands access more revenue and input from their consumers. This kind of external collaboration is called enterprise social networking, and it literally puts your employees’ social networking skills to work. Many companies encourage their staff to use social platforms to conduct research, advertise, and take the pulse of their customers. Nonetheless, because these social tools stimulate sharing, it is crucial for companies to implement policies that make clear distinctions between social networking for work and for one’s personal life. Any networking with customers must, of course, accurately reflect the company philosophy, not an employee’s personal opinion.
External EC can also take place between companies. Companies can collaborate with each other to bring advanced products or services to market faster or for less money. Imagine that your enterprise boasts hardware development expertise. That doesn’t mean you need to have expertise in every aspect of software in order to get your product to market. You can partner with firms that make an in-demand, high-quality software product. If you want to work with external organizations, you should consider the following questions:
- What pain points of your business necessitate external EC?
- Why do you want to pursue partnerships for these functions?
- Who are the stakeholders for pursuing new avenues for these challenges?
- What are the best channels or approaches to pursue them?
If you want to pursue external EC, you have to see it as a mindset, not a process or a tool.
Your EC initiatives should start with the company challenges you would like to address. Define your business issues clearly. Before you start putting out feelers to other companies or buying new software, you must figure out what you want to solve. Here are some of the common problems you may be facing:
- Colleagues are disconnected.
- Productivity is down.
- Employees are not engaged.
- Innovation is flagging.
- Institutional knowledge is at risk of being lost.
- There is duplicate content.
- Subject experts are inaccessible.
- Costs are up.
- Your collective intellectual capital is dispersed.
- You have no thought leadership in the market.
- Licensed information is not accessible.
If you have different departments that are competing, your capacity for collaboration is low. Departments can compete because their priorities are different, their perspectives are different, they are unaware of the skills of other departments, or because they see little or no direct benefits from mutual projects. A competitive internal environment affects employee satisfaction and the way that your customers see your company. Competition and collaboration have the opposite effect on your company. Competition leads to employee complaints of poor communication and disorganization, which, in turn, breed an uncollaborative environment. That uncollaborative, uncommunicative atmosphere can cause silos, which lowers productivity. Silos lead to duplicative efforts, as teams have no knowledge of other team’s activities.
What Industry Advances Have Encouraged Enterprise Collaboration?
The popularity of enterprise collaboration has skyrocketed in the last few years. Although the concept and practice have been around for a long time, recent technological advances have led to a surge of innovation. New methods of EC are evolving and helping businesses change the way they do things. This new landscape is made possible and better by new, emerging technologies, a trend toward lightweight text chat, the integration of collaboration apps and productivity tools, and the increasing use of mobile apps.
These new, emerging technologies include the following:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): The field of AI has been around since the 1950s, but it has eclipsed many other schools of thought in the 21st century. AI refers to machines that demonstrate intelligence or identify their environment and take actions that maximize the success of their goals. The term intelligence may be a misnomer, but it is contextual: It is about the capacity of a machine to emulate intelligent human action. In the collaboration industry, AI is helping build tools that act intelligently, including conversational interfaces that mimic human interaction.
- Machine Learning (ML): A component of AI, machine learning is software that learns without your explicit programming. ML is able to analyze data at a level beyond the human mind. Significantly, it has made model production involving complex data automatic, accurate, and fast, so your business can identify profitable opportunities and risks. In the context of collaboration, ML can, for instance, determine which people and firms would work well or poorly together.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): Another aspect of AI, NLP is the study of how computers understand and manipulate human language. NLP differs from traditional programming in that common word processing operations treat text merely like a string of symbols rather than a language. In the realm of enterprise collaboration, NLP can intelligently categorize what you’re discussing and make suggestions. For example, if the NLP system detects that you’re talking about tasks, it can add a to-do button, so you can capture the task during your conversation.
