13 Apr 2016

New collaboration tools create social enterprises

The nature of communication and collaboration within companies is changing.

Traditional methods of face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, email and video chat are now competing with a new generation of web-based applications that facilitate information storage, exchange and discussion.

The posterchild for this new wave of online tools is Slack, a collaboration tool that began life as an internal communication platform for a group of game developers. But there are others available on the market like Atlassian’s HipChat, Salesforce Chatter and Yammer which is part of the Office 365 package.

Analyst firm Gartner estimates that “half of team coordination and communication by 2018 will occur via group collaboration apps” like these, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Slack is effectively a messaging client. You create different channels for different projects, and invite the team working on the project to converse in that channel.

In the past year, it has taken off as a major tool for corporate communication – used by a growing list of large companies including Airbnb, eBay, NASA and Samsung.

It has been touted as an email killer – Slack itself claims it cuts out up to half of internal email – and plenty has been written about its effectiveness for small teams as a complete email replacement.

There are some pretty good reasons why organisations might look to email alternatives but while people may be quick to jump on a solution to the ‘problem of the moment’ i.e. email overload; there’s other factors to be considered.

Our clients often wonder are these tools just moving the conversation to an alternative platform, giving their staff yet another system to be across, rather than tackling the heart of the communication issue.

Our experience has proven that social enterprise tools indeed tackle the heart of the issue; these tools retain corporate knowledge in a way that allows others to benefit.

What otherwise would be a private conversation taking place via email is now companywide information that can be tagged and referenced by all.

Not only do these tools open up conversation to a wider audience, facilitating collaboration, they also make sure the information is not lost within inboxes, making it available to whoever comes along next with a similar query.

As social platforms take hold in the enterprise, it is important that some ground rules are set.

These include creating a policy around the use of the tools, supervising their use to some degree, and perhaps more basically knowing which platforms are being used.

The nature of these tools means that – like other cloud-based systems – ‘shadow’ or non-corporate-sponsored usage is possible, and it pays to know what infrastructure your staff choose to communicate with.