Unified communications. Business collaboration. Digital work hub. These are just some of the phrases that get commonly bandied around enterprises today. But for small or medium-sized businesses (SMB), these buzzwords may not be mainstream and can frankly be confusing.
Irrespective of the size of a business, collaboration is critical for the success of any company today. According to Global Workplace Analytics, remote workforce has increased by a whopping 103 percent since 2005. Additionally, our definition of the word “team” has evolved beyond just a company’s employees to include external guests like customers, vendors, partners, suppliers and others who can be instrumental to the success of any project.
While collaboration between these dispersed workers has long been a priority of enterprise companies, SMBs are just beginning to realize the value of collaboration tools. However many of these tools today are siloed solutions (like email and chat alone) and don’t connect or share information – making it more difficult to streamline communications. At the same time, businesses are realizing the importance of having solutions like file storage, messages, updates, tasks, etc. available in one place for seamless collaboration and communication.
While there are certainly tools available to help mitigate these issues (like all-in-one collaboration apps and platforms), some of them can still be pricey for small businesses. The good news is, new tools are emerging that can not only be cost-effective for startups and SMBs, they can also act as long-term solutions for growth.
So for SMBs with limited bandwidth and budget, here are a few tips to consider when choosing a collaboration tool for your teams:
1. Aim for the Target
The first step to knowing whether a solution will be a good fit for your business is to understand how it will help you to reach your business goals. For example, if you’re a small consulting company, define how many new relationships you’d like to acquire and/or grow this year, the types of communication that you think will help make this a reality and take a hard look at what you’re spending to get there now. Define the effect you think an all-in-one collaboration tool will have on your KPIs. Dive into a true discovery process, identifying what the tool’s real purpose will be (like connecting with customers, freelancers, remote employees, etc.) and the impact it will have on your business.
2. Get Everyone on Board
Ensuring that your team is aligned is paramount to success. Therefore training your team on your new collaboration tool is a must. Whether it’s your vendor or just an internal effort or a combination of the two, it’s important to ensure everybody understands how the tool works and how to apply that training to everyday practices and processes. In the end, tools can be robust and amazing, but if no one uses them, they’re pointless.
3. Take it With You
Let’s be honest— the number of workers that come and sit at a desk every day is dwindling. Employees choose to work remotely, have meetings across the city, and may sometimes even need to be across the world to get business done. At the same time, they still need the same level of connectivity they would have in an office. This is where mobile becomes important. Look for collaboration solutions that offer a mobile component that fits all your employees, regardless of location or travel schedule.
4. Embrace Heterogeneity of Teams
Teams today include both internal and external stakeholders, like consultants, freelancers, etc. who, when brought into the fold, can increase the effectiveness of a project while saving time for all concerned. That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re utilizing a platform that allows you to connect both internal and external resources quickly and efficiently.
5. Keep Up with the Times
Millennials are changing the way business is done. Today’s workforce requires a combination of messaging, discussions, personalized interactions and other forms of contact to truly accomplish a business goal. So, look for an all-in-one collaboration tool that supports how your team naturally works, to make a measurable difference in productivity.