Enterprise Collaboration

What is Enterprise Collaboration?

Enterprise Collaboration is a way to describe how people communicate and share knowledge within their organization. It streamlines work processes to help teams and groups communicate and share information, such as content management, project management, and communication.

Enterprise collaboration software can act as both an intranet (a private website for employees of an organization) or an extranet (a public website that allows external users access to certain parts of the site). It helps employees work together more efficiently by increasing knowledge sharing, and information gathering and enabling them to work on projects no matter their location. This can be done through various tools such as social networking platforms or web-based applications. Additionally, enterprise collaboration helps increase productivity among workers as well as reduce costly mistakes due to better communication between team members.

Types of Enterprise Collaboration[1]

There are two types of enterprise collaboration:

  • Internal enterprise collaboration: Internal enterprise collaboration happens within the workspace of the organization and it helps in bringing together all the employees. As the main benchmark for enterprise collaboration, it is the key to efficiency in organizations. It allows employees to stay connected and informed by ensuring seamless communication.
  • External enterprise collaboration: External enterprise collaboration happens mostly on social media platforms among employees, consumers, and brands. It can also take place between companies that need to collaborate with each other in order to work together on products or services.

Effective Enterprise Collaboration Strategies[2]

Leaders don’t have to have a large budget to create a collaborative workspace—improving established processes and fostering an open work environment are good starting points.

  • Create a central project repository: A central repository for all project-related information can go a long way toward fostering team collaboration. This can be in the form of a shared drive, intranet site, or online project management (PM) apps. Having a central repository makes sure that everyone has access to the latest version of project documents and that no important information gets lost in the shuffle. Many PM tools can notify team members whenever someone submits a deliverable.
  • Establish clear communication guidelines: Organizations should create firm guidelines for how different teams should communicate with each other. For instance, you set up standard operating procedures (SOPs) for project execution or establish regular check-ins and progress reports. It also helps to establish clear lines of communication, set up regular meetings, and create clear roles and responsibilities. By implementing guidelines, you make sure that everyone is on the same page and that projects are moving forward in a coordinated way. There should also be guidelines for upward communication so that senior management is kept informed of project progress and is aware of potential problems that may need their attention.
  • Encourage team communication: There are many reasons why open team communication is important: people can bounce ideas off one another and get creative, for instance. Or they might need help getting something done. Perhaps they need another set of eyes to double-check their work. Set up regular meetings between teams and stakeholders (both in person and online). Establish channels of communication (e.g. email, instant messaging, video conferencing) and policies around their use. Encourage informal interactions between employees. When team members feel like they can freely communicate with one another, it helps to build trust and foster a more collaborative environment. That’s why Dialpad makes it easy to reach out to other employees. In Dialpad, any end user can open a conversation with another simply by sending a DM. If the conversation is more involved and chat is more appropriate, they can easily jump into a voice conversation or video meeting–all through the same interface.
  • Create a (physical or virtual) collaboration space: Sometimes a change in environment can help better interaction and engagement between team members. Consider creating a dedicated space for your staff to collaborate (like a "war room"). This can be a converted conference room where different departments can come together to work on the same projects or a dedicated online meeting room for remote employees to connect. This is done in Dialpad by using the Sidebar feature. This sidebar gives you access controls for calls, messages, and meetings. You’ll also have quick access to your messages inbox, listed contacts, and any shared phone lines that you’re assigned to. It also displays the names of employees you’ve recently messaged and any channels to which you’re currently subscribed. Apart from the physical workspace, one of your priorities should also be to create a psychological workspace where such interactions can happen. Foster a culture where team members are encouraged to communicate freely. Individuals shouldn't be afraid to give their input on a project, no matter who they are and who they're saying it to.
  • Invest in enterprise collaboration tools: Your choice of software can also go a long way towards improving inter-team cooperation. There are many kinds of apps and tools, each with its own unique capabilities, that can facilitate collaboration with teams.

