How many apps does your business use? From project management to customer relationship management (CRM), social to file sharing, and analytics to calendars, in today's hyper-connected world, app overload is inevitable for many businesses. This overkill puts a strain not only on a business's workflow, but on workers as well.
Streamlining is the solution. Using collaboration software and intranet solutions, businesses can access all necessary apps in one place. This makes managing workloads and team collaboration easier and more efficient than when accessing tools dispersed around the Web, on individual machines and throughout the company's network. In many cases, collaboration software and intranet solutions also provide businesses with the flexibility of integrating their preferred apps into the intranet or using them in tandem with the provider's out-of-the-box solutions.
To illustrate the benefits of collaboration software and intranet building, Dan Latendre, CEO of Igloo Software, a cloud intranet provider that aims to fight app overload, gave one example. He cited how Igloo is used in real life at Children's Hospital Foundation, the fundraising arm of Children's National Medical Center.
"Before Igloo, their collaboration methods were email, meetings, and pen and paper," Latendre said. "Since their goal is to double philanthropy from $45 million to $90 million in the next five years, they needed a set of collaborative tools that would allow them to do what they do, only better."
Previously, on a typical day, the Foundation used several applications for working and reporting, Latendre said. This included the Google Apps, Google Analytics, online form builder Wufoo, dashboard client Logi Analytics, Web-based project-management tool TeamGantt, and digital asset-management solutions provider MerlinOne.
"Igloo integrated all of these applications through Okta and a single sign-on environment," Latendre said. "Now, all of these disparate tools are together in one place. They now have an information portal where employees can access all of these different applications."
Additionally, implementing collaboration software enabled the Foundation to re-build and access information in one centralized location.
"Instead of relying on a shared drive to find an employee staff list or a list of procedures, they can aggregate all of this information in one spot with wikis," Latendre said. "For some types of information, they use Igloo's native document-sharing capabilities, but where appropriate, they also embed Google documents when sharing outside of Igloo or when they require real-time collaboration."
Wikis can also be used to store and access all types of information, such as company policies, turning this data into a true knowledgebase, Latendre said.
Like Children's Hospital Foundation, many small businesses can benefit from collaboration and intranet solutions, using these tools to make workflow easier and more efficient. The challenge, however, is in finding the right solutions for your company and executing them with minimal disruption.
Latendre provided the following tips on choosing and successfully implementing collaboration software for your business.
1. Determine which apps your teams really need and how they will use them.
Before evaluating vendors, it is important to understand the business problem you are trying to solve and why you want to solve it. Dependent on the needs of a team, department or organization, the types of tools that are appropriate varies. Maybe a globally dispersed sales department wants to improve transparency and openness in an environment where they can share information and ask questions — a microblogging application could aid in communication here. Or maybe a marketing team wants the same for their department, but they also want to have visibility into the conferences that are scheduled for the year — a microblogging and a calendar application would be great for their collaboration.
But with so many enterprise collaboration apps available a la carte, organizations struggle with spread-out data. Their information is stored in various areas where data and conversations are not unified. Organizations have to log in to a certain application to find a document and into another app to find their colleagues' feedback. Then they also have to hunt down suggested edits to a presentation in their email inboxes. According to Spiceworks, a network for IT professionals, the average small to medium size company is likely to use more than four hosted services — that IT knows about, of course. If you look at research and advisory firm Forrester, that number climbs to 9.3.
Igloo offers a series of Web apps for social business collaboration, such as blogs, calendars, file sharing, forums, microblogs and wikis. Igloo's modular apps are designed to tackle the specific pains for which business users are turning to consumer services. Dependent on an organization's communication and collaboration requirements, the apps give users the flexibility to individually employ the specific apps they want, or to integrate them into a cohesive social intranet solution. It helps users create a virtual work environment to provide a single source of information, while also connecting remote and distributed staff.
2. Implementation is a step-by-step process.
According to Gartner, 80 percent of social business efforts will fail to achieve intended benefits through 2015. So, even before implementing collaboration tools, it is imperative to take the proper steps to ensure that you fully understand the business needs and implementation requirements — and to ensure the solution is successfully adopted and used long-term by employees.
When implementing collaboration tools, employee adoption is key. It is important to identify how social technologies will improve staff workflows. For example, instead of emailing a presentation, then forgetting to CC the right person, users can upload presentations to specific departments or team areas. From here, employees can comment underneath the presentation with suggested edits. Their workflow as a whole is streamlined, yet unified.
After the tools are deployed, it is equally important to continue the level of support and take ownership. Assigning a community manager who will champion and grow the intranet and its tools after it is deployed ensures that the momentum continues. With this person in charge of reporting and monitoring, as well as taking steps to improve the intranet, you will have a more engaged and active user base.