- Bots: Also known as web robots, bots are software apps that run scripts over the internet. They act as a conduit between users and services, usually through a conversational user interface. They perform automated tasks, such as searching for something online, setting an alarm, or finding a local restaurant. Bots have rich potential in the collaborative space.
- Hub Models: A hub model is a virtual place where everyone can meet, even if they’re in disparate locations. In collaboration, a hub model serves as the open, engaging information meeting place for the entire organization. This central hub configuration increases collaboration and transparency, and keeps everyone informed.
As mentioned, there is a strong trend toward lightweight text chat apps. These tools are protocols that provide chat rooms or channels for your group to communicate with each other in real time. They allow you to communicate in a group or one on one without a lot of bandwidth or downloads. Your server can host these channels and create secure transmissions. In enterprise collaboration, this type of service can be invaluable because it gives your team the ability to answer questions quickly without having to use another device.
Software companies develop applications (apps) for the end user. These apps are the programs or program groups that you see and interact with. They help you complete a group of related tasks. They cannot run on their own, however: They require system software. Not all programs are applications. Programs are the set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Many programs run in the background of your systems. You do not see these background programs and may not even know they are there. Since programmers do not develop background programs for the end user, we do not consider them applications. When we talk about tools, we can be referring to applications, programs, or even physical aids such as sticky notes and white boards.
The convergence of many different types of productivity tools and collaboration apps is moving the field of collaboration forward. This convergence gives the end user the means to collaborate in the way that works best for them. For example, you may really like working with a Kanban board to visualize your activities. Some new apps combine the visual aspect of the Kanban board with a virtual environment that you can ship to other geographic locations with a single keystroke.
Mobile apps are becoming ubiquitous. Programs that were once only available on your desktop are now available as mobile apps (with limited or slightly different functionality). Consequently, you can seamlessly cross back and forth from your desktop to your tablet to your phone. This uninterrupted access to programs makes collaboration easier because you are never far from your work.
Third-party application integration, dedicated platforms, and collaboration apps are also improving enterprise collaboration. The app Slack is a leader among workplace communication tools - whether you use it or not, experts credit Slack with creating a clean, operational user experience that professionals have quickly come to expect in their communication interfaces.
Third-party application integration makes app functionality possible. For example, suppose you need mapping capabilities on your website. These map applications are completely separate programs that you can integrate with your own. Using the application programming interface (API), programmers can combine multiple programs so that they communicate with one another. Because collaboration platforms have so many different types of functionality and give your workgroup options, they are better than ever.
Dedicated platforms enable users to have all of the tools they need in one place. A dedicated platform is a software system tailored to your collaboration needs. It is not the cobbling together of disparate apps, each with a different functionality. Rather, it is a comprehensive package with everything you need to help you collaborate effectively. This platform keeps confusion and the learning curve down to a minimum. It also eliminates the need for obscure APIs or developing a system from scratch. Finally, dedicated platforms are usually compatible with mobile devices via the cloud, which makes collaborating with your remote employees and partners much easier.
Why Do Businesses Want to Collaborate?
In today’s marketplace, one of the most important skills you can cultivate is the ability to develop relationships — not just between coworkers but between companies as well. Forming bonds and engaging with other businesses and people enable your ideas and opportunities to flow. For example, suppose you develop digital cameras and have an excellent supply chain and top-level manufacturers. However, you want to add a software functionality that automatically uploads every photo to the cloud. You need prefab functionality (Bluetooth), and you don’t have the in-house expertise to develop this. But, you have an already existing relationship with a company that can help you implement this functionality in your software, as they are the industry experts in Bluetooth. Collaborating with them takes your product to the next level.
