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This One Stat Shows Why Cloud Collaboration Still Has a Long Way to Go

A new survey says collaboration tools increase productivity – but they may also increase email use. What gives?

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Smartsheet

There’s no question, cloud collaboration is where it’s at. The market has expanded rapidly and now large players like Microsoft, Facebook -- and reportedly Amazon -- are jumping in. But a new survey reveals a surprising detail: collaboration tools have actually increased, rather than decreased, our use of email.

First, let’s start with the good news. The data revealed that 71% of organizations now have an overarching strategy for how to use collaboration. This is a shift from recent years, and suggests enterprises are thinking strategically about how to maximize the value of these tools. It’s a sign that the market is starting to mature.

Despite concerns that collaboration apps divert our attention from real work, 90% of respondents said the presence of multiple apps has made their employees more productive.

But one stat in particular jumps out: Nearly 60% of respondents said the presence of collaboration apps has led to increased use of email -- with 21% indicating that use has increased a lot.  

In some ways this isn’t surprising. According to the survey, the most common user gripe about collaboration apps is that not everyone uses them consistently. At least with email, you have some degree of confidence that the intended audience will receive your message.  

But it’s still an astounding figure. Why do people spend more time in email when they have a variety of modern collaboration and communication tools at their disposal?  One likely explanation is that many apps also generate a lot of noise, sending email notifications whenever something changes. It’s analogous to that co-worker whose measure of success is emails sent per hour. Ouch.

This points to a larger challenge with collaboration -- and one we’re working to solve as an industry. Too many repeatable processes within organizations -- approving purchase orders, onboarding clients, collecting feedback -- are still handled using tools like spreadsheets and email.

That means businesses are missing out on a big opportunity to become more efficient—and enable employees to  spend more time on the work itself rather than the processes surrounding it. The next step in the evolution of collaboration will be less about communication and more about automation: removing manual steps, driving consistency, using intelligent alerts, and letting our collaboration tools handle the drudge work for us.

Learn more about the rise of collaboration tools and their impact on organizations by accessing the 2017 State of Enterprise Collaboration report.

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