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Employee collaboration is essential to productivity and success - regardless of whether it's to win a team rowing competition, or to achieve organisational success.

Achieving your goals are dependent on working cohesively with and getting the right support from team members and vice versa. You achieve success together or you fail together.

Unfortunately, it becomes trickier for today's organisation's, with more employees working from different locations and during different times.

This is where online collaboration tools can help teams achieve productivity goals. These tools increase team efficiency by up to 20%, making it easier for teams to work together towards common goals. Collaboration is deemed so important by modern employees that up to 40% would pay for their own tools to make their jobs easier.

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The Different Types of Collaboration Tools

Enterprise collaboration tools are designed to make it easier for employees to share information, connect with each other, and work together. Though there are many all-in-one collaboration platforms available such as intranets with social tools, they generally fall into three categories:

1. Communication tools

These are designed primarily to facilitate communication, whether it be one-on-one or in large groups. In the modern office, there are a multitude of ways to communicate with other employees: text message, voice calls, emails, instant messaging, team workspaces and more. A communication tool seeks to combine these into a single enterprise social network so that it is less likely that employees will miss each other. Communication tools can even be tied into voice-over-IP systems to create an even more seamless environment.

2. Conferencing tools

Video chatting and voice conferencing have become very important to the contemporary workplace, in which employees will often work remotely and need to connect with other offices. A conferencing tool makes it easier to seamlessly connect to other offices with high quality communications.

3. Coordination tools

Coordination tools are often thought of as "project management" solutions. These are tools that drill down to employee tasks, goals, and milestones, giving them a better picture of what they need to complete next. Ideal coordination tools will keep all team members on the same page while also giving supervisory staff an easy-to-access overview of the project status. Some advanced coordination tools can even track employee productivity at a granular level, giving insights into which team members work on which aspects of a project best.

Though the earliest collaboration tools were used on internal networks, modern collaboration tools are almost universally used online. Not surprising as it makes it easier for employees to connect to each other from out of the office; employees no longer need to be on the same network to communicate.Additionally, many are built across cloud-based frameworks, giving them access to resources that they wouldn't otherwise have.

Choosing the Right Online Collaboration Tool for Your organisation

All organisations can benefit from using tools for workplace collaboration - but with hundreds available, which ones should you use? There isn't a single one-size-fits-all solution; instead, organisations need to pare down to what they truly need. Here are a few questions to ask.

What are your organisation's challenges?

Does your organisation find itself struggling with team communication? Or is it having primarily organisational difficulties? Your organisation's challenges should be the driving force behind new platform adoption.

What is the size of your team?

Smaller teams are going to find themselves looking at different solutions altogether than larger enterprises. Collaboration tools for smaller workplaces and teams tend to be simple and streamlined, whereas enterprise solutions are going to be significantly more complex.

What is everyone’s role and responsibility?

Often there is a failure to establish roles and responsibilities as well as failed management schemes for your platform. Ask yourself, how exactly they will be collaborating with others. Ideally, there are three points you can consider:
1. Role assignments for users which may include administrator, editor or viewer role
2. Responsibilities for those roles as well as project managers, team leaders and other members
3. Governance of the platform which includes the security and administrative rights

What is your organisation's budget?

Most online collaboration tools are available at a low monthly subscription cost -- but there are also some open source platforms available for startups and organisations that aren't ready to commit. Professional solutions are often priced out at a per seat rate, so it becomes important to compare different tools based on cost.

What is your current IT infrastructure?

Ideally, your organisation's new collaboration tools should be able to easily integrate into your existing IT infrastructure. There are many popular suites that are designed to do just that, working directly with not CRM systems, ERP solutions, and general office products.

What document auditing and processes is needed?

Document auditing should be part of your overall plan. This involves cleaning up hard drives and migrating important and useful files to your platform. This plan should include the methodical process for the move, the list of documents which should be labelled as still working and archiving of those which are already finalised. Out with the email-driven processes like document sharing and editing and in with cloud storing and real-time revisions. Including this in the plan of your organisation will help streamline the process of document viewing, editing, publishing and distributing.

What level of mobility and accessibility will you offer?

Mobility and accessibility is one of the key reasons for implementing a collaboration tools. It is recommended that you document processes for users. When users are obtaining remote access to the platform, they will feel confident that they know how to complete a process.

Online collaboration platforms give an organisation an extremely powerful method of consolidating employee communications and helping them in collaborating with others. By investing in collaborative tools, organisations are able to improve upon all levels of their productivity and efficiency -- and therefore improve upon their bottom line.

Need more information on mastering collaboration in your digital workplace? Our online collaboration guide outlines the information on establishing better collaboration procedures and optimizing your existing ones. You will find key insights into common collaboration challenges and strategies and tools to overcome these. Along the way we'll also look at how to measure effectiveness.

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