Internally, collaboration connects your colleagues. Most importantly, it allows them to build bridges. Bridges evolve from the relative strength of the ties between people. Strong ties emerge between people who work together frequently. They know each other, are comfortable calling each other when they need something, and they understand what the other person does. Their network of strong ties is unique. For instance, let’s say Marge in production has a strong tie with Dave in manufacturing. Marge needs a supply chain item from Bob, but she has no existing tie with Bob. Dave’s strong tie with Bob gives Marge an in (and a weak tie), so she can establish a connection. Whether she calls Bob unexpectedly and uses Dave’s name, or Dave makes the call and introduces Bob to Marge, the two make a new tie. Collaboration builds more of these strong ties, giving everyone access to new people and groups. Finally, you may want to collaborate because it fosters employee engagement and ensures that you retain institutional knowledge.
What Will Keep Your Business from Collaborating?
Your employees want to collaborate. They want to make connections and add all of the new and exciting projects that collaboration brings to their resumes. However, successfully collaborating - internally or externally - is not intuitive to every company. The biggest obstructions, though, are more about the culture than the desire. Here are some common impediments to collaboration:
- Not Having Clear Goals: You need to define your projects’ goals before taking action. If your people have to struggle with unclear direction or ambiguity, their project will be doomed from the start.
- Not Having Transparent Decision-Making Processes: In order to minimize resistance to decisions, your people must understand how your managers arrived at those decisions. Your team also needs to know who made the decisions and who is accountable for the decisions’ outcomes.
- Your Management Not Sticking to the Processes: Your teams need to know that the person who makes the decisions is actually accountable for their outcomes. They need to see consistency within their circle. Finally, they need to be able to trust. With trust, the teams spend less time questioning why you made the decision and can focus on the work.
If you have to implement enterprise-level collaboration, you must take into account five major areas that may become challenges:
- Cultural: Greeven and Williams identified two different cultural challenges to adopting collaboration systems that exist at the organizational level: When the executives lack commitment and when enterprise values and norms get in the way of change. On the executive side, you need your managers to trust their employees and consistently participate in their work. Then, your business needs to be agile and flexible, not enmeshed in old work practices and unable to adapt.
- Business and Operations: This area relates to lack of direction in your projects and poor work management. You need to align your project’s goals with your overall business goals. For example, if you have a strategic plan, you should align all of your projects with that strategy. Further, your employees need you to ensure that they will have enough time to learn the tools for and complete their projects.
- Technology: Technology can come in many forms. Whether you are using an EC platform or disparate apps, technology can act as a tool or a barrier. Moreover, you should effectively integrate new technology with existing technology. Finally, you should give your staff adequate training regarding any new, required technology, so they are competent users.
- Benefits: This area pertains to the advantages and drawbacks of using EC software, tools, and practices. Some of your staff may perceive a heightened workload when you give them new software or concepts to implement. They may not see the overall business value, and may also sense a loss of personal value. You may have professionals who feel they won’t get credit for their work or will lose power if they work collaboratively.
- Attitude and Behavior: This factor differs from cultural concerns because it occurs at the individual level. Employees may not be personally open to change and prefer to rely on outmoded systems and practices. They may also be lazy or lack self-confidence concerning learning and reaching out to others.
What Is the Future of Enterprise Collaboration?
In order to look at the future of EC, we must also look at the past: Programming was very complex, often on-premises, and approved only with licensure. It was disconnected and neither social nor mobile, and we were more interested in artifacts. Today, we have lightweight programming, and utilize the cloud and subscription services. We are connected and integrated, and we understand that conversations are more important than anything else.
Several strategies are emerging that will push the future of EC:
- Dual Layer Collaboration Strategy: Many companies will use a dual layer collaboration strategy, which combines enterprise-wide and team-based collaboration. They will discover that their professionals use practices and programs that are outside the parameters of the accepted collaboration. Therefore, these companies will provide the guidance and tools to combine enterprise-wide and team-based collaboration, so that all the participants will know when to use each.
- Competition: Some organizations will actually market their solutions (alongside those of industry leaders) to their own staff and try to compete to win, even internally. By pushing your company to create the best product, this tactic guarantees your end users the best solution.
- Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA): Your users are savvy. They expect their professional tools to be just as advanced as the ones they use in their off time. If you do away with convoluted permissions processes and allow your employees to bring in their own apps, they can use the best-in-class apps for their common needs. Of course, you will need to define your minimum security and data requirements well in advance. And, remember to stay as hands off as possible (except in the cases of routine audits and user support).
Many other strategies make sense and help put your company in the ideal position for future collaboration:
- Be transparent.
- Build strong teams.
- Value and reward teams.
- Build an external culture of collaboration.
- Provide the proper tools and technology.
- Provide intranet social tools.
- Give your staff the training.
- Offer communication tools.
- Build trust on the intranet.
Now, our experts weigh in on their experience and offer tips and ideas for preparing for the future of collaboration. These pros come from a wide variety of fields and are directly involved in designing and developing the future of enterprise collaboration.
“I've worked with a variety of enterprise collaboration tools. In today's world, there are so many different ways to communicate with local and dispersed teams. I have worked fluidly with integrated remote and local teams by using enterprise collaboration tools. The main factor is not the tools you choose, but that everyone uses them. For example, if half the team is on HipChat and the other on Slack, it is not going to work. Alternatively, if you leave important notes in JIRA (a bug-tracking tool), then you need the right people to read them,” says Gibson.
He continues, “The great thing about enterprise collaboration tools is that, oftentimes, you can integrate them, so you will receive notifications by email or direct message. To get team buy-in, it is critical that these tools fit into your workflow and that you never copy and paste information from one system to the next. The enterprise collaboration field is highly loaded with a few clear leaders, but an ever-ambitious group of suitors aspires to dethrone them. To that end, these newcomers make industry-specific tools to outpace the generic ones. If I were implementing a solution, I would stick with the generic, all-purpose tools unless there were legal industry requirements that they didn’t meet, such as data privacy and storage rules. The more use a tool gets, the more refined it will be, thus, allowing the general-purpose tools to provide a smoother user experience.”
“I have implemented and managed enterprise collaboration sites for about seven years, including a federal site with over 12,000 users,” he says. “I now run a software firm I started with my business partner that extracts analytics from enterprise collaboration sites to give community managers the ability to produce the actionable metrics that they want. They want these metrics in order to take action on them in the form of email and direct message campaigns.
Enterprise collaboration removes much of the light, heat, and noise that comes from normal collaboration systems, like reply-all emails with attachments. This streamlining feature of EC saves enterprises real energy, time, resources, and, most importantly, money. Managing an enterprise collaboration site is like taking an MRI of an organization. You can see where things are working and where they are not. Executives can get an unfiltered understanding of what is happening down several layers of management that they really could not see before. I have also learned that the use case exists at the project, team, or group level and that you have to look at the platform as a toolbox that you use differently for every project, team, or group.
I have also learned that enterprise collaboration does not have as big a generational divide as most people think. I often talk to older workers about the fact that these platforms do what they already do: communicate, network, share expertise, etc. This idea also applies to a faster and more frictionless environment, as well as to a wider audience. Often, those older workers became my ‘reformed smokers.’ Instead of poo-pooing the new technology, they would often become its most impassioned evangelists, converting others to the gospel of online collaboration in a way that I never could have.
My tips for enterprise collaboration are less about the platform and more about the implementation and management of the community. A really well-implemented, so-so platform with good CMs, use cases, governance, and executive backing will outperform a haphazardly implemented, great platform. In addition, as I said above, it is all about the use case at the team, project, and group level. If you are not solving their problems with collaboration, you might as well not have a platform. People will come and look around, but they will not stay and work there if you do not address their use case. The status quo has a lot of inertia that goes with it, and your platform has to represent a large increase in productivity, speed of execution, and ease of use in order to get the kind of adoption that leaves the ‘old way’ in the rearview mirror.
The future, in my humble opinion, is all about breaking down organizational walls and developing ‘Lego-like’ integrations with other enterprise systems. This is where Slack has excelled. Where they execute well is in their bubble-up, grassroots, and viral implementations. However, they lack community management and governance as well as the focus on the use case, all of which I think are needed to have a true enterprise collaboration system.
