How to Create a Killer Collaborative App Strategy

By Smartsheet’s Kelly Anthony

It’s hard to escape the buzz around the rise of collaboration apps and the role they play helping leading enterprises build and sustain a lead in the market. A recent survey dove into the specifics of what enterprise collaboration apps actually mean for today’s business leaders.

One of the key survey takeaways reinforces that organizations overwhelmingly recognize the critical importance of collaboration strategy. 71% of surveyed organizations said they have a defined collaboration strategy in place. Furthermore, respondents acknowledged that organizations that haven’t strategically deployed collaboration apps are viewed as being at a competitive disadvantage. “If employees are not sharing information as quickly and efficiently as possible, business grinds to a halt,” said one survey respondent. “One of our key advantages has been the frequent exchange of ideas.”

What Defines a Best in Class Collaborative App Strategy?

As vendors and platforms have arrived on the market to facilitate collaborative work, five categories have materialized as key to competitive success. Here are the five categories that collectively make up a world-class collaborative app portfolio, and number of survey respondents deploying each one:

When organizations take an intentional approach to fully and effectively deploy one solution in each category, they are in a position to fully realize their cloud-based collaborative work potentialand accelerate collaboration and productivity, enterprise-wide. When collaboration apps are deployed that encompass these categories of creating, managing, and producing work, improvements are seen across accountability, accuracy, and speed. Just as important, thanks to the transparent and real-time nature of these applications, a new layer of visibility is created across the organization into status, progress, and execution  for all to see.

5 Areas to Consider as You Build Your Collaborative App Arsenal

Understanding the components of a successful collaborative app strategy is only the first step in building out your own. As you select platforms to fill in the holes, here are five elements to keep in mind overall:

Interoperability: While introducing new technology can be a huge productivity boost for a number of your employees, many will continue to work with their current set of productivity tools and systems of record. Of surveyed organizations, nearly half have 11 or more collaboration apps alone deployed. Rather than requiring massive change, look for collaboration solutions that will work well with the environment you already have in place.

Questions to ask: Is it possible to connect the platform you’re evaluating with other software systems currently in place in your business? What types of integrations are available to use out of the box? Is there an open API should you want some custom development?

Accessibility: Increasingly, remote work options are becoming the norm. Telecommuting has increased 103% over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down. Younger generations entering the workforce have come to expect this flexibility. The majority of survey respondents use collaboration tools not just internally, but also with customers, partners, and suppliers. Consider how important easily accessible solutions are for your organization, both now and in the coming years.

Questions to ask: How will we enable remote employees to access their work? How will team members work together? What does our vendor / contractor ecosystem look like and how do we share information with them?

Security: As cloud solutions have grown in popularity, so have concerns around the security of these solutions. 66% of surveyrespondents reported concern that enterprise collaboration apps unsupported by IT make networks vulnerable to outside intrusion. According to Forrester research, security is the number one reason preventing companies from moving to the cloud. This doesn’t mean you need to rethink your strategy – with thorough vetting and by asking the right questions you can choose a collaboration platform in the cloud without sacrificing security and control of your data.

Questions to ask: Has the company you are evaluating submitted itself to independent assessment, and are they willing to share the results? Was the service designed with security in mind? Is there redundancy in their data recovery?

User Interface: Take stock of the software systems your organization uses today and any preferences you already know about your employees. One survey respondent shared, “Enterprises that do not adopt these [collaboration] tools generally fail to do so because their workforce is rigid and unwilling to adapt to new technology.” Given the challenges that come along with change management, when choosing new technology, user interface matters – a lot. Recent research from G2 Crowd found that user interface can “make or break” adoption of new tools, especially collaboration tools.

Questions to ask: What trends exist in the UI of our current tools? How prone to consumer-like interfaces are employees in our organization?

Internal Awareness: The biggest complaint about enterprise collaboration apps is that not everyone uses them. Change is always hard, but it’s a lot easier to stomach when everyone understands the upside of adopting new technology. To avoid low adoption, do your best to help your employees see what’s in it for them as you promote new solutions and ways of working together. Identify internal champions who can help roll out new ways of working to their teams.

Questions to ask: Who are my early technology adopters? What ROI can I share with my organization?

Winning companies align the different elements of collaborative work: create, manage, reference, and communicate under one collaboration strategy. By asking the right questions and thinking through the right elements, you, too can set your team up to survive in the next digital era.