Tips for Creating an Enterprise Collaboration Strategy[3]

While creating an effective enterprise collaboration strategy, it's helpful to ensure employees can understand changes in the organization and how to use new technology. Here are some tips to ensure the effortless adoption of enterprise collaboration:

  • Ensure employees are ready for the changes: Before you introduce a new strategy, communicate with your colleagues and determine if they're ready for something new. You may want to learn if they're adept at the new strategy, logistically and culturally.
  • Have clear goals and processes: Establish what challenges ECS can address within the organization, including what improvements it may bring for the company and the employees. Clear communication helps teams understand why the change is important.
  • Keep your employees informed and prepared: It's important to provide training wherever required. When employees are clear, convinced and comfortable, transitioning can be simple.
  • Track results: Maintain a record of any visible changes after ECS implementation, including improved communication and collaboration. Consider defining a specific measure value to better evaluate the impact.
  • Build focused groups to look into the ECS: A dedicated team helps in adequately introducing the practices across the organization. This team can help with strategizing, structuring, executing, evaluating and driving community engagement.
  • Be wise in making your choices: There's no lack of choices when it comes to the available tools for ECS. Study the goals, objectives, processes, employee culture, and technologies used previously, then make a choice based on your organization's needs.

Enterprise Collaboration Best Practices[4]

With a well-considered plan and strategic approach, any enterprise can ensure success with collaboration. Here are the best practices for addressing the processes and technologies that enable enterprise collaboration.

  • Processes: The challenge for IT leaders is ensuring adoption. The success of new technology depends on the satisfaction of employees who use it. With that in mind, IT leaders should:
    • Survey users - Employees won’t adopt a new collaboration platform if it doesn’t meet their needs so determine the modes of communication your workforce already prefers and uses. List the ways they collaborate and the tools they use (even if unsanctioned) --- and in use to determine their needs. For example, do they just need to have a quick conversation with someone in another country? Or do they need the ability to share and mark up content in real-time with a dispersed team?
    • Complement what’s already in place - It’s challenging to get people to change their behaviors so choose a solution that is easy to learn and use and provides a great experience in the context of how work is already handled.
  • Technologies: Today’s generation cut their teeth on consumer-grade tools like WhatsApp and Skype which are elegant and easy to use. This “app generation” carries these same expectations to work. And it can and will get the tools it wants if enterprise tools aren’t good enough. At the same time, companies need a greater degree of flexibility and connectivity between different technologies and across the organization in terms of support for communications and collaboration. To that end, they need to resolve their technology silos and overlaps. Doing so will reduce significant frustration and expense. Voice, text, and video are the three pillars of today’s communication experience. For all three to live up to their potential, they need to work together in harmony. The combination of voice, video, and messaging – where the different types of functionality are incorporated into a common software experience – enables an improved end-user experience. An end user can send group messages, place voice calls, and conduct video collaboration sessions all from within the same software client. One client covering multiple interaction modes minimizes the friction that typically comes with shifting between different communications channels. Enterprise collaboration also calls upon tools that enable knowledge management, content management, and social enterprise (such as LinkedIn, Facebook for Work, Yammer, Jive, etc.). Companies must also recognize that many enterprise workers also live in CRM and other apps, while line-of-business or departmental users rely upon apps that support their specific needs, such as Zendesk for customer support. Data stored in these other enterprise applications can prove valuable when accessed by the rest of the organization. For instance, if a customer contacts the finance department about a billing issue, it might be insightful for the accounts payable rep to see that the customer has an open ticket with the support group. Within all of these apps, the ability to smoothly interact around content and move from the idea phase to the delivery of a product or service is key. To that end, IT needs to figure out:
  • Devise a Plan: Once the IT group has conducted its due diligence and researched and documented existing processes and needs, it’s time to put in place a thoughtful plan to displace existing tools and approaches. On a basic level, IT needs to think through how to activate the new enterprise collaboration service, which on a certain level requires them to take on the role of marketing to drive interest and buy-in. While it’s easy to think the process will be simple when the solution is in the cloud, rolling out to a larger enterprise still requires careful planning.
    • Audit to determine the types of devices that must be integrated with the new solution.
    • Develop a detailed project plan, covering rollout to a small group to build internal champions, training sessions, and marketing materials for communicating the new approach.
    • Think through what is being used today and how to bridge it with enterprise collaboration. The IT group may need to reimagine collaboration rather than just replace the existing technology.
    • Partner with a vendor that will help facilitate adoption. The more the enterprise can partner with the vendor, the better and smoother the experience.
    • Find champions to drive adoption. Identify key influencers within the company who embrace enterprise collaboration but are in groups not usually associated with technology adoption, such as HR, finance, and others. Make them part of the deployment process and tap into them as evangelists for adoption.

