There is near-unanimous agreement among small to midsized businesses (SMBs) that collaboration tools are now essential to operations. In a recent Techaisle survey, 96 percent of SMBs ranked improved collaboration as their second-most important IT priority, just behind cloud.
It’s a reflection of lessons learned during the pandemic. The rapid transition to remote work initially created systemic challenges, largely because companies and their employees were trying to figure out how to make things work using many different applications, cloud services and communications channels. It forced organizations to accelerate digital strategies that could streamline workflows and enhance productivity.
Over the past year, companies of all sizes have refined their perception of what an effective collaboration solution should provide. They are no longer satisfied with a disjointed environment in which employees use a patchwork of discrete and disconnected tools for file sharing, messaging, conferencing and telecommunications.
The need to continue supporting remote and hybrid work environments for the foreseeable future has companies looking for increasingly integrated and seamless solutions. They are beginning to see collaboration as an organizational capability and not merely a collection of products.
Now that they have learned the value of collaboration, organizations are looking to improve it by making it a key part of the IT stack with more complete solutions featuring better software integration. An Analysys Mason report forecasts a 13 percent increase in collaboration spending this year, with total revenues reaching $43.2 billion in 2022. The increase will be at least party driven by companies transitioning from free consumer-grade solutions to purchased business-grade solutions.
Here are five ways companies can enhance their collaboration capabilities in the coming months:
Improve Integration. More companies are going to standardize on a single collaboration platform. Having videos, conversations, files, tasks, calendars, maps, images and more accessible through a common dashboard will improve workflow management, create continuity and eliminate information silos.
Improve Video and Audio Quality. As remote workers flocked to video collaboration platforms, they often encountered jittery, grainy video and poor sound quality — usually the product of insufficient Internet connections or poor-quality cameras and microphones built into most laptops and other endpoints. Companies are addressing quality issues with better wireless routers, headsets and cameras in 2021.
Enhance Security. Vast amounts of sensitive information such as financial data, customer information and intellectual property are exchanged in collaboration and file-sharing environments. Installing data loss prevention, content filtering and encryption features on employee endpoint devices will minimize the risk of data leakage.
Leverage Artificial Intelligence. Many collaboration solutions now integrate machine learning, natural language processing, text analytics and other AI capabilities to eliminate bottlenecks, improve information gathering, record meetings and offload routine tasks. For example, integrated digital assistants improve the collaboration process by enabling users to start or join meetings, call colleagues, access reports, manage calendars or share files with voice commands.
Improve Management. Meeting management software integrates with calendar, email and chat functions to assist in planning and guiding team meetings. These tools can be used to schedule meetings, distribute invitations and agendas, take and share notes in real time, generate minutes, and set timers to keep meetings on track.
They say necessity drives innovation, and the growth of collaboration technologies is proof of that. Forced to improvise last year to support the sudden transition to remote operations, businesses of all sizes quickly learned the value of collaboration. With increased integration and other improvements, these solutions can continue to drive improvements in agility, efficiency and productivity.
Verteks specializes in the design, implementation and support of communication and collaboration platforms. Let us help you develop a solution that will take collaboration to the next level.