I am very bullish on the market. Otherwise, I would not have started 411 Labs. I think that in the long term, we will begin to see email use drop off as platforms start to break down the barriers to collaboration. As the platforms become as ubiquitous as email and bring in collaborators from the outside ecosystem (customers, suppliers, regulators, contractors, and consultants), the enterprise becomes easier, and you will see further growth and innovation in the space.”
"I strive to roll out revenue-driving SEO features for one or more e-commerce sites owned by these companies. As you know, SEO affects all parts of the enterprise, and vice versa, so strong collaboration is necessary. My lessons for enterprise collaboration are as follows:
- Listen first, then instruct. Every enterprise's website organization has its own DNA. Even if you are the smartest SEO professional on the planet, you cannot go in there and tell people what they need to do. First, you have to understand how to do things, how people work together, and what bottlenecks exist. Then, you propose solutions accordingly.
- Respect your engineers deeply. Building scalable SEO technology that works like magic requires not only cooperation, but also ingenuity and comprehension of the goals and purpose behind your projects. You have to teach SEO without being condescending concerning the technology part. That is their job. Let them be the experts. Ask many questions, and allow them to come up with smarter solutions that are the most compatible with your company's tech platform, organizational vision, and business goals. You might be the expert, but, ultimately, engineers do everything and are most responsible for your success.
- Your greatest competition in achieving results are not external business competitors or websites. It is your ability to collaborate inside your own walls. The bigger the company, the more difficult the collaboration when executing and driving SEO projects forward. While certain retailers are larger than others, and, thereby, have an advantage in SEO, smaller retailers can compete and win simply by executing better. Everyone has to do the same type of work to excel at SEO, and it isn’t that they don’t know how to do it — they do. It is simply that they cannot overcome the in-house hurdles.
- I suggest you adapt to the enterprise but also get your team involved in trying new collaboration technology. Try Basecamp, Slack, and Google Apps, get buy-in from a handful of people, and, once you are happy with early results, get others who are slightly more reluctant to try. Start small, and work your way up in adopting any collaborative technology that you know your business absolutely needs.
In the future, I believe that as entrepreneurs mix and combine different technologies to come up with new innovative solutions, the enterprise collaboration market will grow. As more technology becomes available in the open source market, APIs become easier to leverage, and big data becomes more available - this lowers the barrier to entry for building enterprise tools or applications. Even though the market for enterprise companies has grown, especially in SAAS, collaboration-tool and data/analytics companies still struggle to collaborate to the best of their ability.”
He explains the current landscape: “What a lot of companies are doing, especially pharma, is saving millions of dollars per year by getting rid of PBX phone systems and VOIP hardware and using applications, such as Skype for Business, Vidyo, Cisco Spark, Videxio, Pexip, BlueJeans, and their dial tones on their machines. They also use these applications in enterprise collaboration, and many companies have fancy rooms that integrate with these various software options. For example, the Polycom Trio is a collaborative/video conference phone that allows Skype for Business users to easily screen share in a conference room. Crestron AirMedia, Mersive Solstice, and Kramer Via are other products we’ve seen companies integrate into a conference room or open meeting space with a Crestron RL2 control panel. This technology allows users to easily share their laptop screens with their peers. Add in Cisco Spark or Skype for Business, and now you are sharing with colleagues both in and out of the office.
My tips for other professionals are that companies need to provide training in order to ensure end-user adoption. We have a complex workforce and need to bridge the technology gap between baby boomers and millennials. Companies are out there to help with this transition, both from a training and change-management standpoint. If your company is going to spend thousands or millions of dollars to increase productivity, make sure your end users actually use the equipment!”
“In my company, we have several small offices around the United States, and many of our employees work from home as well,” he says. “Enterprise collaboration allows our employees based in different geographic locations to work together effectively on projects. We heavily utilize technologies that support document sharing and videoconferencing groupware capabilities in order to streamline the workflow of our teams.
