Work is now something we do, not a place we go to.
9-to-5 shifts are gradually going the way of the dinosaurs, along with boring lengthy meetings, overflowing email inboxes and cluttered office spaces. The business world has evolved, driven by the search for better productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction in the workplace.
Work is now something we do, not a place we go to.
At the heart of this evolution is one crucial focus – collaboration.
While teamwork has always been a critical aspect of the workplace, the way that we work together today is more effective, flexible, and dynamic than ever before. Instead of board rooms and post-it notes, 83% of professionals turn to technology to connect with their teams.
So, why is technology driving the push to better collaboration, and why do we need to work so hard at bringing people together in the modern workforce?
Whatever kind of business you run; success relies on the ability of your team members to work together. A disjointed workforce often leads to mistakes, confusion, and lost working hours.
However, there are new challenges for organisations to face when it comes to facilitating collaboration. In the past few years, the way that we work has changed. We’re no longer swarms of employees piling into an office each day. Remote working is on the rise, and agile methodologies have made their way into the business environment. Everything is flexible, which means that we also need a versatile way to keep employees on the same page.
Cloud-based technology, like collaboration tools adheres to the dynamic nature of the new workplace. Employees can access them wherever they are, whenever they need to, to work efficiently with their teams.
What’s more, cloud-based software also provides us with a limitless environment to store the vast amounts of information that teams need to access today. According to a recent report by Microsoft, we’re on twice as many teams as we were five years ago, and 4 times more people are working remotely in the last decade. On top of that, IBM shows that we’re creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
The cloud is the only way to make sure that distributed teams remain connected, while also accessing a limitless storage vault for all of the valuable data that these new workforces produce. Digitally connected and data-driven teams have the potential to make more valuable, informed decisions, wherever they are.
So, why are team collaboration tools so crucial?
It all comes down to what they can do for the distributed workforce.
Bringing together business chat, team collaboration, workflow management, and countless other solutions, collaboration (did you mean to have ‘team collaboration’ twice in this sentence?) tools are all about bringing people together. In an environment where a unified team is one of the most important aspects of any workspace, online collaboration tools keep people aligned wherever they are.
The most common benefits include:
Because team collaboration tools bring all of your employees together in the same connected environment, it’s easier for business leaders to keep track of their employees. Presence tools show when people are online and allow staff members to maintain a productive work/life balance. Calendar integrations and scheduled meetings ensure teams can collaborate at the same time wherever they are. Some collaboration tools even integrate with workflow systems where managers can assign projects and deadlines.
Collaboration tools take teamwork out of the office environment and place it within the cloud. That means that wherever your team members are, they can still be a part of crucial conversations. Coworkers in different countries can easily work side-by-side on the same project. Companies can even seek out specific talent from overseas to ensure that they have the best people for their team. Team collaboration tools remove the geographic boundaries from businesses.
With team collaboration tools, all of your shared files, documents, projects, and even team conversations are in the same place. This makes it easier to keep the business compliant and provide a complete information hub for workers to use when they’re collaborating on complex projects. The quicker that team members can find information, the faster that they can complete essential tasks. Employees can even work together on cloud-based work at the same time.
When the more distributed teams collaborate better, they are able to solve bigger problems faster. This translates directly in improved business outcomes. Furthermore it is worth remembering that the two most expensive assets of an organization are people and technology. Having the right collaboration technology to support better team productivity has a significant positive impact on a company’s returns on Assets.
Aside from the fundamental advantages mentioned above, team collaboration also leads to more satisfied teams, better workflow, reduced expenses, and countless other benefits. With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that the value of the collaboration and communications market is growing. By 2025, Global Market Insights predicts that the market will be worth over $60 billion.
According to analysts, the collaboration industry has seen a hockey stick growth curve, driven by countless changes in the modern workplace. If we look at some of the recent entrants to the public market, we can see the limitless potential of collaborative tools. Zoom recently hit its $20 billion market cap, and Slack (the original collab app) is touting a valuation of around $17 billion.
So, what makes the collaborative space so valuable?
To some extent, the growth of the collaboration market is a natural response to the changing demands of the workplace. Throughout history, we’ve seen similar evolutions as people discover new and more efficient ways to work.
Not so long ago, the only way to bring people together for a meeting was to arrange a face-to-face session. Eventually, VoIP appeared and made it easier for companies to initiate cross-country conversations with organisations around the world. Conference phones took centre stage on business desks, transforming the way that we connected with people out-of-office, and over time, we even began experimenting with video.
