Digital collaboration tools have been around for years, however for a lot of businesses they have fallen under the radar until now.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many organisations have been forced to ask their employees to work from home. This has made these tools a necessity for businesses whose activities rely on collaboration between employees.
Finding the right collaborative solutions for your company depends on the unique structure and needs of your organisation. Here are some things to look out for when exploring the various tools currently available.
1. Understand your business needs
The immense number of collaboration software available today provides organisations with an overwhelming number of options. In order to narrow down these choices, managers should analyse the unique needs of the workplace and then select the most suitable solution that satisfies those needs.
This can be accomplished by interviewing employees and identifying areas in the collaborative process where they may experience difficulties. This allows staff to provide some valuable input during the selection process. The insight they provide could be useful in choosing the right collaboration tool.
A particular activity can be completed in a number of ways, so learning about each process from the employees themselves can reveal the best methods for completing them, and by connection – the best solutions for the job.
For example, an employee may experience difficulty explaining a spreadsheet to other staff over the phone. In this situation, the process could be sped up and made more accurate by using a collaboration tool that offers fast and high-quality screen sharing capabilities. Businesses could also use cloud-based spreadsheets in this situation that can be accessed and updated in real-time by employees.
Once the needs of the organisation have been identified, managers should seek out the software that offers the right features for meeting those needs. The goal of using these tools is to provide employees with a collaborative experience that is as efficient and accurate as face-to-face interactions, so it may require reviews of many different tools before they find the right one.
2. Check for software compatibility
Even after identifying the needs of the business, the collaboration tool options available may still be too large. In order to narrow down the range of options available, organisations should check to see which tools are actually compatible with the existing office and employee systems.
This could prove to be a challenge if the establishment is small and doesn’t have a dedicated IT team. Owners of small businesses could hire the services of managed IT service providers to take care of their IT functions and identify which tools are compatible with their existing systems.
Managed IT service providers can thoroughly vet these collaborative solutions and point out any difficulties or shortcomings that may be encountered when using them. Using certain software could lead to more issues, and these difficulties may require unique IT solutions. Townsville and Cairns organisations should be careful about investing in tools for remote collaboration before understanding their capabilities and limitations.
3. Try them beforehand
Many collaboration tool creators/providers offer trial versions of their software to allow people to try them out beforehand. These trial versions may come with full functionality or limited functionality that allow users to get a feel for the capabilities.
Managers should help their employees get acquainted with these tools by having them try them out on small non-risky projects. These staff members can then provide feedback on their experience using these tools, and help identify the limitations and shortcomings of each one when performing routine business activities.
4. Availability of support services
Most collaborative software solutions offer some form of support services. However, the quality and availability of these services can differ greatly between manufacturers.
While some offer 24/7 support services, others may provide support services only during business hours on weekdays. Managers should consider whether their team will require out of hours support as it may come at a higher cost.
Organisations should also look at the types of support services that these providers are offering. Some may offer to send staff to set up the collaboration software and/or troubleshoot any problems that users encounter while using them, whereas other providers may offer support only over the phone and leave the actual troubleshooting to the business’s IT department with access to limited IT solutions.
Townsville and Cairns businesses may already have their resources stretched thin due to the pandemic, so they should go with a collaboration tool provider that offers comprehensive support services for their product
5. Think about future needs
The current pandemic conditions are expected to be the new “normal” for the next year or so. This is why all businesses should start thinking about long term strategies that include the use of these platforms, especially if they have plans to expand in the near future.
Businesses often develop newer needs as they grow. These future needs may have to be satisfied with the collaboration tools that are being purchased in the present. It may be possible for the organisation to switch to using other collaborative solutions in the future, but this switch could slow down growth while employees familiarise themselves with the new software.
If business owners can anticipate their future needs and select a collaborative solution in the present that is based on those needs, they won’t have to worry about their staff having to learn new software.
It is important to remember that the most expensive solution may not necessarily be the most effective one for your business. Managers should be wary of any collaboration tool providers with flashy websites, as quality marketing may not necessarily equate to quality products.
In summary, before purchasing a collaboration tool for remote teams, assess the needs of the business, narrow down the list of software available based on user experience and compatibility, and make a choice that can benefit them in the future as well.
Andrew Bischof is the Owner/Director of Future Computers, an IT solutions provider in North Queensland. His dream of working in IT became a reality when he moved to Cairns and took over Future Computers in 2003. Since then, he has been providing IT Solutions in Townsville, Cairns and North Queensland. His goal is to provide clients with IT solutions that surprise, inspire and delight.