tailor fitting a jacket
PHOTO: rawpixel

Online collaboration tools are disrupting the workplace. While some bleeding-edge organizations jumped out in front and embraced this technology early, others are now finding that it’s necessary to adopt new collaboration tools or get left behind.

Some big companies use collaboration tools to create digital workplaces that bring together multinational teams from offices around the world, while many smaller organizations just use them to help people work more efficiently. But most digital workplaces have a common purpose: to enable knowledge workers to work with colleagues and partners anywhere, with any device.

Many collaboration software tools are designed to enable in-time collaboration and provide contextual reference to the files and artifacts knowledge workers create daily. It has become easier for people to collaborate and innovate now that they are using tools that link communication, events and data with the content and decisions their teams produce.

Today's Collaboration Tools: Better, Faster, Lighter

The content management systems available from 2000 to 2010 or so tended to be heavyweight, hard to use and hard to develop. Moreover, the content management processes they supported were intentionally rigid. 

Where rigidity was the norm in the 2000s, democratization and ease of use in collaboration and content management have become the norm today. The concepts of productivity and in-time communication are now embedded in the very design of many collaboration tools. New approaches to the design of content management tools have led to a generation of technology that is better, faster and lighter.

Today, collaboration tools for the digital workplace are easier and cheaper to deploy, and they are accessible to both large global corporations and small companies alike. While these tools are indeed easy to deploy from a technical standpoint, they often are not truly rolled out and embraced throughout the entire organization. Many collaboration tools were designed to be industry-agnostic, and companies are left to create the “why” and the “how” for their user groups — to connect the dots that lead to practical application. They disrupt the workplace because rolling them out involves finding a way to align the new tool to the user journey by defining the actual process by which employees will use the new tool to collaborate.

Related Article: How to Apply Governance to Your Collaboration Tools

Microsoft Teams: Changing the Face of Collaboration

Microsoft Teams is one collaboration tool that is disrupting organizations around the world. It supports in-time communication through persistent chat, as well as file and content management and storage, and the ability to align third-party business applications and data into one common interface.

Microsoft Teams is not hard to deploy, but connecting the dots and defining the user journey that supports improved productivity can be challenging. A customer profile on Microsoft’s website discusses how auto racing teams at Hendricks Motorsports use Microsoft Teams to bring together shared data and conversations to build and execute on race strategies in real time with the pit crews that service vehicles during a race. The ability to refer to and collaborate on real time-data and message one another regardless of location enables Hendricks Motorsports teams to come up with winning strategies.

Microsoft Teams is not the only collaboration tool on the market that is disrupting the way teams collaborate. A plethora of collaboration tools all perform relatively similar functions, but it’s important to evaluate how these tools differ to ensure that you select the best fit for your organization. You will notice differences with regard to the way tools handle persistent chat, the organization of teams and categories, security and sharing functionality, file storage, and integration with data and other business applications.

Related Article: What if We Used Collaboration Tools to Rethink How We Work?

Choosing Collaboration Tools: Define the User Journey

Pilot groups and trials are the best way to help users define the journey and articulate what their needs are. Feedback and lessons learned from pilot tests can be invaluable when making decisions about how to roll out a collaboration tool to a larger user audience. Because today’s collaboration tools are lightweight and generally faster to launch, it should be easier for organizations to quickly gather requirements through usage and make minor alterations of configuration settings to get user groups moving forward.

Early adopters can act as visionaries who offer suggestions about how to configure a collaboration tool so that it reflects the user journey they participate in. Take their insights into account when you define what a rollout of a collaboration tool can look like in your organization.

New Tools, Old Problems

This is an exciting time in the collaboration technology market. The speed of development cycles is bringing new and innovative approaches that make it easier to work virtually with colleagues. However, despite those advances, user adoption is still the biggest challenge organizations face in rolling out collaboration tools in the digital workplace. Ensuring that rollouts of collaboration technology are well organized and making an effort to align the new technology to the user journey are good steps that will help minimize disruption.