Female technology worker at PC, frustrated by collaboration tool
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Real-time collaboration in the enterprise sometimes leads to real-time headaches. Collaboration tool provider RingCentral released a survey this month of 2,000 knowledge workers that found most workers use an average of four collaboration tool applications — those used for communications. And the tools aren't exactly creating any mind-boggling time-savings or production increases. According to the same survey, 69 percent of workers waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps. These tools were supposed to save time, not waste it. What’s happening? 

Often, it’s poor strategy — or lack of a strategy at all — and not the collaboration tool technology itself that lead to problems. Experts told CMSWire that most organizations fail to keep the employee in mind when implementing a collaboration tool in the enterprise, which can lead to notification overload and fragmentation of information. We’ve compiled a list reasons why your organization may not be getting the most out of its collaboration tools and strategy.

Lack of a Central Collaboration Tool Strategy

The struggle with collaboration tool ineffectiveness traces back to organizations falling in love with “best of breed” functional cloud applications (recruiting, performance, learning, etc.) that automated previous manual or back office processes and made employee self-service possible, according to Christa Manning, vice president and solution provider research leader at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

"...too often there was no central strategy or governance around the aggregate ‘asks’ of workers or acknowledgement that the constant innovation that software-as-a-service in the cloud promises may lead to overwhelmed employees,” she said.

Related Article: Real-Time Collaboration: Know Your Priorities

No Feedback From Employees

How can you recognize your collaboration tool problems without picking the brains of the key stakeholders, your employees? Sean Nolan, CEO of Blink, said organizations often forget to gain access to qualitative data. They don't implement feedback mechanisms such as a regular employee survey that asks about impact on culture, openness, collaboration between colleagues and personal productivity.

Forward-thinking organizations include leadership that starts with the employee’s needs and the recognition that existing in-house tools and strategies may be the way to go, according to Ben Whitter, founder and CEO of the World Employee Experience Institute. Employee-led initiatives can be the most successful because they lay the perfect groundwork for what people need to get their jobs done. But it doesn’t happen enough. Organizations often don’t get the desired outcomes from collaboration tools because “all that great foundational work hasn't taken place from the outset,” Whitter said. “So you end up with a myriad of different tools and technologies and employees are saying, ‘Where do we go for our information?’ They will be confused.

Undefined or Weakly Defined KPIs

From a quantitative perspective, organizations get into trouble when they don’t look for the quantitative impact that collaboration tools have on team KPIs, Nolan said. It’s a perfect opportunity to ask questions like, "When we implemented our team chat product for our customer support system, did time to accept reduce? Did our DevOps team’s time to fix incidents reduce when we added a link between our monitoring tool and our messaging tool?" 

Lack of User Training

Realize this, some of your employees will like your collaboration tools, some of them won't, according to Nolan. Some people will use the collaboration tools effectively, some people will misuse them. Organizations that don’t have strong training programs — and agreed-upon best practices — for their enterprise software tools can see problems arise quickly, Nolan said. This could also be another opportunity to gain insight into how employees want to collaborate in the first place.

Related Article: Is Real-Time Collaboration a Real Thing?

Forced Collaboration on Employees

Some organizations fail to recognize that many employees may not want to be constantly interrupted with real-time notifications. Organizations don’t know what’s important to each employee and therefore could waste seats — and money — on their collaboration tool. “There is pushback on some of those collaboration tools … from people saying, ‘I just don't want to be this connected. It's not necessarily productive of me to be notified this much and informed in real time about all these things.' A lot of people only need information in periodic summaries that aren't necessarily needing to be in the moment,” said Nolan.