diverse group of people
There is a big difference between corporate deployment and end user adoption of collaboration apps. PHOTO: Rawpixel

Businesses are increasingly embracing enterprise messaging and team collaboration applications – with little sign of slowing down.

A December 2016 report by G2 Crowd found more than half of companies have implemented team collaboration solutions, and 31 percent plan to adopt one in the next two years.

But as is the case with most emerging applications and services, there is a big difference between corporate deployment and end user adoption.

G2 Crowd noted in the report that getting employees to actively use point team collaboration tools is a work in progress. Most haven’t eclipsed 75 percent user adoption.

To accelerate user adoption of team collaboration solutions and ensure that businesses can extract the full workforce productivity benefits they can deliver going forward, there are four capabilities these solutions must deliver.

Artificial Intelligence

Many businesses viewed point enterprise messaging applications as an elixir to free workforces from the crush of emails and its impact on productivity.

But it is quickly becoming apparent that this approach simply swaps one problem for another because most enterprise messaging and collaboration solutions place the burden squarely on workers to manually filter the influx of content, communications and notifications.

G2 Crowd’s chief research officer Michael Fauscette, commenting on the previously referenced survey results, said collaboration tool users can maximize the benefits if they are well informed on how to filter notifications and content But artificial Intelligence (AI) may address pain points quicker and more effectively:

"If I can teach a machine what I am interested in in various contexts then it can filter information for me. AI is great for filtering and I think that this is the way that things will have to go."

AI addresses many productivity pain points — particularly the amount of time workers must dedicate each day to the “orchestration” of work, rather than the work itself.

The average worker spends two hours per day just recovering from distractions, 31 hours in unproductive meetings each month, and checks their email 36 times per hour — unproductive time that cuts into the bottom line and workforce efficiency.

Built-in AI upends the productivity time suck. For example, the ability to search through all a business user’s cloud applications to find the documents, messages, social profiles and any content relevant to the conversation or meeting they’re having enables workers to collaborate effectively within one application while having the relevant content at their fingertips, reducing distractions and loss of productivity that can result from failed attempts to multi-task.

End-to-End Integration

The benefits of point applications — whether for messaging, project management, unified communications, human resources, etc. — have yet to be fully realized because businesses are too often relegated to adding individual apps that don’t integrate with one another.

Today’s enterprise software applications have evolved over time from enterprise resource planning software to functional business applications that aren’t built to manage collaborative workflows that cross teams, functions and application boundaries. Built for accomplishing highly structured or specialized transactional flows, they fall down when attempting to support the day-to-day work that surrounds their use.

Historically, these applications were built to manage various functions, but little attention was paid to building the “glue” to tie it all together. Being able to think about team collaboration not just as another capability but also as the glue holds the potential to solve this long-standing challenge.

Take, for example, a salesperson using a CRM application to manage a potential opportunity. That same employee will need to interact with marketing for messaging around the sale; finance to price the deal; contracts to negotiate the terms; and product management to get the specifications of the solution or product being sold.

Each one of these interactions involves touching different business applications, utilizing different types of work products and supporting cross-functional workflows that cannot be handled by the CRM system alone. This makes it difficult and time consuming to get work done.

This scenario identifies the need for a single end-to-end application that integrates cross-functional workflows and applications around specific work goals. Connecting not only people to people but also people to applications.

That way, the worker in the above example could complete all work in one easily organized space where she could find, share and edit all relevant information and tasks. Team collaboration that integrates end-to-end into business workflows can become the glue to coordinate each of these activities cross function and cross application.

Apps Beyond Messaging

Lightweight chat applications spawned from consumer messaging platforms with user bases that didn’t need real-work capabilities will not be sufficient for the business market. Workforces are different beasts and solutions must respond accordingly.

As a result, we are already seeing a shift of sorts from enterprise messaging apps to team collaboration solutions that add or integrate capabilities such as voice, video, project and task management, file sharing, note taking, etc. This is a response to a clear signal from business users that narrowly focused enterprise messaging apps built to simply “replace email” is not going to move the needle.

The fact is that today’s applications manage just one aspect of work — communications, tasks, or content — leaving teams disconnected from real-time work conversations or separating them from the flow of work content and information.

Accelerating user adoption requires a more comprehensive team collaboration solution, so that all the tasks, projects, files, messages and notes a user needs are in one place, along with in-demand capabilities such as video conferencing, click-to-call, screen sharing and as discussed earlier integrations with business apps.

Enhance Personal Productivity

Technology is enabling and improving team collaboration amongst colleagues, clients and partners, but if you dissect the typical workday as much of it is spent on personal or 1x1 work.

For that reason, collaboration solutions cannot ignore personal productivity capabilities. Think about how much time is spent organizing your tasks, files and apps to accomplish everyday goals.

Today’s knowledge workers need an ability to effortlessly transition from an individual context to one where they are interacting with others. They should be able to holistically organize and review information in one place, regardless of whether it originated as part of a group effort or a personal goal.

Unfortunately, most team collaboration applications today ignore the individual, causing needles switching between a business user’s personal productivity applications and team collaboration apps — in the process draining productivity as information needs to be transferred from one context to another.

Imagine, instead, the ability to segue effortlessly from individual, to 1:1, to teamwork — all along having the information you need at your fingertips.

Point messaging applications deployed across workforces today do not represent the final destination when it comes to enterprise communication and collaboration. Instead, they are a steppingstone towards solutions able to fully maximize workforce productivity and accelerate user adoption.