The increasing need for visual data sharing, digitisation, and remote working has driven up demands for valuable new communication and conferencing solutions. On top of that, the declining cost of video conferencing strategies means that anyone can implement face-to-face interactions as part of their collaborative tools. The way that we work together is becoming simultaneously more digital, more intuitive, and more immersive.
According to Grandview Research, in the years to come, the demand for more customized collaborative workspaces will continue to augment the market in years to come. We’re beginning to discover new ways of building the perfect DIY digital workspaces through APIs and SDKs. UC and collaboration as a service is entering into the mix, giving companies more control over the collaborative moments they build for their teams.
All the while, new market trends are lingering on the horizon, promising the potential arrival of even better interactions. Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and even IoT are all giving us new insights into what’s possible with technology.
In the past, if you asked someone to describe “collaboration” to you, they’d probably mention dry-eraser boards, group meeting rooms, and even conferencing phones. Now, there are new fundamentals within the collaborative experience.
The software that we rely on to bring people together covers everything from communication to data management and workflow optimisation. Some of the most common collaboration features include:
One emerging trend in the collaboration space is the implementation of cohesive teams tools. We’ve seen solutions like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams emerge to provide companies with strategies to eliminate the risk of digital fatigue. These services don’t just offer persistent chat and video messaging; they also align with the company’s existing PBX and video conferencing services, connect to email platforms, and even align with other productivity solutions. For instance, Microsoft’s Teams offering combines with its already popular Office 365 strategy.
As businesses continue to search for more “unified” tools, we can expect to see the continued convergence of voice, video, synchronous and asynchronous communication tools, all mixed in with a variety of productivity features.
Need to include a paragraph on making content a full class citizen of a meeting. The most advanced companies are ensuring that content is as synchronous and real-time as voice and video. Since the business world is becoming more and more data-driven, being able to seamlessly and collaboratively use, manipulate data and content is becoming critical/ essential. This challenge is compounded as organizations become more agile and remote-first.
What’s more, it’s likely that the demand for no code configuration will continue too. Companies will still want to build on the available collaborative experiences in the market with APIs and integrations. However, they won’t necessarily want to hire a developer to do all the work for them. This means that not only will collaborative leaders continue to invest in extended capabilities, but they’ll also focus on building their integration and API offerings too.
As customisation thrives in the collaborative marketplace, there’s no doubt that we’ll see more focus on disruptive features too. Artificial Intelligence has already made its way into many collaboration services in the form of intelligent bots and virtual assistants. In the years ahead, AI may become one of those “fundamental” tools of collaboration mentioned above.
Now that data is everywhere, the aim of any digital platform is to deliver more targeted and personalized experiences. AI will give businesses access to the data that they need to make crucial business decisions. However, it will also provide every employee with the additional support they need to cope with the overwhelming demands of the marketplace. Virtual assistants are stepping into the limelight, helping with everything from meeting recording to scheduling conferences. It could be that the future of collaboration rests on a combination of human and machine productivity.
Collaboration tools aren’t just a response to the changing nature of work – they’re one of the driving factors behind the evolution of our workplaces. Today, the solutions that businesses are investing in will dictate what the world of tomorrow looks like.
Studies suggest that innovation collaboration techniques improve the productivity of businesses by up to 30%. Consumers aren’t the only ones pushing for better experiences and quicker functionality in today’s digital world – business users need those upgraded experiences too. Collaboration tools give companies the freedom to provide their workforces with the tools they need to be more productive and efficient, even as the workplace becomes more geographically distributed.
One particularly crucial trend linking the future of work to collaborative apps is the rising demand for remote and flexible working. Studies show that about 70% of the global workforce is working remotely at least once a week. With collaboration apps to keep teams connected, there’s no reason to force your employees into the office anymore. While remote working takes a while for both sides and business leaders to get used to, it has plenty of advantages to offer, including:
Aside from allowing the workplace to become more geographically distributed, collaboration apps also open the door to countless new opportunities for the modern workforce too. With APIs and integrations, businesses can continuously update their tools with the latest technology, ensuring that their teams are on the cutting edge of workflow productivity.
Whenever you discover something new that might help your teams to perform better, there’s no need to install any complicated hardware or rip-and-replace existing systems. Cloud-based solutions ensure that you can transform your entire team at the click of a button.
When hardware is necessary, vendors are experimenting with ways to support the new, flexible worker. Webcams can connect to collaborative software to make video conferencing feel more natural – wherever team members might be. People can even blur their messy home office backgrounds or add a branded screen to their image to make themselves appear more professional.
