Enterprise Collaboration System (ECS)
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.
With an enterprise collaboration system,
- multiple workers in different departments can communicate and share documents at the same time
- employees can perform tasks in minutes that used to take hours
- all documents, job tasks, and communication needs are in one place
In order for a 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. Integration is not just about implementing new software: It is about using every platform at your disposal and making the transitions between them seamless.
Enterprise Collaboration Systems & Tools
There are plenty of enterprise collaboration systems and tools that your business can choose to adopt in the workplace. Pending what your goals and needs are for your business, some tools will be essential where others will not. Too many systems can cause a lack of adoption, frustration, and a waste of time and money. Yet, not having the right ones can also have a similar effect. Luckily, most technologies integrate with one another and many accomplish multiple things. Let’s examine a few examples of tools used for enterprise collaboration.
- Slack: By now you probably use or at least heard of Slack, an instant messaging collaboration tool used by many workplaces. This product is used to keep teams connected no matter their location with instant messaging, instead of through email. Slack has tons of features like group threads for specific teams or reasons, search to easily find past conversations, file sharing, video and call capabilities, and tons of integrations.
- Asana: There are plenty of project management tools out there, but these are also perfect additions for enterprise collaboration. Asana is a popular task and project management tool (and one I’ve used often) to keep project workflows moving. Besides assigning tasks and managing your projects, you have a feed on project statuses. Employees and team leaders can see due dates, comments, and feedback, and collaborate on any necessary work that needs to be done. You can also save or archive completed projects to look back and see what worked or what didn’t.
- EveryoneSocial: McKinsey estimates $900 million – 1.3 Trillion in business value is unlocked through social networking tools and technologies. Social enterprise collaboration is growing, but we could similarly call this employee advocacy. This allows employees access to all the great company content, industry news, job hiring info, and personal interest content, while communicating and sharing information with each other. Yet, employees can also share that content with their social networks through the desktop platform or mobile apps, creating a powerful brand reach, while also building trust among their professional peers. Many individual departments use EveryoneSocial for the above and other various needs. But companies are also now rolling EveryoneSocial out enterprise-wide to keep the entire organization informed and collaborating.
- Google Docs/Sheets: Google Docs brings any of your documents to life with simple, yet smart editing and styling tools to help you easily format text and paragraphs. Your team can work together at the same time, no matter where. But we all know Google and probably have used Google Docs or Google Sheets in some way. Yet, their free collaborative tools are perfect to work together in real-time. Whether that is putting content together, a new strategy, data, charts, etc. Other smart features like the “comment” option let editors highlight phrases to easily leave feedback. Or the “suggesting,” option makes it simple for team members to suggest changes to the text that the author can review and accept or deny. It’s become the go-to source for organizing documents and working on ideas collaboratively.
Features of an Enterprise Collaboration System
- Chat and Instant Messaging: Chat and instant messaging features in Microsoft 365 help with enterprise collaboration by providing users with powerful tools to communicate easily. Skype allows users to send instant messages from any smart device, make audio or video calls, and exchange information freely. Microsoft Teams offers even more capabilities - up to 300 participants in a call, and access to all other Office 365 programs from the Hub. These features allow teams to collaborate more efficiently while also strengthening relationships between individuals and organizations.
- File Sharing: An enterprise collaboration system such as Dropbox helps businesses with file sharing by providing a central location to store, manage, and share documents. It allows teams to access files without having to switch between different applications and also lets users connect their workspace with popular tools like Slack and Zoom. Moreover, an enterprise collaboration system can apply metadata to each file for easier tracking and filtering.
- Teamwork Tools: There are many kinds of teamwork tools available for enterprise collaboration systems, including:
- Chat apps and tools: These provide a way for teams to communicate quickly and easily in real-time. They can also be used for brainstorming, sharing files or documents, and more. Examples include Slack, Skype Chat, and Google Hangouts Chat.
- Collaboration platforms: These allow teams to work together on projects by providing document editing capabilities, task management tools and more. Examples include Asana, Trello, and Google Drive.
- Video conferencing services: These allow users to have video calls with one another in order to discuss projects or issues face-to-face without having to travel long distances between locations.
- Meeting Rooms: There are several types of meeting rooms available for an enterprise collaboration system, including:
- Dedicated Space: 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.
- Psychological Workspace: A culture where team members are encouraged to communicate freely, without fear of repercussions from their peers or superiors.
