3 female workers trying to use the same computer
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One of the most difficult metrics to determine is exactly how effective social networks or collaboration platforms actually are. Sure, figures about the number of users, or the number of people signed up to the various platforms are issued by the vendors, or developers of the given platforms, on a regular basis. But do those figures tell us very much about how those platforms are being used?

Value of Collaboration Platforms

Take Microsoft Teams, for example. In July, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, announced more than 13 million people now use Teams on a daily basis and more than 19 million people use it weekly. Teams is at the heart of Microsoft 365. Launched two years ago, it is an integrated set of apps and services designed to help customers transform workplace collaboration, streamline business processes and protect critical information, Spataro wrote in a blog.

Teams users outnumber Slack users, which in an SEC filing earlier this year, said it has 10 million daily active users. The problem, however, is that none of this tells us how they are using it, and, more to the point, if they are actively using it for collaboration.

Workplace by Facebook is another such communications and collaboration platform for businesses that want to use familiar Facebook features, such as chat, groups and posts to connect everyone in an organization.

A recent Forrester study to determine the economic value of Workplace by Facebook (registration required), showed that there is, in fact, a considerable economic impact in using collaboration tools. While the study was sponsored by Facebook and likely favors Workplace, the findings are worth a look in that they do offer some insights into why collaboration tools are useful.

Related Article: 7 Considerations for Selecting the Right Collaboration Tool

Cash Advantages of Collaboration

The research found that when organizations connect on Workplace, people become closer, teamwork gets faster and culture gets stronger. In practical terms this means:

  • More effective organization-wide communications delivered benefits of just over $3.3 million. 
  • Enhanced teamwork and productivity benefits amounted to nearly $5.3 million.
  • Building a connected culture related benefits amounted to just over $4.5 million.
  • Increased leadership visibility and accessibility.
  • Improved flexibility to add more integrations and bots.

Of course these are only some of the findings and have to be taken in light of the fact that, again, the research was sponsored by Facebook, but it seems that most enterprises at least believe that collaboration platforms and tools bring definite advantages to the digital workplace.

Enterprise Collaboration Benefits

Rasmus Hols, chief revenue office of Wire, a secure collaboration provider, pointed out that as workplaces today are becoming more dynamic more employees are working remotely, while expecting short bursts of information to better communicate and collaborate across time zones and geographies in real-time.

This makes the case for businesses of all sizes and industries — from large enterprises, government agencies to critical industries — to embrace collaboration tools. “What’s interesting is that we’re seeing the collaboration space rapidly maturing. Workplace by Facebook likely appeals to organizations looking to tap into Facebook’s familiar features,” he said.

He added that Slack’s success has appealed to companies that can better integrate with its various APIs. “At Wire, we’re seeing tremendous success for organizations that prioritize data privacy and security through our end-to-end encrypted collaboration features, without compromising the user experience,” he said.

As the market continues to evolve, organizations expect communication tools that are proven to boost productivity while ensuring that their digital assets are protected at all times.”

Related Article: Competition Versus Collaboration

Collaboration Boon or Hindrance

Chintan Shah, president of KNB Communications, a full-service health IT PR and marketing agency, argues that technology can be either a boon or a hindrance and for company's that have to use both in-house and remote workers, collaboration software is not a luxury. However, the software must have certain features, or else it actually reduces productivity.

He told us that certain workers find the G Suite platform helpful. They can share documents via link or email with different levels of permissions, internally and externally. They are able to edit the same document synchronously or asynchronously without fear of document “forking.”

It is very user-friendly and does not require much training. They use the Hangouts product to send real-time messages (like Slack) as well as for video and teleconference calls. It is very integrated and has an excellent search function so past projects can be found easily.

He also recommended HubSpot, another collaborative software that the sales team is using to collaborate with digital marketing teams and to nurture potential clients down the sales funnel seamlessly. Users can leave notes for each other on certain contacts, share documents, make edits and otherwise have great visibility into any stage of the sales process The HubSpot training is excellent and does not have an additional cost, so all our employees are certified. Their support team is also easy to contact and very helpful if any questions arise.

The bottom line, is that the work you do should determine what technology you need. “As technology is constantly evolving, it is important for software developers to keep the end users in mind and understand their workflows,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is to have a more simplified, collaborative software with easy-to-use tools that are versatile to each employee.”

That said, if you compare workplace communication 20 years ago to now, you will notice that we have many more tools, from enhanced email services, shared folders, multi-person platforms, such as Trello, Slack and Asana, and many more.

That said, there are many complaints regarding productivity and communication flow. “Sometimes it even seems that the average workplace is more connected but not necessarily more efficient,” he said.

Case-By-Case Strategies

It's hard to measure the efficiency of contemporary communication based on specific cases. Yet, there are things that can easily be pointed out, according to Caio Bersot, a communications specialist with EnergyRates.ca.

Many employees and employers have an increasing uncertainty regarding the best suitable type of communication via email, phone or in person. This is a case-by-case situation, but a helpful tip for companies would be to define in a clearer way which platform is ideal for each type of communication, perhaps taking into consideration the level of complexity and the length of the message. For example, many issues could be solved much more quickly and efficiently with a quick chat in person rather than via email or even collaborative spreadsheets, said Caio Bersot, a communications specialist with EnergyRates, a price comparison website that helps consumers find low-cost rates for electricity and gas.

Despite the research, Workplace by Facebook is not exceptional, though, and Darko Jacimovic of whattobecome.com, argues that it doesn’t offer anything more than other workplace platforms. “I would say Slack is neater, more useful and more practical for people working within the organization. People can simply be divided by the projects, teams and still be in the same chat as everyone in the organization,” he said.

Add into the mix that many bots are making the Slack experience easier, from HR bots to appraisal bots, and it could be argued that slack is more effective. He believes that Workplace by Facebook is just another version of Facebook for specific organizations and doesn’t offer special communication features. “Let’s face it, who would like to post/share on their Workplace by Facebook wall as they do on their private profiles? I think this platform is a fiasco, and Facebook is not able to admit it yet.”