On the move, employees can access noise-cancelling headsets that provide them with the comfort and concentration they need to operate efficiently in any environment – even a busy coffee shop. Some companies are also experimenting with the potential of mixed reality technology like AR and VR. Currently, the AR and VR market is expected to reach a value of $16.1 billion by 2025. These technologies would allow remote workers to virtually place themselves within an office environment, making it feel like they’re sitting at a table with their coworkers – even if they’re miles away.
Even artificial intelligence in collaborative tools is making it easier to embrace the modern workplace. AI systems can automatically translate languages during voice or video calls to ensure that people across the world can communicate seamlessly. In-line translation is available for chat messages too, bridging the gaps between people from different communities.
No matter how you feel about it, the new workplace is here.
The age of AI, collaboration tools, and globalisation has arrived. Companies that fail to adapt to this changing environment are the ones that will struggle to thrive going forward. However, in any part of the business world, adapting to change is difficult.
Though there may be countless benefits to implementing new collaboration tools and practices, it’s challenging to shift businesses out of the old ways of working that they’ve grown used to over the years. There are still business leaders today that avoid the concept of remote working at all costs, and employees that will shy away from video conferencing.
So, how do you create an enterprise collaboration strategy that works?
The worst thing any business leader can do when implementing new technology is to embrace a system just because it’s new and shiny. Disruptive technology is exciting, but there are countless innovations available for teams to explore today, and not all of them will be right for your business.
Before you start investing in anything, make sure that you know how collaboration can streamline the business processes in your enterprise. One of the best ways to do this could be to tap into artificial intelligence. AI tools can analyse your workflow for you and show you the bottlenecks and gaps in your business that might be hampering productivity.
Additionally, access to AI as you roll out new collaborative solutions will make it easier to track adoption. This way, you can offer additional help and training to the people who shy away from the latest technology. You might even decide to pinpoint your initial adopters and turn them into mentors for the rest of your team.
Once you know where you need to build out your collaboration strategy, it’s essential to establish some goals. If you run a large enterprise, then your aim may be to incorporate a global approach for collaboration that bridges the gaps between multiple locations and offices.
Other smaller companies may simply want collaboration to unlock opportunities for remote working and flexible mobility in their teams. Decide what you need to accomplish with your collaboration strategies, and you’ll have an easier time tracking your success. For instance, if you want your meetings and teamwork sessions to be more effective, you might decide to build huddle rooms with interactive whiteboards, video-as-a-service and other critical components intended to boost team creativity at key moments. Can we rewrite this sentence in a way that doesn’t imply that content-rich collaboration tech is not needed.
There’s so much more to collaboration tools than instant messaging and group chat. These days, if you find the right collaborative solution, you can give your teams access to everything from immersive video conferencing, to content-rich interactive whiteboards that help them make the most of their work. If you have AI built-in to your collaborative strategy, you can use those tools to ensure that your team can access contextual data when managing projects or even dealing with customers. Same as above. Would like to include content rich tools allowing you to freely share, move, organize content seamlessly, regardless of your location.
Remember to explore the full possibilities of the collaborative world before you settle for something that only offers team messaging and audio conferencing. For some businesses, replacing the cluttered email inbox will be enough of a goal for their collaboration tools. For others, there are endless opportunities to discover.
Change is difficult enough at the best of times. However, convincing your team to use a new collaboration tool is much harder if it means asking them to change everything about the way that they work. With that in mind, it’s crucial to find a collaborative solution that works alongside the applications your team already uses.
Look for services with APIs so that you can build them into your existing workflow and processes or find a collaboration tool that offers plenty of integrations. The more you can turn your workplace tools into a single-pane-of-glass solution, the better your results will be.
Finally, remember that you’ll need to track how well your collaboration strategy is going. Essentially, the aim is to determine whether employees are using your enterprise collaboration tools and whether they’re accessing them effectively. If people aren’t adopting the tools that you provide, then you’ll need to find out why.
Reaching a seamless integration of collaboration technology in the workplace can take time, but it’s worth it for better long-term productivity, efficiency, and performance.
All teams work differently.
That means there’s no one-size-fits-all collaboration ecosystem out there.
Most of the time, however, there are a few key areas that you’ll need to consider when choosing the ideal tools. The most common segments include:
Without good communication, your business simply can’t function.
In today’s distributed workplace, companies need to work even harder to ensure that their employees have the communication tools that they need. Email and phone calls aren’t enough anymore. You also need to think about how you can ensure a constant flow of information in your workplace. Some options to consider include:
Now that the majority of employees aren’t working in an office environment, it’s challenging to keep track of what everyone is doing each day. Managers can’t just hover over the shoulders of their employees from time to time to check productivity. Fortunately, task management software and workforce optimisation solutions can help with this. To make collaboration more transparent, these tools provide features like:
Combined with task management software, workforce optimisation, and workforce management tools can also help managers to provide better training and mentorship to their teams. Some companies even implement gamification via wallboards that demonstrate employee performance.