- Virtual Conferencing Software: Programs such as Zoom that allow you to hold virtual meetings in real-time and share your screen with others during sessions.
- Database Information Systems: Database information systems offer a variety of features for enterprises, including:
- High availability and scalability to ensure maximum performance and efficiency.
- Security features such as encryption, authentication, and authorization to protect data.
- Replication capabilities to ensure continuity in case of disaster or outage.
- Integration with other systems (e.g., ERP) for seamless data exchange and workflow automation.
- Reporting tools to analyze data trends and make better business decisions.
- Workflow Automation Software: Workflow automation software is a software platform that allows users to create dynamic forms and set up sophisticated workflows for any business process. It includes an extensive library of templates that allow you to streamline and automate processes such as purchase orders, expense claims, travel requests, employee onboarding, procurement management, and more. Getting started is as simple as installing a template and customizing it to fit your needs. You can also use the no-code platform to create your own workflows from scratch with basic forms, dynamic routing rules, and connections with SQL databases or Active Directory systems. All forms are mobile-friendly so team members can get work done from any device.
- Enterprise Social Networks: Enterprise social networks allow teams to connect, communicate, and cooperate more easily. They provide features such as discussions, file sharing and collaboration, video calls, event scheduling, task management tools, and more. An enterprise collaboration system can integrate with an enterprise social network to extend its functions and make for a more streamlined digital workplace. For example, an enterprise collaboration system could use the information from an enterprise social network to automatically create tasks for team members based on their conversations or updates in shared documents/files.
Enterprise Collaboration System Vs. Enterprise Collaboration Software
The terms “enterprise collaboration system” and “enterprise collaboration software” are often used interchangeably. When you’re talking about an enterprise collaboration system, you expect it to make use of the software. On an enterprise level, collaborating without software simply isn’t practical. Enterprise collaboration software is what brings employees together across different teams and locations, allowing everyone to easily collaborate within a unified digital workplace. But here’s why it can be useful to distinguish the system from the software:
- If you think of systems as existing independently of software, you can start with the system that suits a company’s unique needs. Factors like the number of employees, expected outcomes, and workflows all play a role in what would be the ideal system for that company.
- A company that uses software that isn’t suited to its ideal system is not going to maximize its collaborative potential.
- On the other hand, a company that starts by analyzing what its collaboration system looks like currently – and how it could improve – is in a more informed position to choose the right software.
Enterprise Collaboration Systems: Benefits
Here are the key benefits that an enterprise collaboration system brings to the workplace.
- Facilitates communication: An enterprise collaboration system has communication technology like private messaging or channels where employees can post comments. These work across departments, which means human resources can send private messages to accounting. And accounting can post a comment to communicate with purchasing and inventory. And so on. This ultimately simplifies and promotes communication. Instead of using multiple methods of communication–emailing, faxing, talking in person – employees use a single tool where all communication takes place. This also avoids using middlemen when communicating: an employee emails a supervisor, who talks to another department head, who assigns the task to someone in that department, and who contacts the employee. That may take a long time and something may get lost in translation. With collaboration software, the employee can ask the right person directly and receive a response in minutes. Talking with coworkers is fast, easy, and less frustrating.
- Coordinates dispersed workers: An enterprise collaboration system allows multiple employees to work on a single project at the same time. Assigned workers have access to documents, messages, and tasks. As they make changes, the information is updated in real-time. This empowers businesses to coordinate remote workers or multiple departments when managing complex projects.
- Streamlines work: An enterprise collaboration system removes roadblocks that slow down work. For example, instead of faxing or hand-delivering a document, give the employee access to the file on your system. Or let’s say you want an update on what every department is doing. Instead of asking for reports, you can log into an ECS and see what everyone is working on. Need to find a specific document in a mountain of papers? With an ECS, you can search for content across all channels. Do you want to take a poll on where the employees want to have the company picnic this year? On an ECS, you can quickly create and post a survey that gives you real-time results.
Enterprise Collaboration Systems: Challenges
The challenges of enterprise collaboration systems include:
- Lack of communication and transparency between departments and teams.
- Difficulty in finding the right people to collaborate with or getting access to the right information.
- Difficulties in tracking changes to documents, files, and other shared resources.
- Slow response times due to overloaded email inboxes or poor quality of online meetings/video calls.
- Issues with security and privacy when sharing sensitive data or information over a digital platform.