Five key collaboration trends to drive employee productivity

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By Varadha Raju

Technology has become a game-changer for every type of business — from start-ups to major worldwide enterprises. Successful businesses rely on technology to keep pace with globalization, the Internet of Things and even changing work styles. The emergence of a distributed workforce and the expectation of constant connectivity have created new challenges for CIOs focused on keeping their businesses ahead of the technology curve. The reality is that many businesses fall behind, which often results in an endless struggle with outdated technologies and systems that impact productivity, delay decision making and impede collaboration. The latter is especially risky. Because the average worker spends 80% of their time on collaborative activities, obsolete technology that obstructs collaboration can wreak havoc on a business and become a significant obstacle to success.

According to a 2016 Harvard Business Review study, the time the average employee spends collaborating has increased by 50% over the last two decades. This phenomenon only heightens the importance of technologies that facilitate collaboration between team members, contractors, customers and outside vendors.

According to a recent study:

• IT and facilities workers “consistently underestimate the challenges and overestimate the effectiveness of technology-enabled meetings at their companies.”
• Despite having access to modern tools, only about a third of employees frequently use digital whiteboards, online storage, data dashboards or enterprise social networks to collaborate.
• Only six percent of employees report that they don’t encounter any challenges when conducting technology-enabled meetings.

Modern collaboration solutions have the potential to impact broader business goals. Let’s take a closer look at the key trends shaping collaboration in the workplace and identify the capabilities CIOs should be looking for when evaluating new collaboration solutions

1 Unified communications — making an integrated connection
While the ability to access modern collaboration tools from anywhere is an obvious necessity, it’s also critical that businesses offer the ability to connect and share with other applications, such as calendars, Voice over IP (VoIP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other software. This helps simplify the exchange of data while employees are collaborating on projects. Likewise, to be accepted by employees, collaboration solutions must satisfy today’s work preferences. Integrating collaboration technology, such as voice, video and content sharing tools, into communication systems, business applications and workflows will drive adoption. However even though many companies offer collaboration tools, employees aren’t getting the most out of them. Only 25% of information workers believe that their company provides the tools they need to collaborate effectively and fewer than half of information workers reported that the collaboration applications and services they use enable effective, real-time collaboration during meetings.

2) Mobile support for distributed workforce
Mobile has become an important communication and collaboration tool for today’s workforce. Six out of 10 Millennials and Gen Xers globally are taking a mobile approach to work. And across all generations, 83% say they can be productive, regardless of time or location — if they have the right collaboration tools. How can you can increase employee satisfaction and win the war on talent by offering the progressive and innovative environments that top candidates expect? This is an important question that CIOs need to answer. It shouldn’t matter where workers are or what device they are using. Collaboration applications and services are now offering more intuitive, hassle-free capabilities, like live chat, for direct messaging for groups and teams. Enterprises can set up virtual work environments for companywide communications or smaller work-group collaboration. This is an imperative need today.

3) New visual collaboration tools are making meetings better
The good news is that new tools are beginning to address all the challenges of the mobile workforce. In a recent study, eight out of 10 information workers said that new solutions, such as digital workspaces, could better support collaboration, productivity, decision making and engagement. These new technology offerings enable employees to collaborate online in high-performance meeting rooms or use touch-screen displays and video walls for more immersive experiences.

4) The cloud enables true digital workspaces
“Work” is no longer just a physical office. The cloud makes it possible for employees around the globe to create, share and access information. It keeps everyone connected. The cloud is breaking down the barriers to communication, so that collaboration can happen regardless of device, location, or platform. As one article points out, “Efficient, universally accessible collaboration software and videoconferencing solutions couldn’t exist without the cloud serving as their frontier.

5) Big data presents new challenges
The amount of information we collect is constantly growing, heightening the need for analysis tools — particularly visual ones — to help us derive actionable insights. Tools that allow team members to visualize large datasets side by side are more necessary than ever. And these tools need to work for virtual team members, not just those who work in the office

Given the above trends, enterprises today need to move from just a collaborative workplace to a visual workplace, which can help teams across the globe to create, share and save projects by combining apps, content, video and the web. A solution that can also be easily understood and managed by employees without the need for any specific training. CIOs need to ensure that their investments are in the right solutions – that can integrate with their existing solution – enhance user experience and thus employee productivity!

The author is country head & VP sales and operations, Prysm Inc.

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