Team Collaboration Isn't Just About Chat

My No Jitter post last month looked at five tips for building a successful team collaboration strategy, but I confess an error on my part: A messaging-centric view of 'team collaboration.' Team collaboration is much broader than just messaging; and successful IT leaders will consider more than just how their workers chat when building a successful strategy.

It's not hard to see how discussions of team collaboration often delve into comparing products like Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, RingCentral Glip, and Slack. These products, and dozens of other competitors, have captured a great deal of attention in the real-time collaboration market, as they represent the evolution of unified communications. As vendors have shunned the label of "team chat," team collaboration and workstream collaboration have become more widespread terms used to describe these apps.

However, drawing the team collaboration line around 'messaging' excludes a much broader array of team collaboration apps. Indeed, any app that allows groups of workers to centrally converse; manage projects, tasks, and workflows; exchange documents; or collaborate around workstreams like on-boarding, sales, and customer engagement, could all carry the mantra of 'team collaboration.'

In further breaking down the team collaboration space, we find several classes of additional apps, almost all of which offer integrations into the messaging-centric team collaboration applications that I discussed last month. These are:

  • Project Management -- Examples here include Asana, Basecamp, Clarizen, Liquid Planner, Mavenlink, Redbooth, Wrike, and Zoho Projects. These apps enable teams to define project steps and dependencies, generally in the context of a team workspace.
  • Task Management -- Apps like Microsoft Planner, Missions, Trello, and Workstreams.ai enable teams to assign and track tasks related to team activities or projects (and there's a lot of overlap between task management and the previously listed group of project management apps).
  • Ideation -- Examples include Realtime Board and Stormboard, providing a virtual canvas for teams to develop ideas in brainstorming sessions as well as for follow-on individual or group work.
  • File Sharing and Co-authoring -- The team file sharing space is rapidly moving from sync and share services like Box, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive to offerings that enable teams to co-author documents in real time, examples of which include Dropbox Paper, Etherpad, Google Docs, Microsoft Office within Office 365, and Quip.
  • Digital Whiteboards and Screen Projection -- Products like Cisco Sparkboard, DisplayNote Montage, InFocus Mondopad, Nureva, Microsoft Surface Hub, Polycom Pano, and Smart KappIQ enable teams of distributed workers to collaborate on a shared surface in real-time. Use cases overlap with ideation apps (that often will run on some of these physical boards).
  • Workflow Integration -- Web services like #IFTTT and Zapier enable teams to build their own custom integrations either among team apps, or between team apps and other business apps that offer REST APIs. Using these workflow integration apps teams can optimize business processes on their own, enabling direct integration of streams of data into team apps, or enabling team apps to serve as an interface for working directly with other business apps. For example, via an integration, a team member could be notified of a change to software code that they then would review and approve without leaving the team messaging app. A workflow integration could even potentially mark a task as complete in a project management app at the same time.

    All of these additional apps offer opportunities for organizations to improve collaboration for distributed workers and workgroups, as well as the ability to integrate different apps into a common workspace, with a unified stream of notifications, messages, and activities. On the downside, most of these apps are SaaS-based and thus present the same potential enterprise risks to data loss, and may require centralized access, governance, and retention policies to ensure that organizations are able to meet operating requirements.

    The bottom line is that a successful team collaboration strategy must go beyond messaging. While messaging apps may provide the 'glue' that delivers a primary workspace, the ability to integrate additional applications for task and project management, file sharing and editing, ideation and virtual group collaboration, as well as workflow integration, are all critical elements in providing teams with the tools they need to effectively collaborate both inside and outside your organization.

    For more insights on team collaboration success, plan to attend "Team Collaboration Governance: Best Practices for Compliance and Security" on Thursday, March 15, at Enterprise Connect 2018 in Orlando, FL. If you haven't yet registered for the event, register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Advance Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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