Collaboration Articles

How Collaboration Software Can Power Your Digital Transformation

by Hadley Jones
Published on 14 July 2014

The_Internet_Messenger_by_Buky_Schwartz_553_415How digital is your company? Before trying to answer that question, it's best to understand what 'digital' means - and therefore what a 'digital transformation' really is. 'Digital' is the use of technology to help people use information. But one PC on its own or even per person does not make a company 'digital', if there is no good digital interaction between those persons. What collaboration software can do is to link all those pockets of 'digital' and power a digital transformation.

Keeping Up with the Customer

Customers have been buying ever smarter smartphones and ever more powerful tablets. They connect when they want, where they want and can contact anyone in an organization, who has an email address, a social network ID or a webpage. Customers also expect a consistent story about what's happening in an enterprise. Anybody whose contact details are exposed to the public had better be in harmony with the rest of the company choir. This is where collaboration tools like Confluence, Exo, Redbooth, Communifire and TallyFox can help.

Collaboration Software Functionality

The mechanisms for getting everybody to sing from the same song sheet depend on the style of collaboration that you favor. Possibilities include:

  • Interactive communications. While email remains a staple, real time collaboration through video and voice communications helps eliminate 'email lag' and put mutual understanding back into interactions. Text chat and immediate conferencing between several people add to the possibilities.
  • Expressing and inviting opinions and comment. In-house blogs can be a good way to publicize particular subjects, product developments or company news. They can also attract constructive ideas (subject to any appropriate moderation by an administrator.)
  • Exchanging snippets of information. Microblogging lets users swap smaller bits of content in a similar way to Twitter (a small number of words, a URL or an image file, for example.)
  • Questions and answers. Wikis as a first and immediate line of help for employees to understand what's going on, how they should be interacting with external parties, or both.
  • Discussions of general interest. Online forums take the blog comment potential a step further to allow multiple threads of discussion that are initiated by different employees, instead of being systematically spawned by a particular blog post or topic.
  • Build and manage groups of people linked by a common goal or responsibility. Intra-company social networking allows groups to form. It can also add the tag, #hashtag and 'Like' functionalities made popular by social networking leaders like Facebook and Twitter.

Down with Silo Mentality, Up with Transparency and Productivity

All those PCs in your organization, in fact all your computing devices whether desktop or mobile, have a capacity for good or bad collaboration. Left alone without guidance, you can expect the worst - silo thinking. Think of all those spreadsheets for example. How many of them really get shared like they should? But by suitable application of collaborative apps, functionality and techniques, you can convert isolated weakness into collective strength.

| Silo Thinking (Don't Do This!) | Collaborative Fix (Do This!) | Functionality and Apps | | Fragmented thinking, misunderstanding about overall direction and priorities | A unified vision that can be discussed, refined and internalized | Real time interactive communications, blogs ( TallyFox) | | Each department sets its own goals without meshing with others, misaligned efforts between departments | Common goals that complement each other without gaps or redundancy | Real time interactive communications, forums, wikis ( Confluence) | | Work isn't understood or fun, it's something to be survived on a daily basis | Motivation and incentives that encourage employees to work well (and collaborate well) | Microblogging, video chat, gamification, intra-company social networking ( Communifire) | | Instructions are top-down without the possibility of feedback, corporate objectives fail to leverage employee potential | Collaborate and create by exchanging ideas as they happen, and developing the good ones into something great. | Microblogging, wikis, intra-company social networking ( eXo) | | Tasks are not tracked, or if they're tracked, they're not benchmarked or improved. | Measure and monitor how changes in collaboration change productivity and performance, and keep changing appropriately | Collaborative task creation, visibility and reporting ( Redbooth) |

Trends in Collaboration Solutions

Collaboration isn't standing still either. Collaboration app vendors know that their market and end-users are on the move too, and they continually upgrade their software with new or enhanced features. But by starting now, you'll reap the benefits sooner instead of later. Trends that may affect your company as it boards the collaboration train include:

  • Integration. As everybody, at all levels of the organization, starts to understand and use collaboration, it makes sense to look for tighter integration with mission-critical applications for project management and so on. You'll still be able to choose between stand-alone and integrated collaboration tools, but expect stand-alone apps to get even smarter about working with third party apps.
  • Simplicity. Simpler, more straightforward, in fact, simply more usable. Complication is out. It's unprofitable. Smart collaboration tools that make it easy to collaborate are in.
  • Collaboration here, there, and everywhere. Mobile will continue to grow in usage, but so will controlled collaboration with partners and suppliers outside the company perimeter.

Collaboration Apps Go with a Collaboration Mindset

The right digital transformation can be made to any enterprise and any organization. Collaboration tools like the ones mentioned here can be invaluable in making that transformation happen. Remember that collaboration is also a state of mind. Collaboration apps can support the appropriate company culture, but they cannot change that culture by themselves. For that reason, it's important that top management too uses the interactive communications of Communifire or the blogging from TallyFox, for example. Directors should take an active interest in the wikis in Confluence or eXo, and/or receive and actively comment on reporting from Redbooth.

Next Steps

Digital transformation starts one step at a time. The first one could be to check out SMB collaboration apps that can help propel your company beyond the competition, with different pricing that even includes collaboration tool free plans.


Apps mentioned in this article