Enterprise Collaboration Tools: 4 Ways to Achieve More Value

Two-thirds of businesses don't reap the desired range of benefits from enterprise collaboration tools, according to a Forrester Research report. Here are four pieces of expert advice on how to drive adoption and capture greater results.

Wed, March 23, 2011

CIO — A new report from Forrester Research (FORR) finds that while businesses continue to adopt enterprise collaboration tools in 2011, they're not seeing a wide range of benefits from them.

According to the report, which polled 934 collaboration software decision makers, 64 percent say they're seeing between zero and four benefits. Forrester tracks 12 benefits of using collaboration technologies.

The benefits that businesses are reaping mostly relate to travel (62 percent) and corporate communication (58 percent). Report author and Forrester analyst TJ Keitt says this is mostly because these two areas are the easiest ones for businesses to track.

Reviewing travel expenditures before and after deploying a collaboration tool, for example, is easily monitored, he says. "Things like improving innovation or making information workers more productive are potentially too ephemeral or too process-specific for a business to get a good handle on. Thus, a company might be receiving these benefits, but there's not really a good way to tell."

So what can businesses do to get more value from collaboration technology? Forrester recommends taking the following four steps as you consider and rollout the tools.

1. Map how employees currently do their jobs.

Before selecting and implementing collaboration tools, understand what challenges your employees are currently facing, the report recommends. Are there communication issues? Is the progress of projects slowed because employees have trouble finding what they're looking for? To answer these questions, the report recommends observing, interviewing or surveying workers.

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To ensure honest answers, encourage candid conversations be reassuring employees that nothing they say will be directly attributed to them, the report says.

2. Clearly outline the issues that collaboration tools can solve.

After interviewing and polling employees, categorize the issues you have uncovered into four categories: those which technology solutions can address, those that require business process reengineering, ones that are cultural and those that are a combination of the above. Focus specifically on the ones that technology solutions can address, Forrester recommends.

3. Consider workplace issues when selecting the tools.

Forrester found that the number of respondents that reported reduced travel, faster decision-making, lower time-to-market and improved project management as benefits increased as they added more collaboration tools. The magic number you should aim for in order to see benefits is four or five, according to the report.

If the need is for a simple, ad hoc conversation tool, for example, you may want to consider a stronger instant messaging implementation. Be sure to highlight your requirements to vendors during the RFP process, the report says.

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