With so many companies moving operations to the cloud, collaboration software – which thrives in a cloud environment – is becoming more prevalent than ever before.
Collaboration software helps teams stay connected and up-to-date, especially in today’s world of remote employees. The benefits of collaboration software go as far as employees, and their manager, are able to take them. Because collaboration software is only limited to how well companies use it, according to consultant William Freedman in a recent article for FCW.
Collaboration software calls back to why the internet was first invented – as a way to work together over long distances. Once, working together meant sharing a version of the same document, with each person doing their share and sending it on to the next. Today, working together means all ten people in the group working on the same document simultaneously in the cloud.
Freedman points out that the collaboration space is the intersection of four taxonomies: enterprise social, project management, business communication and document storage. Team members can share editing permissions, store reference materials, tag, sort, filter, share and manage. They can then communicate in real time through instant messaging, poll on another, invite other into meetings, schedule, track and chart. All of this is done over smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers. He then gives a list of collaboration software that fits these criteria:
It’s a diverse field that is ripe for a round of consolidation. FCW studied four review sites that rank the leaders and found little consensus not just on who is best or biggest, but who has even crossed a threshold to merit ranking.
The solutions that are of most interest to federal IT managers include:
- AtHoc, the crisis communication tool recently acquired by BlackBerry.
- Box, the document-sharing platform that has developed a healthy ecosystem of complementary apps and integrations.
- GitHub, the software development collaboration tool created eight years ago by a private San Francisco company.
- Huddle, the suitable-for-government solution that remains the sole product of the British firm that developed it.
- SharePoint, Microsoft’s long-standing entry in the category, which many agencies might be entitled to use as part of their enterprise agreements with the company.
- Although Dropbox has long been the private sector’s cheap-and-easy app for storing shared documents, it does not comply with federal guidelines
The software itself isn’t the only hurdle for tech decision makers to cross. Security is paramount, especially when sharing data over distances. IT departments have to secure data at rest, in transit, and at endpoints, regardless of what software they use.
In addition, if employees are unable or unwilling to use the software, then you might as well not even purchase it. That’s a battle on two fronts: training employees that will only use e-mail to use the software, and choosing software sophisticated enough that employees don’t opt out in favor of their own app. Freedman gives some advice:
The best way to get employees to use a particular collaboration suite is to involve them in the process of selecting it.
The first step is to having them define the agency’s unique use case. Is everyone happy with the current calendar app? Does anyone even want telepresence? Once the functional requirements are defined, then employees can help narrow down the list of potential vendors, schedule training, perform user-acceptance tests and otherwise manage the change.
Freedman has heard from many that collaboration software will one day make email obsolete. While it won’t be happening today or tomorrow, you might want to get a jump start.