It is not about what communication methods the enterprise chooses, but how easily employees can move between those methods. The ability to seamlessly transition from one communication preference to another will encourage workers to use the tools available to change the way people work – for the better.

Benefits of Enterprise Collaboration[5]

Enterprise collaboration is becoming more important as modern workspaces grow increasingly complex. Some of the benefits are described below:

  • Improves Productivity: Nothing hurts productivity more than wasting hours trying to find the information you need for your work. An estimated 54% of employees say they spend more time searching for documents than replying to emails. Enterprise collaboration enables you to centralize your documents. Instead of wasting time searching for the information they need, employees can focus on more productive work. Collaboration platforms can actually drive a 10% increase in productivity — equating to four hours per 40-hour week.
  • Increases Employee Engagement: Research shows that 54% of employees aren’t engaged at work. Performing repetitive and mundane work is one contributing factor to these engagement rates. Workflow automation software can limit the amount of time employees spend on repetitive tasks like manual data entry. By providing employees with the means to focus on more challenging work, you can increase overall engagement.
  • Enhances Transparency: Enterprise collaboration drives personal accountability, as it allows employees to track their work and see how their contributions impact a project. It also enables managers to stay on their team’s work without micromanaging. This helps to create a culture of trust between management and employees.
  • Improves Communication: The global pandemic created numerous communication challenges. No longer could you walk down to your co-worker’s desk to clarify certain details. Nor could you leave a sticky note on someone’s desk to follow up on a task. Enterprise collaboration helps your team stay connected — something that’s becoming more important as teams increasingly work in different locations and time zones. Instead of sending a group email and waiting hours (or even longer), you could send a quick message through real-time messaging apps and get a response much sooner.
  • Boosts Your Bottom Line: When you provide collaborative workspaces for your employees, they can work more productively and focus on the tasks that improve your bottom line. That was the case for Activ8. Activ8 had a process to assess solar readiness for its customers. A salesperson would fill out and mail forms back to the office to determine eligibility. But missing forms and data entry mistakes would slow down this process. To streamline this process, Active8 used enterprise collaboration software to create customer order workflows that could be completed by sales representatives while using tablets in the field. Sales representatives can now provide accurate estimates and have customers electronically sign agreements and submit payments on the spot. Activ8 can close sales faster thanks to the customer order workflow.

Challenges of Enterprise Collaboration[6]

Saying you want more collaboration within an enterprise is easier said than done. With hundreds to thousands of people at different locations, some working remotely, implementing a communications and collaboration strategy presents several challenges, including:

  • Email overload: Email has traditionally been the backbone of corporate communications. You want documentation and a paper trail of all relevant communications; you want everything in email. However, email is not an infallible tool, and there are so many ways for the email thread to diverge and get lost, resulting in miscommunication. Just one person forgetting to reply to all or another person creating an entirely separate email thread derails the whole thing. It is easy to see employees getting overwhelmed.
  • Siloed environment: As said above, most corporate situations have different departments set up independently. The employees within those departments have their own goals and workflows That is why they are not used to working with people outside their departments. They often have different ways of doing things, and it’s challenging to integrate goals and business processes.
  • Lack of tracking and monitoring: When there is no system in place, you get confusion instead of collaborative work. Who is doing what? When is the deadline? Who is managing the whole thing? These are signs that there is no transparent system in place. Without the ability to track, monitor, and hold people accountable, project management becomes next to impossible. Employees will either be overworked or underutilized, which results in stress for everyone involved and a very unproductive work environment.
  • Difficulty in sharing files and data: Each department has its files and data, and without the ability to share information outside the department, there is no collaboration. There should be a system that allows for the easy sharing of knowledge and information.
  • Different business software and platforms: Communications and collaboration software makes it easier for each team to be more productive and efficient in their tasks. However, if each team is using different tools and platforms, it can result in disparate solutions that don’t work with each other. What you get are incompatible systems that will take a lot of time to integrate with each other—time better spent on actual work.

Industry Advances Have Encouraged Enterprise Collaboration[7]

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.

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.

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 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.

See Also

Enterprise Collaboration System (ECS)