We mentioned above that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. A chunk of that comes from the content and files that employees are continually sharing to add context to the customer journey or improve the quality of their work on crucial projects. To help businesses make the most out of the information they have access to; Collaboration ecosystems need to make it easy to find, share, and organise data.
Not only is a good content and document management strategy useful for workflow purposes, but it’s critical for compliance too. The easier it is to find information, the quicker you can delete it for GDPR reasons like “the right to be forgotten.” Key features of data management include:
Finally, while collaboration software is crucial, it’s essential for businesses to ensure that they have the right hardware in place too. Even the best video conferencing system can’t do much if you don’t have a high-quality camera to capture and send images to other participants. A fantastic online PBX can’t transmit quality voice without the right desk or conference phone.
Some of the hardware you’ll need to consider for your collaboration ecosystem includes:
With so much growth in the marketplace today, it’s easy to assume that collaboration tools are unstoppable.
However, while you can accomplish a great deal with the right software and hardware, there is one thing that often stops innovation dead in its tracks – complexity.
As any company that has attempted a rollout of new technology in the past will know, the simpler a system is, the easier it is to convince your workforce to use it. The only way that collaboration solutions can be useful is if they’re embraced by the entire workforce – not just one or two people.
The business leaders in the new collaborative environment need to make sure that they keep complexity to a minimum when choosing new services and tools for their employees. Complexity reduces the inability to share ideas across teams, makes it harder to find crucial data, and can even boost the risk of shadow IT. If your employees don’t want to use the tools that you’re giving them, then they may end up adopting other software that hasn’t been approved by your security or IT staff.
According to HBR, 86% of respondents said that complexity hinders the ability to grow.
So, how do you keep things simple?
The more the new technology is embedded in the current processes and solutions, the lower the level of behavioral change it requires and the more likely it is to be tried and ultimately adopted successfully by the whole workforce.
Never implement new software into a business just because it’s what your competitors are doing. Digital transformation doesn’t happen “just because.” If you want to help your business evolve, you need to be adopting tools that solve existing problems for your workforce and make their lives easier. That means evaluating the current needs of your employees before you implement any new technology.
For instance, maybe your employees have a hard time working with each other through back-and-forth email messaging. A collaborative tool with real-time chat and files that they can work together on in real-time may make them more efficient.
Most collaboration tools today will come with a free trial version companies can assess before they commit fully to the package. Testing a free trial with a few early adopters is a great way to find the tool that fits more naturally into your existing workflow.
Think about how your teams currently work, and what will feel more familiar to them as they begin to change their collaboration strategies. Don’t get seduced by exciting and innovative platforms. Find the tool that works best for your employees by putting their experiences first.
The UI proposed has to feel intuitive, as close to how the human being process information as possible. The more natural the UI is the lower the learning curve for the employees and higher the chances of adoption.
There are few things more likely to damage adoption rates than lack of interoperability with a new tool. Learning how to use something unfamiliar like a collaboration service is stressful enough. Your employees shouldn’t have to worry about giving up and replacing all of the other tools that they use each day too.
Make sure that any collaboration software or hardware you choose integrates naturally with the tools that your teams already rely on. This will make the new tool feel like a way of developing their work strategy, rather than starting over from scratch.
The right collaboration solutions can be an excellent way to enhance the day-to-day interactions and teamwork between members of your staff. However, collaboration tools also fit well into the meeting environment too. They make it easier for today’s employees to keep track of what happens in a meeting, as well as giving them more opportunities to choose how they want to interact with their colleagues.
Some of the ways that collaboration tools can improve meetings include:
Problems with scheduling meetings wastes as much as 36% of employee time according to some studies. If you have staff members that are distributed around the world, you’ll have even more issues to contend with, as you’ll need to schedule meetings that fit with everyone’s time zone.
Collaboration tools can integrate with intelligent calendars that suggest appropriate meeting times based on when everyone is available. What’s more, when people are ready to join a meeting, there’s no need to set up a complex conference room environment. Most solutions today will allow people to simply tap on a link or click a button to join a conference.
Collaboration services even come with notifications and alerts that remind people of when a meeting is going to start and provide them with information about the people they’re going to be speaking with.
With today’s easy-to-use collaboration services, meeting with colleagues and clients is easier than ever. There are countless options that users can choose from when deciding how to connect with other people. For instance, if you’re presenting something to a client, you can host a webinar session, complete with engagement analytics that show you how people feel about your content, and live Q&A sessions.
