It happens almost by accident.
An organization adopts a cloud collaboration suite, giving employees the ability to share files, exchange messages, manage their calendars and set up voice and video calls — all on a single platform. But then the company merges with another organization, which is using a similar platform from another vendor. Meanwhile, industry-specific solutions (for instance, engineering design programs) have their own communication tools and cloud-based file-sharing capabilities. And stray business units might even be adopting their own solutions, introducing shadow IT into the organization.
In some cases, an organization will be able to cut costs and confusion by consolidating on a single platform. But other times, the only option will be to keep several collaboration tools in place to support business needs, creating the need for IT shops to support multiple platforms at once.
To best support multiple collaboration platforms, organizations need to ensure that the IT team is equipped to integrate different technologies and help users adopt and adequately manage each solution.
When possible, IT shops should configure different collaboration platforms to support users’ workflows while also protecting the company. If a tool allows employees to easily share files with people outside of the organization, for instance, but data regulations or internal policies require certain safeguards, IT shops must work to put those restrictions in place. This may involve integrating collaboration platforms with add-on tools, such as data loss prevention applications. Additionally, IT shops may decide to turn off some features of one or more tools in an effort to steer users toward a different platform for certain tasks — helping to unify workflows and prevent confusion.
Some users are comfortable creating their own collaboration processes as they go, developing an intuition for which colleagues are likely to respond to messages on which platforms, and easily remembering where different file types are stored. But others will be confused without clearly delineated processes. What’s more, haphazard communication and file-sharing practices can create problems with institutional memory after employees leave an organization. This isn’t to say that IT shops should issue top-down mandates that force users to abandon their preferred workflows. But business and IT leaders do need to provide guidance on which tools are most appropriate for which tasks.
At CDW, we supply our clients with customized videos and slideshows that walk new employees through a “day in the life” on the job or introduce users to new collaboration platforms. When an organization has multiple tools with similar capabilities, these materials can help them see the role of each tool in supporting their work.
One advantage to hosting collaboration platforms in the cloud rather than on-premises: They’re automatically patched and updated, without IT staff having to lift a finger.
One drawback to those automatic updates: Tools can change overnight without warning, bringing new features, capabilities or interfaces. If an organization is running only a single cloud collaboration platform, IT workers may be able to stay up to speed with the tool as it evolves over time. However, with multiple collaboration platforms, it’s often a good idea to at least temporarily bring in an external managed services provider to ensure smooth operations. An MSP can help to manage the rollout of new features. It can also advise the organization on changes that are coming and how to best handle these through organized change management.
There are more ways to use technology to communicate and collaborate than ever before, and this abundance of options can create challenges for organizations. But when IT shops implement the right processes and tools, collaboration platforms can do what they were built to do — help employees get their jobs done more efficiently.
This blog post brought to you by: