Charlotte snapped the lid of her laptop shut with an annoyed huff. She snatched up her cell phone and shot off a quick text to her assistant, “Thank you, next. Cross them off the list. Find me some more names.” She was frustrated with how that had gone, from start to finish. Thirty minutes prior, her phone sent her an alert that it was time to have that conference call with the prospective partner she had been considering working with to help solve some payroll issues she’d been having in her small business. Her schedule had been jam-packed today and she said a little thank you into the ether to her calendar for the reminder. Opening up the event though, she realized the video conference call was with a software she wasn’t familiar with.
Dropping her bag on the floor of the hotel room she had just checked into, she tapped on the provided link with her thumb. Quickly, the phone alerted her that she couldn’t join the meeting without downloading the application, and of course, it wasn’t available for her phone. Now glancing at the clock and bending down to dig through her bag for her laptop, she realized she might end up being late to this conference. After hurriedly signing in and starting the process of the application downloading to her computer, her irritation began to rise. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t simply use the conferencing tools that worked just fine on her mobile. She finally was able to join the video conference, but it didn’t get better from there. The sound was intermittent, and the video kept freezing. She was thankful when the pitch was finally done. Truthfully, she thought to herself, it was over before it started. She didn’t want to partner with them with such a bad taste in her mouth right from the get-go. Maybe it was unfair of her to judge them so harshly this early, but her gut told her there had to be someone else out there that could offer what she was looking for without making it difficult.
Charlotte’s story isn’t unique. Have you considered the effects of the collaboration tools used in your organization?
Maybe you’ve had potential customers just like Charlotte and didn’t quite know why you couldn’t seal the deal. Perhaps you are aware of the idiosyncrasies of the tools you use but figure, “Oh well, good enough is good enough,” and just ignore it, trying to work around the issues as best you can. Collaboration tools, like the video conferencing in Charlotte’s story, can have an important place in the organizations of today. Used effectively, they can harness the ability to reach across state lines, time zones, and country borders significantly quicker and cheaper than any other method of connecting people face-to-face. But, as we saw above, breakdowns in these tools can be costly in more ways than one.
Collaboration tools are meant to foster teamwork, enhance productivity and drive user engagement, while keeping pace with today’s lightning-fast speed of business. They cover several types of software with the promise of saving time and money. They often tempt leadership with dreams of simplifying tasks, encouraging problem solving and managing teams and projects. They can even offer the tantalizing option of high-performance work achieved through remote work, which is increasingly demanded by employees.
Collaboration software is the umbrella term chosen for a wide variety of software product types that can be independent of one another, such as communications, conferencing, and coordination. Communication software includes email, instant messaging, or chat-style programs. Conferencing software focuses on real-time collaboration, generally with video or the ability for members to share screens and comment on content as it’s being created. Coordination software is the most recent type of collaborative software to join the party. This tool was created to help manage complex tasks that require many different hands to complete and is helpful for understanding the timing and place in the process of a particular project. Consumer-directed tools like Facebook Messaging or Facetime offer simplicity and an intuitive user experience but aren’t up to the capabilities and security that business collaboration tools can offer.
Breakdowns of collaboration tools happen all the time. These interruptions can affect internal as well as external processes. Internally, studies show that almost 70 percent of workers waste near 60 minutes per day between applications. These statistics implicate tools that were created to save, not waste time. External collaboration breakdowns damage brand impressions, perceptions, and value. The pain you experience from breakdowns in internal collaboration tools comes from hits to lost time and reduced productivity. But the pain you feel from external collaboration failures can be measured in dollars and cents.
As in Charlotte’s experience, the collaboration tool your organization selects can directly affect your customer’s overall perception of you. When you communicate with a prospect with software that just doesn’t work, that poor performance is unfortunately transferred to you. In your customer’s eyes, that poorly-functioning tool IS YOU.
“The pain you experience from breakdowns in internal collaboration tools comes from hits to lost time and reduced productivity. But the pain you feel from external collaboration failures can be measured in dollars and cents.”
The tools that you use to communicate are a portrait of your abilities. What sort of portrait are you painting? Every impression — especially a disappointing one — is a foreshadowing of the type of performance clients can expect from you and is brushed onto the canvas. Don’t make it an ugly portrait. Create a masterpiece. Don’t let a tool knock you out of the running because you made the mistake of thinking your current solution was “good enough.”
In our current landscape, one might suggest there are now too MANY options for collaboration, frustrating the organizational selection process. A quick Internet search delivers millions of results, including both free and paid options. You can find collaboration tools packaged as software-as-a-service or part of a platform that promises to deliver everything you need to be successful in your digital transformation. When individual tools are chosen over integrated platforms, organizations often find that different departments adopt disparate feature sets for their own purposes that often don’t work together across the organization. Additionally, without oversight, these disparate tools could potentially bring security risks to the organization and its valuable data. The harsh reality is people just want the solution to work for their needs. Anything less is a poor investment and will result in teams finding a different, possibly riskier option.
Before diving into whatever software is at the top of the results list, keep in mind a couple of potential pitfalls. Many people may be tempted by the allure of a free product. But unfortunately, in our world, free typically comes with an unseen price tag. When the bill comes due, can you afford it? You may be better off with a paid choice, especially one with true price transparency. This is an important investment, so choose wisely.
You’ll need to have a vision and a strategy for how these tools fit into your situation and how they can add value. The whole point of these programs is successful collaboration. But if they are applied haphazardly or without measurable goals, your employees may abandon the tools altogether. This leaves you with not only a wasted investment, but also the opportunity cost of not choosing the right solution.
If you find yourself selecting these tools without expert guidance, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind.
- Immediately reject any product that can’t guarantee your data’s security. The trust that is implicit when you are responsible for sheltering the sanctity of confidential data is too precious to not prioritize above all else.
- You should expect a platform with features and functionality that overlap your needs so you can focus on the business of getting things done instead of getting stuck in the technical weeds of which individual tool works for each department’s needs.
- Remember to account for the necessity of functionality outside of the office. It’s a mobile-world and these tools being able to work on the go isn’t a bonus, it’s imperative for today’s business environment.
- It’s important to find tools that will consolidate and simplify your collaboration environment.
- Don’t forget to consider interoperability. Especially in the B2B space, having tools that work seamlessly with your current or potential customers’ platforms is a major positive that’s too important to overlook.
Are you allowing your reputation to be diluted by poor collaboration tools, like Charlotte’s rejected vendor?
If you’re looking to rise above “good enough” to an experience that delights not only your team but also your customers, contact us to see how we can help.