Collaboration buyers guide

Collaboration is back in the news. There have been ongoing developments of tools and technologies from the big names including Microsoft and Google. The goal is to make it easier for workers to collaborate with colleagues inside the organisation, and with customers and partners outside.

At least in part, this trend is driven by the development and promotion of the Cloud, where collaboration is a natural part of the process. But while the Cloud may be the latest enabling technology, there’s nothing new about the drive towards collaboration – the term ‘groupware’ was coined more than 30 years ago, and the first successful groupware product arrived 10 years later in the form of Lotus Notes.

However the focus of collaboration has changed somewhat in the intervening period. The original offerings placed the emphasis on tools such as shared calendars, contact management and scheduling, while document management was limited by the available technology. Today shared calendars, contacts and schedules are a commonplace part of the desktop environment, regardless of the need to collaborate. Now document management is at the heart of the latest solutions.

The need for collaboration

Although large organisations have led the way in the adoption of collaboration tools, small-to-medium size business can benefit enormously in today’s economic environment. SMEs need to be more flexible, and to achieve more with fewer resources. Trends such as teleworking and hot-desking, as well as the need to use outsourced expertise and freelance workers, are all part of the drive towards collaboration. Among the benefits are:

  • Lower costs for office space, travel and teleconferencing;
  • Savings in staff time by eliminating the need to travel;
  • Improved communications inside and outside of the organisation;
  • Better project management and faster decision-making;
  • Reduced IT costs;
  • Improved employee satisfaction;
  • Better customer experience and partner relationships.

In a new survey by Forrester Research of US and European companies who have implemented collaboration software, between 20 and 60 per cent said they had realised one or more of the above benefits, while a smaller number also reported improved innovation and lower time-to-market. Just 3 per cent said they had seen no benefit.

The challenge for SMEs looking to improve collaboration in their office software suites is in choosing the right solution from this rapidly-expanding menu.

Read more about collaboration.