In the past few months, I have started using collaborative tools in business. First ezTalks, a video communication platform, then SharePoint 2013 to manage documents (among others), and more recently Yammer, a social network like Facebook. Other tools are also available. Although each has its own particularities, they all aim to facilitate collaboration among colleagues.
The more I used the collaboration tools available to me and the more their usefulness became evident. Several work processes that require some coordination with colleagues have become more efficient and fluid. Here are the 5 advantages of using collaborative tools in a company.
- Eliminate silo work and stay connected
SharePoint is a tool for centralizing documents. It is a platform on which people can insert and modify all types of Microsoft documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Ms Project, Visio, images, videos, etc.).
The main advantage of having employees work on the same platform and not on their respective virtual desktops is to eliminate silo (or independent) work. If everyone is working in his / her area, there may be conflicts: two people can start working on a similar project or make changes to a common document. We then double a job that only one person could have done.
Using SharePoint ensures that everyone is aware of what is going on in the business. We can see what our colleagues are doing and ‘tagger’ someone to review a document, like on Facebook. Transparency is much greater, and the likelihood of confusion is lower.
For example, every time someone starts to write a new article at OTI, other editors can immediately see the title of the post appear on SharePoint. By being aware of what others are doing, we avoid repeating ourselves and we keep control over the general orientation of the blog. The tool creates automatic coordination between the members of the team.
- Reduction of emails and compliant copies
As we all know, you can spend a lot of time managing your emails. We can find everything in e-mails: requests from our colleagues (urgent and less urgent), certified copies (cc), memos, communications with clients, newsletters, etc. Searching through all this is long and inefficient.
By adding other communication platforms, message types are separated, making management easier and faster. Each tool has its raison d’être. We keep the e-mails for communication with external clients, but we use Lync to ask colleagues for a little help. Instead of putting people in cc in an email, they can be tagged on Yammer posts. By separating the messages by category, we know right away where to look for a type of information without having to search dozens of emails of all kinds.
- Have a corporate memory
Another advantage of centralizing documents and communications is the development of a corporate memory. Collaboration tools can organize all the steps of a project in an organized way: the different versions of a document, the people who worked on it, and the related social network conversations on Yammer or SharePoint .
When an employee leaves for the holidays and has to send his or her file to a colleague, that person can go and see all the information related to the project. So he can quickly understand what has been done and what remains to be done. Also, the transfer of knowledge between employees who retire and members of the company is easier. A new employee can also be introduced to the processes of his new employer thanks to this corporate memory of the projects.
- Always have access to the latest versions of the documents
With these tools, it is no longer necessary to exchange different versions of a document by e-mail. Everyone has access at all times to the same versions, which can be updated directly on the platform. This avoids the problems of updating documents, which are also frequent among our customers.
For example, at one of our customers – a large retail company – each store independently handled procedures from the head office and as these sometimes changed, some stores retained the wrong versions. By implementing SharePoint with the help of OTI, they centralized important documents to ensure that all stores have access to the right versions at all times.
- Working from a distance
Some companies prefer to use offline collaboration tools for security reasons. However, using them online has a major advantage: remote work. You can access collaborative tools from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. This is useful for working from home, on the go (business trip) or for companies that use a ‘dispersed’ global workforce.
In short, tools like SharePoint, ezTalks, Yammer and Lync can bring productivity gains and make employees collaborate much more efficiently than using only e-mail. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are tons of collaborative tools. And who do you use?