We’re in this thing for the long haul, folks. Hybrid work, that is. It has now been adopted by 100 per cent (yes, you read that correctly) of the 400 IT and cybersecurity execs in a recent Pulse survey. In their journey to embrace hybrid work, those same execs say their top priority is “enabling distributed collaboration.” This can help to improve operational efficiency.
More organizations are already deploying collaboration technology:
- 79% of workers used collaboration tools in 2021, up from 55% in 2020 (Gartner)
- 85% of organizations plan to implement a comprehensive collaboration suite in the next 12 months (Forrester)
Enterprises definitely see value in collaboration tech:
- 90% say unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools are important to their hybrid work policy (Netscout)
- 82% say “investing in a cohesive collaboration solution allows their organizations to stay competitive and makes (them) a leader in their industry.” (Forrester)
As with any mass adoption of an evolving enterprise technology, however, there are bumps along the way. From the aforementioned Forrester report, here’s some less stellar feedback about collaboration technology:
- only 37% of organizations are satisfied with their current solution
- 53% report performance and reliability issues
- 49% say visualization features are too limited
- 46% complain of missing features (versus their needs)
- 43% worry about security
There was also this data, from a poll that came out in December:
- 93% of organizations worry that UC&C platform adoption will hurt their productivity (!) in the short term
- 37% said UC&C issues generate 50% to 75% of all their IT help desk tickets
Is collaboration tech failing to be the pandemic productivity saviour we all want it to be? Let’s dive a bit deeper into what’s really going on.
Since it feels like this pandemic has gone on forever, it’s easy to forget that en masse WFH only started 22 months ago. Vendors are still figuring out what users want in collaboration solutions. Many organizations are just rolling out new UC&C solutions now. Plus, the UC&C that enterprises needed before the pandemic is entirely different from the one they need for long-term hybrid work.
As Forrester points out in its lengthy report on collaboration solutions, “the focus (in 2020) was on speed of implementation rather than identifying which tools were best suited to their business operations and employee needs … (In 2022) companies need to reinvent how they facilitate collaboration experiences to their distributed workforce.”
(We should also point out that 26 per cent of UC&C help desk tickets are resolved within minutes and 56 per cent are resolved within a matter of hours.)
It’s tough to effectively use collaboration tools when you can’t even connect (or stay connected) to them. In a study released in July, WFH employees reported these connectivity frustrations:
- slow website loading times (49%)
- had to leave a virtual meeting due to video “freezing” or poor audio (37%)
- Internet service outages (33%)
- trouble streaming work content (25%)
In a more recent report from September, 80 per cent of WFH employees said connectivity problems have actually prevented them from doing work remotely.
Surprisingly, only one per cent of WFH employees say their employers offset their home Internet costs in some way. In his research paper on hybrid work, Deloitte’s Alex Braier suggests employers may have to invest in their workers’ WFH connectivity (such as upgraded Wi-Fi routers or subsidized ISP upgrades) “just to level the playing field and make sure everybody has access to the same equipment.”
If poor connectivity prevents 80 per cent of WFH staff from doing their jobs, isn’t it worth it?
When companies hurried to put collaboration tools in place at the start of the pandemic, proper employee training was, understandably, an afterthought.
“In the rush to collaborate, some companies delivered technology that enabled collaborations without (the) training or the culture needed to support the expected benefits,” IDC’s Wayne Kurtzman told TechNewsWorld.
Now that hybrid work is here to stay, companies must invest the time and resources required to teach their employees how to get the most out of those collaboration solutions.
“Arrange training so that everyone understands how to use them and how they can help track which tools are underused,” Deloitte advises in its report on hybrid work.
Other things to consider when choosing or adopting collaboration tools include:
Consolidation: 72 per cent of organizations are using between three and nine UC&C tools while 20 per cent use more than 10. That’s a lot of different tools requiring different training, security, integration and support.
Metadata: Tap into the metadata from your collaboration tools to create an anonymized progress report on which teams are using the tools, how often and why, as well as which features are being used most and least. According to Deloitte, this metadata can also help you discover “who’s feeling left out” from a WFH employee wellness/mental health point of view.
Asynchronous features: Deloitte’s Braier says asynchronous features like group messaging or virtual document editing are often underutilized because many employees a) don’t know how to use them, or b) feel more comfortable sticking with traditional tools like email that are far less efficient and productive.
UX: Don’t underestimate the importance of this. More than 90 per cent of IT leaders say user experience “significantly impacts the value” of a UC&C tool to their organization.
Integration: Forrester suggests choosing “a tool that is extensible and fits into your company’s existing tool sets.” Will it work across multiple operating systems, employees’ personal devices and key corporate apps for project management and cybersecurity?
Remember, 82 per cent of organizations already believe a cohesive collaboration solution is critical to staying competitive in their industry. Collaboration tech works best when you select the most relevant tool for the job and learn how to use it for maximum results.