There are a variety of enterprise collaboration solutions out there and choosing the one that best meets the needs of your organization is key to simplifying the communication process among distributed groups of employees. Some digital collaboration software packages provide an enterprise-wide solution, while others focus on team-based features. Some support enterprise social media networks, while others emphasize project management software. It is important to do your research to figure out what solutions best fit your company.
Implementing enterprise collaboration at your firm is not simply a matter of going out and buying software. Much of your work may come down to convincing your employees that these collaborative tools are more effective than their current work practices. It is usually helpful to involve your employees in the software selection process itself so that they become personally invested in the company movement toward using enterprise collaboration solutions. In some cases, you yourself may need to lead by example, using these solutions to great effect and sharing the results to encourage widespread adoption of these tools.
In terms of trends in the enterprise collaboration market, I see third party application integration becoming increasingly seamless and a focal point for many software providers in this industry. I also expect new developments in how virtual and augmented reality can enhance the user experience when it comes to enterprise collaboration tools.”
"Most projects involve multiple teams separated by organizational boundaries, time, and place. For example, even an SMB project may involve multiple parties: In-house staff, external consultants, and enterprise software specialists or service providers. Similarly, a big Fortune 500 company project will involve people around the country or the globe and likely multiple external parties. This scenario describes most, if not all, of the projects in which we have participated (as an IT consultant) in the past 18 months.
The new generation of agile, flexible collaboration tools has been a huge step forward for project collaboration, especially across groups, teams, and companies. The latest tools are democratized, and it is easy for nearly anyone to set up a project space for collaboration and sharing. Collaborating on documents such as deliverables, budgets, task lists, and other items is easier and more flexible than it has ever been, typically only requiring a web browser and allowing everyone to see each other’s edits in real time. However, at the same time, too much flexibility leads to workspace sprawl and ‘where was that document?’ syndrome. In addition, data security and confidentiality still must be maintained with rigor and careful decisions. While flexible tools have made collaboration more accessible, they have also increased the chance of confusion and mishap, at least occasionally.
My tips for other professionals are to select a tool that provides the rigor and features that your business requires. More centralized control, as opposed to decentralized freedom, may be appropriate for your organization, your clients, and the sensitivity of the data. Look for tools that enable reasonable integration of users both inside and outside the organization. If any key party in the project equation cannot use the tool, we are falling back to emailing around versions of documents and all the inefficiency that that process causes.
We are starting to see the next generation of flexible, web browser-based enterprise collaboration tools. They have the ease of use and utility that is important for their adoption by the organization. In the meantime, these tools are also incorporating the lessons learned from the previous generation.”
He says, “We work with many enterprise companies in Silicon Slopes. When it comes to collaboration, we like to think of ourselves as an extension of their marketing teams. Most of the time, our companies can't fulfill their needs on a monthly basis, which is why they hire us. We give them recommendations that either our team or their team can implement. They can range from on-site technical work to content recommendations and keywords."
“Sometimes it can be difficult to get things implemented. People have to go through hierarchies to get things approved, and getting things approved can take time, which slows down the process. I recommend that you set expectations early in the process. One of the biggest things that can get in the way of a strong campaign is not setting expectations that you can hit and excel beyond. I believe the future of enterprise collaboration is strong. Finding good help for in-house digital marketing is hard to come by. At an agency, we already have the pieces in place to hit the ground running.”
"Being a liaison between multiple teams requires a lot of collaboration. I think effective collaboration paves the path for efficiency and productivity. However, at the same time, you need to know who the necessary collaborators are. You do not want to have too many cooks in the kitchen. Even with email threads, if you are copied and are not part of the project, it can be a waste of your time. It is important to identify the optimal team members needed for any given project.
