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In any organization, teams need to work together to brainstorm innovative ideas and complete projects. These teams need the right tools to maximize productivity, and organizations are increasingly adopting team collaboration platforms.
"Earlier this year, we found 64% of organizations are using -- or planning to use -- team collaboration applications," said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research Group, based in Mokena, Ill. "It's a jump from around 50% two years ago. Organizations are seeing measurable benefits in productivity and project completion times."
The best way to think about a team collaboration platform is as a collection of tools that brings together different types of communication, Lazar said. Bringing multiple communication methods, such as voice, video and messaging, into one place creates a dedicated contextualized workspace, he said.
Elements of a collaboration platform
According to a Nemertes Research Group team collaboration study, typical features of a team collaboration platform include persistent chat, mobile device optimization, cloud-based distribution, and the ability to integrate with other collaboration and business applications.
A team collaboration platform provides a single location -- or channel -- where all communication for a project can take place. Rather than having information scattered across multiple applications, having everything in a single channel provides context for information, Lazar said.
The cornerstone of most team collaboration platforms is team messaging, Lazar said. A real-time persistent chat application archives chats within the channel and drives the collaboration experience. Unlike emailing back and forth, chat apps feel more like natural conversation, enabling ideas to flow faster and more freely, he said.
In addition to chat, team collaboration platforms usually include capabilities such as file sharing, voice and video. These capabilities support collaboration among teams, as well as individuals. Additional third-party APIs now are lending more extensive sets of productivity features, such as CRM, to team collaboration, Lazar said.
Why organizations need team collaboration platforms
With no shortage of ways to share information, the contextualized environment of a team collaboration platform has the most practical benefits, Lazar said. Information shared over multiple applications, such as email, chat and voice, make it difficult to bring new people into a project. A central location for all relevant information makes it faster and easier to bring new participants up to speed, he added.
Team collaboration platforms also show measurable improvement in productivity. The Nemertes study found that 27% of study participants using team collaboration platforms had measurable productivity gains, and 13% had shorter project completion times.
In many cases, streamlining access to information with team collaboration platforms means teams can reduce the overall number of meetings, Lazar said. In addition, 19% of study participants reduced the number of emails sent after adopting a team collaboration platform.
Customer-facing interactions also see benefits from the use of team collaboration applications. With persistent team chat, contact center agents can share documents and pull in the necessary people to resolve issues immediately rather than waiting for callbacks from the appropriate parties.
"Team collaboration is quickly becoming the core way we communicate," Lazar said. "The biggest thing enterprises need to realize is that they need a strategy because not only are their competitors likely using these platforms, vendors are also shifting to a team collaboration-centric approach."
Team collaboration platform challenges
Team collaboration isn't without challenges. In many cases, team collaboration applications use a freemium model. Like most freemium applications and platforms, the ease of access and lack of financial barriers mean they can be adopted independent of IT, creating a shadow IT situation. Individual lines of business may use separate collaboration platforms, which can make it difficult for IT to appropriately manage applications, Lazar said.
Another stumbling block for team collaboration apps is user training. Unlike email, the persistence of team chat apps can be overwhelming to users, Lazar said. Adopters run into issues where people turn off collaboration apps to stop interruptions. Training users on how to limit notifications can prevent overstimulation.
Team collaboration platforms can make it difficult to accommodate collaborators external to the organization. While some platforms offer guest accounts, they can be difficult to manage, Lazar said.