man working on laptop while perseid meteor shower happens behind him
PHOTO: Mehul Sahu

The rise of the global economy and distributed workforce means organizations need to ensure that teams can work together seamlessly from anywhere and at any time.

Facilitating collaboration is key to improving employee productivity. The Institute for Corporate Productivity and Professor Rob Cross of Babson College carried out a survey of 1,100 companies and found that collaborative work is five times more likely to result in higher performance. A collaborative environment also helps lower costs, shorten timelines, improve productivity and increase return on investment (ROI) by connecting various teams in complex business and cultural environments to promote common goals, foster shared values and build relationships.

On the flip side, a breakdown in communication and lack of collaboration can lead to misunderstandings, delays, errors and inefficiencies that negatively impact productivity.

To encourage collaboration among teams in different locations, organizations need to provide employees with the right tools so they can communicate and work together cost-effectively.

Related Article: Productivity Potholes: Bad Behavior Is Crushing Collaboration's Potential

How Collaboration Improves Productivity

The use of collaboration technologies helps organizations of any size improve productivity. For example, the ICP survey found companies that used Slack reported an average 49% reduction in email volumes, a 25% drop in the number of meetings and a 32% increase in productivity.

A Dimensional Research survey sponsored by Cisco found 53% of organizations indicated that the use of smart meeting rooms has helped improve business processes and 54% of business leaders plan to invest more in user-friendly collaborative solutions. 

So in what specific areas can collaboration improve productivity? 

  1. Break down silos by allowing team members to communicate with each other across departments. This minimizes friction and delays in business processes while helping to build a customer-centric organization, so employees can focus their time and efforts on what matters.
  2. Improve the customer experience by connecting customers with the right team member to reduce the time and resources required for customer care so fewer employees can service more customers without compromising quality.
  3. Improve external collaboration and communications to enhance vendor/supplier relationships and lower friction in the procurement process, thereby reducing cost while increasing cost-efficiency.
  4. Enable real-time information exchange (e.g., data syncing, file sharing) to facilitate business processes while minimizing delays and errors that lower productivity and impact customer experience.
  5. Streamline workflows by improving communication among departments (e.g., manufacturing, sales, marketing, procurement, IT) to create a nimble organization that can respond to market demand cost-efficiently.
  6. Facilitate project management by increasing transparency and visibility, maintain an open line of communication, and make sure that everything is on track to avoid costly mistakes and confusion.
  7. Share information on policy, programs, promotions, scheduling, budgets, etc. to minimize the time employees spend on administrative tasks.
  8. Enable knowledge workers to gain real-time access to and locate data quickly and accurately with a content management system.
  9. Facilitate the execution of projects and initiatives by making sure information can be shared quickly and concisely. It helps improve time-to-market, increase agility and optimize the utilization of distributed resources.
  10. Promote team problem-solving, especially for remote workers, by allowing employees to meet, discuss and make decisions with agility and accuracy.
  11. Eliminate version-control issues, which can lead to delays, errors and inefficiencies, with real-time file sharing so team members don’t have to pass along documents using emails.
  12. Encourage innovation by reducing the cycle time from ideation to implementation. Enable employees to iterate ideas quickly by tapping into talents throughout the organization.

Related Article: What Skills Do Organizations Need to Make Collaboration Sustainable?

Key Features to Consider When Selecting Collaboration Technologies

Social networks, document sharing, chat, presence information, web conferencing, interactive whiteboard, mobile apps, automation apps and more are all used by companies to boost employee productivity.

Using the right collaboration platform is key to driving cost-efficiency and productivity in the workplace. However, with so many technologies on the market, it isn’t always easy to identify the right solution for your business. Here are a few factors to keep in mind during the selection process:

  1. Cloud-based: Lower IT cost while allowing users to access the software at any time and from anywhere using any device so employees can stay productive whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the road.
  2. Workflow automation: Eliminate bottlenecks and ensure that the right people get the right information at the right time to execute various business processes. For example, by integrating form automation with a document management system, you can avoid having to manually transfer files and data, which is highly inefficient and prone to delays and errors.
  3. Real-time file sharing: Enable team members to share, access, edit and retrieve the latest files, data, documents and other forms of media to avoid delays, errors and version control issues.
  4. Mobile-friendly interface: Enable users to access the platform from anywhere using mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets) so they can stay connected and respond to requests in a timely manner.
  5. Real-time analytics: Collate and analyze data from across the organization and provide users with actionable insights using technologies such as machine learning and predictive analytics to support accurate data-driven decision-making. This helps ensure everyone is acting on the same information to minimize errors.
  6. Search: Allow users to use keywords, tags and search filters to quickly locate content, files and previous conversations, which used to be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
  7. Personal and group calendar: Avoid time-consuming and error-prone scheduling headache by using shared calendars to coordinate team meetings and activities with minimal frustration. 
  8. Onboarding and training support: Provide the proper training and support so employees can maximize productivity by using all the features of the platform.
  9. Integration: Sync up with your current systems to ensure seamless information exchange to minimize manual data transfer, which is time-consuming and error-prone.
  10. Security: Safeguard sensitive data by enforcing the latest cybersecurity protocols so employees can share and access information while staying compliant with industry regulations.
  11. Uptime and backup: Downtime is very costly and impacts productivity throughout the organization. Your collaborative platform should have built-in redundancy and a comprehensive backup and recovery plan to minimize downtime.
  12. Access control: Allow only the right personnel to view, edit, or share specific files or data for optimal security while ensuring the right people can get the right information to do their jobs without delay.

Related Article: Surviving the Team Collaboration Platform Invasion

Finding the Right Collaboration Solutions

When selecting collaboration tools for your business to improve productivity, you should also consider the following:

  • Business requirements: Use a platform that can solve your specific challenges, work for both internal teams and external partners, and can meet the company’s short-term and long-term objectives.
  • Features: Gather requirements from employees to ensure that you’re choosing collaborative tools that can facilitate processes, streamline workflows and improve user performance. Your collaboration tools should not create more work for your employees!
  • Cost: Consider the ROI and ongoing IT expenses associated with upgrades and maintenance so you can ensure cost-efficiency and high productivity in the long run.
  • Support: A reliable vendor should provide top-notch technical support to help you maximize productivity by making sure the software is running optimally and resolving issues promptly.

Ultimately, an effective collaboration platform should ensure that the right people are getting the right information at the right time to streamline processes, eliminate bottlenecks, minimize delays and reduce errors in the most cost-efficient way possible.