mixing console
There's never been a better — or more confusing — time in enterprise collaboration. PHOTO: John Hult

Upgrade, augment or replace? 

There’s never been a better — or more confusing — time in enterprise collaboration. With stalwart vendors continually adding to their suites and new players entering the space every day, it seems that most businesses should be able to find the ideal application to meet their needs. 

Making Sense of a Complex Collaboration Landscape

Yet, even as leaders unanimously acknowledge the importance of such a tool within their organizations, there’s little consensus about which choice is the right choice. While making the wrong decision might be costly, opting to do nothing constrains competitiveness and dims the prospect of future success. 

Amid all of the turmoil that comes with fragmented business communications and collaboration, one way has emerged that turns it into a competitive advantage.

Neither document-centric solution such as Microsoft’s Office 365 or SharePoint, nor conversation-based tools like Slack or Facebook’s Workplace can address all of the collaboration needs across an enterprise. As a result, companies are opting for an activity hub approach. 

An activity hub integrates across all of a company's most useful apps (and, perhaps more importantly, the ones that employees are already familiar with). Unlike systems that force companies into a single vendor’s stack or messaging apps that create more silos than they eliminate, a hub experience allows people to work together using what they want, thus taking advantage of each person’s individual workstyle.

The Collaboration Hub of the Future

If you’re planning to introduce a collaboration hub in your organization (or if you’re underutilizing your current intranet and want to evolve it to become more interactive), you'll need to consider a few key attributes. 

A hub should support:

Working Anywhere

Today's workforce is mobile. 

Whether your employees are at their desks, working from home or en route to a meeting with a client halfway around the globe, they still need access to the tools, content and people in your organization, regardless what device they're using. 

For example, a modern mobile intranet must go well beyond content consumption. That’s why a hub platform should offer mobile capabilities that include robust functionality for document creation and collaboration, as well as universal search capabilities. 

In other words, employees need full-blown work apps that allow them to be productive no matter where they happen to be.

Flexible Borders

In today’s hyper-connected work world, a hub platform that seamlessly integrates with outside affiliates’ systems is a must have. 

Employees are no longer your sole consideration with enterprise collaboration solutions. Increasingly, people need to also work with contractors, freelancers, partners and customers, each of whom relies on his or her own preferred set of tools and services. 

Modern digital workplaces are made up of solutions for CRM, cloud storage, document creation and other. In this atmosphere, choice is the key to successful cross-border collaboration. 

Search

The inability to find content is a major pain point for many companies, compounded by the fact that most data is siloed across systems, departments, individuals, emails and message threads. By utilizing universal search across the entire work graph — the underlying set of connections that exist between people in different contexts — a collaboration hub surfaces hard-to-find data within the organization. 

Federated search capabilities also extend the existing social graph to include not only content, but also people and places (contextualized into “work streams”) in a way that provides insights into the relationships between individuals and the content they interact with, further driving recommendations and search relevance.

People Centricity

To succeed, a collaboration ecosystem must put people at the center. While CRM software, BPM solutions and ERP systems are adept at handling routine tasks, business innovation depends on people performing department-spanning work across systems. 

It’s these non-routine tasks that will define the future of work. Backed by people analytics, a collaboration hub helps make content, places and colleagues visible so that the work that’s being done reaches and impacts the people it is intended for. Improved discovery should ensure that valuable corporate memory won’t be lost when employees change jobs or retire.

It All Comes Down to Your Collaboration Mix

The enterprise collaboration space is more vibrant than ever. 

Many of the solutions available today supply exactly what your business needs, but unfortunately, not all of your needs. 

As organizational boundaries become increasingly permeable, most enterprise companies are becoming an extended network of employees, partners and customers. By bringing together this collection of internal and external members with the best parts of tools you’re already using you’ll continue to further your business goals. Putting a work hub at the center helps your people become more efficient, productive and happier. 

Upgrade, augment or replace? A collaboration hub makes the question mute. Today, with work evolving faster than the org chart, the answer isn’t to find the right solution, it’s to find the right mix.