If you’re collaborating with team members over a new project, you can decide whether you’d rather host a video conference or a voice call. Many collaboration applications on the market today also come with access to virtual whiteboards where you can share files and screens, then annotate the content you’re looking at in real-time.
Modern collaboration tools make it easy to replicate the experience of a face-to-face meeting or conference in a digital environment.
One particularly crucial way that collaboration tools are transforming the meeting environment is with the implementation of artificial intelligence. Virtual assistants in the collaboration space now have the power to help with various aspects of meeting and communication. They can:
The options are virtually endless.
It’s safe to say that collaboration in all its forms is more popular than ever.
However, some aspects of the collaborative world are growing faster than others. For instance, as new generations enter the workplace, video communication is on the rise. One study from IMCCA found that almost 90% of remote workers believe that video helps them to stay connected to their coworkers on a deeper level.
It makes sense that modern generations would want video to be a part of their collaborative strategy. As teams become increasingly dispersed, video allows us to engage in crucial face-to-face interactions at a distance. No other method of communication gives us the same access to things like body language and facial expression during a conversation.
The most obvious reason that companies love video conferencing is that it helps to bring the new global workforce together. With 50% of employees set to be working remotely by next year, video offers more than a way to keep people connected. It echoes the experience of in-person interaction, helping to form deeper connections between employees and build critical relationships.
Through video, it’s also easier to share certain information. For instance, employees can show their coworkers a problem rather than just describing it to them. With Teams-style apps, people in a video conference can also be simultaneously working together on a shared document, perhaps with virtual whiteboarding support and the help of an AI assistant.
Video conferencing gives today’s flexible workers the opportunity to appear wherever they need to be, without leaving their car, home, or office. For people in the office, it’s also possible to access video without any of the unnecessary pressure of the boardroom. Huddle room spaces have grown increasingly popular in recent years as a quick way to access video collaboration. According to studies, 64% of businesses had video systems set up in a huddle room in 2017.
Combine the fact that millennials and younger generations feel more comfortable appearing on video, with the rise of new technology capable of handling 4K streams, and the promise of 5G, and there’s no reason why video wouldn’t become more popular in the years ahead.
VCaaS even ensures that today’s businesses don’t have to worry about the expense and time-consuming technical work that used to go into developing a video conferencing strategy. As deployments move to the cloud, strategies like BYOC (Bring your own codec) are on the rise, and anyone can easily tap into video.
Team collaboration tools are critical in today’s increasingly complex business environment. While video-conferencing is becoming a must in many cases, it needs more and more to be coupled with advanced content capabilities that allow all the participants to interact seamlessly with all the information necessary to solve these problems. Content has to become a first-class citizen in the meetings. It’s when multiple pieces of content need to be shared simultaneously that technology the meeting flow is disrupted, and the momentum ruined. This phenomenon is accentuated when the participants are remote, can’t see the content being shared and used in the main room. They become disengaged rapidly.
People in any workforce are overwhelmed by more data and tasks than ever before. We’re rushed at work, and under increasing amounts of pressure. However, collaborative tools give focus and strength to the increasingly disrupted cognitive power of the workforce.
Team collaboration tools allow employees to find the productivity they need on their teams. They can toggle between tasks seamlessly, communicating with their coworkers in the method that suits them, from instant chat to video. Increasingly flexible collaborative tech even ensures that employees can communicate with people from outside of the business, like suppliers and contractors.
With APIs and integrations to expand the functionality of team collaboration tools, businesses can ensure that their teams have everything they need to collaborate within the same environment. There’s no need to switch between different devices to make a call, send a message, or share a file.
As we continue to move into the future of team collaboration, the focus on building simple and empowering technology that supports the workforce from day one will be crucial. People will be looking for seamless and transparent tools, which deliver incredible interoperability. APIs and integrations are sure to be a part of this quest for this simplicity and flexibility. As businesses grow more diverse, the one-size-fits-all model of previous tools is set to go extinct.
At the same time, there’s a good chance we’ll continue to see the rise of disruptive technology. 4K video conferencing available on smartphones through 5G will make video experiences more immersive. The rise of artificial intelligence will ensure that employees have more support in any role. Already, virtual assistants are doing their part to record and transcribe meetings, deliver information on demand, and support better scheduling.
Collaboration tools are just scratching the surface of what AI can do to make the workplace more immersive and intuitive. The future of collaboration may well discover that the best tools don’t just help humans to work better together and solve problems faster. Instead, our collaborative solutions will lead to better teamwork between humans, objects, and machines too.