The Collaboration Conundrum – VanillaIP
Are collaboration tools enabling effective collaboration?
Collaboration is huge. This means collaboration tools are huge. The rising popularity of Microsoft Teams and Slack has all bolstered the hype, but collaboration is not a new concept.
We spoke to Peter Law, Channel Manager at VanillaIP, to discuss the collaboration conundrum. As a leader in cloud communications solutions, VanillaIP is having more and more collaboration discussions.
What is Collaboration?
“The action of working with someone to produce something”. Working with one another has been the foundation of human success for thousands of years. In the modern workplace, effective collaboration, has been enabled by face to face meetings, and subsequently, meetings and interactions that took place in the central meeting place, or office.
What about when you can’t meet face to face? That is the conundrum that modern collaboration tools aim to resolve. Effective collaboration without going into the office.
Peter explains modern collaboration is proliferating from the top down. Enterprise organisations have a more pressing need to enable remote collaboration. They have more offices, and more employees, so enabling effective remote working is a real concern.
“Hosted telephony was going to take the world by storm. Only now are we seeing Cloud Telephony in the ascendancy versus on-premises.
The install base is still 80% PBX and Cloud 20%. Our industry is renowned for hyping upcoming technologies, which take a number of years to be widely adopted”.
Do SMBs need to collaborate?
Of course. The question ‘do they need modern collaboration tools?’ is a more pertinent one. SMBs collaborate constantly. Due to their size, is remote collaboration less important?
“Many companies still work on the basis of coming into the office. They rarely need collaboration tools as they collaborate face to face. Business owners can manage and monitor staff easily”.
There is also a certain reluctance from smaller businesses to gamble on tech. Peter cites the example of SIP. It took many years before uptake reached high levels. Smaller businesses are more inclined to sweat legacy investments, due to concerns over new technologies and the cost of business disruption.
Management is another factor which hinders flexible working and collaboration. The traditional view of the manager overseeing everything is lost if everyone works remotely. How can you be sure staff are working if you can’t see them? The trust barrier must be subdued to enable modern collaboration. “They are worried that staff working from home will be distracted. The working environment may not be professional enough.”
Numerous studies show remote workers are more productive. Productivity must eventually outweigh the fear of loss of control.
Steps to Collaboration
Peter explains that technology evangelists, like VanillaIP, need to help the SMB market to embrace collaboration.
“We need to help the SMB market to take steps rather than a big uplift in one go. A phased approach where a business can use the tools in the office to get used to using the technology”.
VanillaIP have experience of this phased migration in the cloud telephony world and have used the parallels to build a staged approach.
1. Remove the desk ties
Get used to tech in the office. Start with laptops, mobiles and soft phones. Introduce conference bridges for remote meetings. Provide mobility tools so users can work from anywhere.
Introduce call recording for quality management. If you have access to calls, you don’t need to oversee staff over their shoulder.
2. Baseline performance
Use analytics to monitor performance. This will highlight changes in performance – positive or negative.
3. Content Sharing
Allied to team working is a central repository of files that staff can share and contribute to. A cloud storage system like Dropbox is ideal.
4. Introduce new tools
Once staff are used to working remotely, consider a more formal collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
Why bother at all?
If staff are more productive working flexibly, it would be foolish to ignore. A two-year study from Stanford University revealed an incredible productivity boost. Home workers worked the equivalent of an extra shift per week, when compared to their office counterparts.
Managers can sleep easy knowing they will be seeing greater performance from their staff. If the correct monitoring tools are in place, and the baselines accurate, productivity improvements cannot be ignored.
When snow storms and tube strikes hit, no meetings are cancelled. Remote collaboration acts as an insurance policy to these concerns.
Finally, you have to consider employee engagement. Huge percentages want flexibility in their working arrangements. Happier staff are beneficial to organisations, and in turn repay their employers with increased endeavour and output.