Even when you have the optimal team members looped in, sometimes over-collaboration can be restrictive. Collaboration should not feel like pestering. Nevertheless, there is a balance to strike. I do not know the answer to everything, so someone else's expertise might be key to answering my question. You should never be afraid to ask for help, but make sure to be considerate of the people who are trying to help you.
If you look at the most successful product companies, they have done a lot to solve collaboration or project management issues — especially between sales and marketing teams — because they see the value in it. At a very macro level, many collaboration challenges have been addressed. However, when you put your microscope on them, there are use cases, like the RFP world, that require a high level of collaboration. I think there will always be a market for connecting humans. Here are some of my other blogs on this topic: Why RFP Collaboration Is Just Better without Email and How an RFP Solution Greatly Improved Team Collaboration."
What Is an Enterprise Collaborative System?
An enterprise collaboration system (ECS) is a software system that you can use to unite your team’s projects and tasks. It can include different collaboration tools such as groupware, email, instant messaging, document dropboxes, and project management suites. These tools can come in the form of software or online services. The system can incorporate software, hardware, and internal and external networks. These platforms allow you to work together on the internet in real time. These capabilities differ from those offered by a web conference because they allow not only a discussion, but also the capacity to work on the same documents or presentations simultaneously. In order to be successful, you need a good software system that’s easy to use and set up. It should also be secure and have features that work for you. These features will differ among every team and project. For example, if you need to brainstorm, it’s important to have a tool with whiteboard functionality. A good enterprise system also has an intranet: A restricted, private network developed for internal communications. Intranets are either limited to a local area network (LAN) or accessible from remote locations via the internet. In order to access an intranet, you need login credentials.
In order for your company’s ECS adoption to be as successful as possible, experts recommend that you use your enterprise collaboration system alongside or in place of your existing business tools. For example, if you already have SharePoint, your users will be comfortable finding their projects’ user pages, documents, and tasks. If your professionals work well with SharePoint, you know that they will acclimate well to the new document management system in your ECS. Integration is not just about implementing new software: It is about using every platform at your disposal and making the transitions between them seamless.
The benefits of collaborative systems include user convenience, data protection, and a reasonable cost. A good platform will also offer your workers a high-quality experience. The integration should allow you to connect your current customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools with your new collaborative space. Your new platform should also be self-sustaining, and shouldn’t require any maintenance. With a system that runs itself, your users can employ a link to switch from their CRM and ERP opportunities and orders to their new collaborative space. Similarly, those professionals already in the new collaborative space have a direct link back to the opportunity or order. Users can see one another and the discussion history, but they’re not able to impede one another’s projects.
Data security needs arise as soon as you start collaborating with anyone outside of your intranet. You should implement your ECS in accordance with compliance regulations and your industry standards. Your data security usually depends on the access rights and permissions that you have granted to your users. If you perform your integration correctly, your various levels of access will transfer from one system to another. You should not have to reassess and reassign said levels. Still, integration may provide an appropriate time to reassess these.
Cost is an issue for every company, whether you are a startup or a large enterprise with excess spending capital. However, implementing an ECS will ultimately save you money, in some cases a significant amount. To save money immediately and avoid from-scratch development, choose a dedicated platform. A dedicated platform also allows you to revise the license purchase policy of your current systems. Instead of increasing your licensure to add additional personnel, you can decrease your current system licensure, so your staff can only access what they need. You do not need technical staff with licensure for CRM - you can limit your tech employees to your ECS. These kinds of adjustments will save you money immediately.
Some organizations still fail when they get the opportunity to implement and use ECS. This generally occurs when a company neglects to establish good communication between management and their employees. Management is the key here: If you remove ambiguity and increase transparency, your projects will not experience the setbacks commonly associated with unclear messaging. Finally, stick to your guns. Unless it is absolutely necessary, stay with the plans you have already made. Midstream indecision can seriously undermine your projects.
Resources for More Information on Enterprise Collaboration
The following books are valuable resources for enterprise collaboration and its implementation:
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