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We hear the term collaboration a lot in today's work-from-anywhere environment. But what does collaboration mean, and how can you build an effective collaborative workspace?

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What is collaboration?

Collaborate means to work with other people or a group, combining various skills and expertise to achieve a common objective.

In a business context, it refers to individuals working together inside their companies or across different organizations. In IT, collaboration (or collab) refers to the use of technologies for voice calls, video conferencing or messaging. For example, unified communications (UC) leaders in IT are often called collab leaders.

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Why is collaboration important?

Collaboration is central to business functions and enhances employee productivity. Due to the pandemic, 2020 and 2021 saw an acceleration of digitized business processes. In addition, the rise of remote working highlighted the importance of using technologies to support cross-functional collaboration and communication when employees could not physically meet. 

Industry analysts say companies have made six years of digital transformation in six months -- and collaboration technologies were instrumental in making this possible.

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The benefits of collaboration

Up to 80 percent of organizations use social collaboration tools to enhance their business processes. Companies that encourage communication and collaboration are 4.5 times more likely to retain the best talents, while 33 percent of employees say that a collaborative workplace increases their loyalty. Additionally, improving collaboration can help increase the productivity of knowledge workers by 20-25 percent.

Collaboration helps foster innovation, reduce costs, shorten product development cycles, improve customer experience, increase employee engagement and retention, attract top talents, ensure stakeholder alignment, streamline workflows and improve team performance.

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Business collaboration tools for enterprise

Collaboration methods are either synchronous (i.e., happens in real-time) or asynchronous. You can support different types of collaboration with various remote collaboration tools, such as:

Messaging and chat

A messaging or chat application allows users to send and receive messages instantly via their desktop or mobile devices. These apps also allow you to share files and manage tasks. Common chat applications used in the workplace include Microsoft Teams, Slack and Webex.

Persistent chat

Collaborative workspaces involve the use of persistent chat among a defined list of members. They're accessible either by the entire organization or listed contributors only. MS Teams, Sharepoint and Webex (formerly Webex Teams) are tools that support persistent chat.

Meetings

Whether it's in-person meetings, voice calls, video conferences or a combination of these formats, you can use various software to create a seamless remote collaboration experience. Popular platforms include Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, GoToMeeting and Google Meet.

Document sharing and co-authoring

These platforms allow employees to access documents from a centralized location and work on a file together in real-time and see the latest changes to minimize version control issues. Some commonly used file-sharing apps include OneDrive, Box, Dropbox and Paper.

Enterprise social networks

You can create social networks within the enterprise context to help employees foster relationships and enhance collaboration. Yammer and Chatter are two popular platforms for building enterprise social networks.

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How to choose the right tools for collaborative workspaces

With so many different vendors offering various types of collaborative tools, how can you identify those that are right for your organization? Here are some criteria you should consider:

  • Compatibility: It should integrate well with your existing systems.
  • Ease of use: It should be simple and intuitive for employees to adopt.
  • Secure: It should have security features such as access control and two-factor authentication.
  • Cloud-based: Many organizations are shifting to the cloud for benefits such as scalability, agility and pay-as-you-go. However, regulated industries and some public sector organizations have more caution and considerations to address before moving to cloud platforms.

Also, keep in mind that less is best. Many companies rushed into implementing remote working solutions during the pandemic, leading to tool sprawl. It's time to consolidate, rationalize and eliminate duplicate tools so you can further improve cost-efficiency and productivity.

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Create effective collaborative workspaces

There are many advantages to supporting collaboration in today's digital workplace, and having the right tools is key to creating effective collaborative workspaces. However, choosing the right applications and making sure they play nice with each other can be challenging. 

Here at WWT, our experts offer advice to help you select and rationalize digital workspace tools so you can reap the full benefits of collaboration and remote collaboration. 

See how WWT can help your company create an effective digital workspace strategy

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