Unleashing Collaboration in the Enterprise

This guest blog was contributed by Sarah Carter | 10/21/13
There is arguably nothing more important in an organization than effective communication. Sales, HR, marketing, operations and every other department depend on solid communication to operate smoothly, not only cross functionally but externally as well. As employees utilize social, mobile and other technologies, businesses are beginning to turn to collaboration tools to bring the benefits of those channels under the umbrella of the enterprise.

In a study conducted by Aberdeen, analysts found that of the companies who implemented a unified communications (UC) strategy using collaboration tools, 53 percent saw an improvement in customer service metrics and 49 percent saw increased workforce productivity. This underscores the benefits enterprises can experience when they effectively integrate collaboration into their internal infrastructure.

However, collaboration tools do not follow a “build it, and they will come” design. Employees will only adopt tools that add true value and enterprises must strategically implement collaboration in a manner that aligns with employee needs and preferences. The following tips outline the steps to take to deploy collaboration tools to see happier employees and ultimately even happier investors:

1. Identify the problem.

The first question to ask is: “Why collaboration?” Is management looking to facilitate better employee communication across internal teams? Are they trying to provide an accessible medium to share successes and failures or even external customer commentary via social media or other channels? Knowing why the management team is seeking collaboration tools will identify how the tools can best be put to use. Going in with a well-thought-out UC strategy will unify staff and create a streamlined process for implementation.

2. Provide companywide education.

While management may know that collaborative social tools can increase productivity and employee morale, many are still unfamiliar with UC strategies. As with most new technologies, the key to acceptance is education. Hold an all-hands meeting to explain the leadership team’s UC strategy and its intent to benefit employees. By being fully transparent with internal stakeholders, employees will feel they are part of the decision process and will be more likely to jump onboard.

3. Start out slowly.

Bombarding staff with tools or features they aren’t ready for will result in chaos and complaints. The last thing management needs is for their workforce to turn against them before getting a chance to enjoy the benefits of new tools. The best way to kick start collaboration within the company structure is by slowly introducing the collaboration features one by one. Once employees understand and embrace using that portion of the platform, they will feel more comfortable taking on more.

4. Let technology be your bodyguard.

While collaboration tools addresses many of the communication barriers that cripple organizations, if not monitored correctly they can also open the doors to potentially risky compliance issues. Especially in highly regulated industries, businesses must monitor and archive internal networks, chats, emails and social channels in accordance with the SEC, FINRA and other regulatory bodies. Luckily, today’s advanced collaboration tools often offer monitoring and archiving features within the product or through partnerships.

Though it may take a lot of effort, the potential success enabled by collaborative enterprise teams can be enormous. Just remembee that no program can be effective without the support of the staff, so ask questions, listen to feedback and always address the problems. Only then will true collaboration be achieved.

Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is the general manager of social business at Redwood City, Calif.-based Actiance, a a global leader in communication, collaboration, and social media governance for the enterprise. She can be reached at SCarter@actiance.com.