Until recently, collaboration meant bringing all your team together in the same room and using whiteboards to work together or video conferencing equipment for a point-to-point connection. With employees now separated much more by time and distance, a range of communication tools are being used by enterprises to keep everyone connected.

But does communication really mean collaboration?

As teams become ever more dispersed, organisations need to think about more than technology to ensure collaboration is successful.

We’re communicating more today than ever before

Today’s organisations are composed of dispersed workforces, outsourced teams and external consultants. The work of these teams is not composed of separate, individual actions, but connected tasks with a desired outcome – any one person or any one function cannot meet today’s challenges alone. A group of people who willingly participate and provide their insights to address the increasingly interdependent issues is needed, and collaboration within this group and with other groups is necessary because one person no longer has the answer.

Guide to Collaboration - Maximise the effectiveness of collaboration

3 Key Considerations for today’s Enterprise:

1. TECHNOLOGY

While technology is critical to successful collaboration, with access to a wider range of communications tools than ever before, it is important to note that the implementation of new technology should not be an end in itself.

EMAIL

Is well-suited for distributing information to multiple contacts simultaneously but it is not ideal for real-time collaboration, such as multi-user version control of documents.

Guide to Collaboration - Maximise the effectiveness of collaboration

INSTANT MESSAGING

the benefits of immediate one-to-one communications superseded email. At its core is ‘presence’ – the ability to see if someone is online and available to communicate. As a starting point for collaboration IM is useful but it can become limited when used by larger groups or if a conversation goes on too long.

DESKTOP APPLICATION SHARING

allows users to share documents or information on-screen without having to send a copy to others. It is ideal for real-time document control, enabling distributed team members to add their own input. However, it requires a network with a high bandwidth to maintain a quality connection.

Guide to Collaboration - Maximise the effectiveness of collaboration

ENTERPRISE-LEVEL SOCIAL MEDIA

such as Yammer or Jive, offer a secure system for real-time conversations and can be linked to other popular enterprise platforms like Salesforce.com. These networks are most often limited to sharing links or creating group conversations rather than facilitating real-time document collaboration.

TELEPRESENCE

is another established enterprise technology that delivers high quality two way video and mixed media projections to offer an immersive collaboration experience. For many organisations, however, the costs can be prohibitively high and it requires dedicated facilities in order to provide a similar experience to face-to-face meetings.

Guide to Collaboration - Maximise the effectiveness of collaboration

Getting the right combination of technologies is one of the foundations of true collaboration.

2. CULTURE

Collaboration brings a range of benefits – from improved productivity for the enterprise to greater satisfaction among employees. So what can the organisation do to take advantage?

INTRODUCE A CULTURE OF COLLABORATION

A culture where it is the norm to share is one way to facilitate effective collaboration. Offering or withholding information is often the key to success or failure. As such, the structure of a team is critical to promoting successful collaboration. Research has shown that a mix of new and experienced people will create the right dynamic for success.

ENSURE COLLABORATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE

If communication tools are expensive, it is less likely that they will be deployed across the entire organisation, creating a barrier to adoption. Using PC-based softphones, for example, allows people to dial-in to conference calls by name, introducing familiarity among users by connecting their call profile to other information, such as social media history. These types of features make it easy for people to move away from mobiles onto more cost-effective tools.

MAKE IT COMFORTABLE TO COLLABORATE

Just as the ergonomics of seating and computer positioning have been recognised as essential for a healthy workforce, noise levels, creating suitable environments for collaboration and the provision of the appropriate equipment, such as headsets, will improve collaboration and productivity at the same time.

KNOW WHO IS AVAILABLE

Putting presence at the core of collaboration technology helps colleagues find each other quickly and see if they are able to take part in a call, removing time-consuming voicemail retrieval and improving real-time connections. Simple technology in headsets can also automate presence to ensure it is always correct and remove the frustrations from collaboration.

ENSURE USERS HAVE THE RIGHT TRAINING

At a time when people are used to simple apps on their smartphones, a lack of familiarity or too much complexity are frequently cited as the major reason for slow or restricted use of new collaboration techniques. By making tools and processes as simple as possible to understand, use and access, the enterprise can encourage swift adoption of collaborative working.

It is not just the hard skills associated with communications applications and tools that are useful. Soft skills training, in areas such as meeting etiquette, team working and getting the best from voice and video communication, will improve the user experience and encourage collaboration.

The enterprise must consider how it brings its employees together to determine the impact of collaboration on productivity.

3. VOICE

Traditional, not to mention familiar, methods of communication are essential to user adoption of collaboration at work.

A recent study indicated that over 60% of respondents are using conferencing frequently or even all of the time, showing that voice still plays the most important role in effective collaboration.

Video, which currently accounts for around 15% of conferencing traffic in Europe, reintroduces the impact of body language previously associated with physical face-to-face meetings.

Guide to Collaboration - Maximise the effectiveness of collaboration

Increasingly, conference calling – whether audio, video or a hybrid – is becoming the method of choice for real-time information sharing and team collaboration within an enterprise. To become a truly effective collaboration tool, however, conferencing must provide the facility to share and comment on documents, such as presentations and spreadsheets.

And as a facilitator to the move towards smarter more flexible working practices, conferencing should be delivered to and from a variety of locations including telepresence suites, dedicated (video) conferencing rooms, the desktop and increasingly on mobile devices. Recently, manufacturers have begun to introduce the functionality of true multi-party, multidirectional interactive collaboration on calls. Audio devices are now designed to enhance the collaboration experience, making it easier for users to use the power of their voice in communications across a range of locations. As a result, analysts anticipate a major growth in collaboration via personal conferencing on computers, tablets or even smartphones that allow users to access and interact with content during the call.

One thing is clear: truly effective collaboration is reliant on more than one factor. Implementing the latest, most effective technology plays an important role. Changing the culture of the organisation will ensure swift adoption of collaborative ways of working. While voice and body language are naturally familiar methods of communication and should be at the heart of any collaboration strategy

Source: Plantronics

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