By Kalpana Araya
In the digital era, collaboration for business needs is changing rapidly. Once an innovative technology trend, digitization is now a core business competency. In the collaboration era, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are largely benefitted by the scale and speed of digital technology. Traditional corporate boundaries of SMBs and large enterprises seem to diminish with employees adopting the trend of telecommuting. Telecommuters work on their own device and from anywhere, and prove to be a dedicated resource for any thriving organization.
The Cloud Connect
According to TechAisle, around 21 million employees of SMBs across the world work from home at least three times per week.
Whether an employee has to attend a meeting with participants across the country, or has to track the work of remotely-located customer servicing staffs, he/she can connect with everyone at a single virtual platform on the cloud. In the digital era, the idea of collaboration stretches across geographical boundaries and helps in forming a dynamic team working proactively and productively.
For an effective enterprise collaboration, businesses are using advanced collaboration tools, such as, videoconferencing, project management software, collaborative software, enterprise social networking, corporate intranet, and public internet.
Here’re the different tools to help diversely located employees work together in a collaborative environment.
Instant Messaging (IM)
Instant Messaging is used widely in business organizations for quick and effective communication among employees. It provides a friendly interface for employees to communicate one-on-one even when they are located far off in terms of location. As a powerful collaboration tool, Instant Messaging is combined with features like white boarding, graphics and document sharing. With such advanced features, it helps in holding simultaneous chat conversations, sending real-time messages and getting instant replies.
With the help of chat rooms, a group of employees working on a particular project can come together and share valuable information. From Slack to HipChat, Hall and Unison, there are different chat room applications to help employees communicate in real-time. Chat room software is designed specifically for a business group to share information seamlessly from anywhere and anytime. Depending upon the collaboration needs, businesses can choose either single-thread chat room like Lync from Microsoft or richer communication spaces like Unison.
Chatbot is a software that can interact directly with users via different chat mechanisms. Be it chat room or Instant Messaging, bots collaborate with all possible chat mechanisms to ensure effective business communication. Different HR software applications also provide the chatbot facility to ensure quick resolution of employee queries. Employees can connect with the HR professionals through chatbots and stay abreast of policy changes and recent updates.
Employees of different departments don’t get a chance to interact frequently. Here comes the role of a discussion forum, which can promote peer-to-peer information sharing on a centralized discussion portal. It can also help in creating a positive corporate culture where team members can freely share their input for improving different business processes.
Podcasts are those audio files, which are available for employees, clients and customers to stream or download. Businesses are already using podcasts for an effective digital marketing by reaching out to a large number of audience. But, the latest trend is of podcasts being used for internal communication among the employees. Employees at different work locations of a company can tune in to a company podcast through different mobile devices. A business podcast can be used by an enterprise to share any idea with all its employees at the same time. A business podcast for internal communication can be of any form, be it a message from the CEO, tutorial videos, introduction to a new process, or an assistance audio.
Overcoming the barriers of different time zones and locations, employees in the digital era are collaborating through videoconferencing. Videoconferencing software helps employees engage in face-to-face communication on a single virtual space. Through videoconferencing, participants of a meeting can stay engaged throughout by enjoying the advanced features of rich content sharing and on-the-go collaboration with a large number of attendees.
Project Management Software
With a cloud-based project management tool, businesses are doing a lot more than just maintaining a project Gantt chart. Firms are gaining a competitive edge by using project management software to collaborate seamlessly and harness crucial data and information. This way, every employee can work towards a shared goal and achieve higher productivity. Project management software also helps in centralizing and organizing document collaboration and integrating project management for desired results.
Collaborative software or groupware is used by business groups to communicate, coordinate and share their developments regarding a common interest. The collaboration software technology allows users to perform tasks together in both collocated and non-collocated manner. This technology helps them communicate productively and overcome any hurdle to the successful completion of a task. Some of the trusted collaboration software are Zoho Docs, Tallium and Slack.
Enterprise Social Networking
With the help of an enterprise social network, organizations ensure streamlined communication among co-workers. Especially within larger organizations, an enterprise social networks like Yammer and Jive is used to build an internal social network. It helps in forging connections between departments and making daily business processes smoother.
Email is one of the most used collaboration tool, which helps employees exchange notes and documents, and share links. Email is also widely used for scheduling meetings and staying connected with a large number of employees. Some may call it as the collaboration tool of yesterday, but it is still in use and that too, quite extensively.
The Final Thought
The future of business collaboration is bright, with unified communications becoming a trend. Organizations are using different collaboration tools together to stay connected with their telecommuting employees and keep the momentum of work going.
Kalpana Araya is a tech enthusiast, presently working as a Content Expert with Techpillar. Tech blogging is her passion, through which she intends to explore the world of software & hardware. She doesn’t just write for tech-savvy people, but also for those who find the world of technology intriguing.