When I begin working with an organization on its collaboration efforts, I often find that the company already supports a number of tools. Some have different solutions for different functions, such as calling, messaging, file sharing and video meetings. And others run multiple platforms that essentially do the same things.

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It’s sometimes necessary, of course, for organizations to adopt and support multiple collaboration solutions. But there really can be such a thing as too much when it comes to these tools. It’s not just that the cost of purchasing and supporting more solutions will naturally be higher than the cost of purchasing and supporting fewer platforms. There’s also the danger of employees becoming confused about the differences among the various tools — and, therefore, using them less (or less effectively).

An unwieldly, sprawling collaboration environment can lead to an organization paying more for less productivity. Here are some steps we take to help business and IT leaders find the right mix of collaboration tools for their organizations.

Evaluate Existing Workflows

First, we connect with various lines of business to learn as much as possible about how employees across departments use collaboration tools. This stage often includes interviews with individuals in HR, marketing, sales, engineering and customer contact centers to help us understand what’s working, what’s not and where potential for improvement may exist.

During this process, we’re trying to learn not only how employees use collaboration tools, but also what their workspaces look like and how individual working styles vary throughout departments and across the entire company. We typically do this during a collaboration workshop, which helps us understand what business problems organizations are trying to solve with their collaboration tools — and where opportunities to do better may exist.

Identify the Right Mix of Solutions

Once we understand users’ work styles, workspaces and workflows, we can recommend specific solutions based on the organization’s business needs. There are, indeed, some instances where it makes sense to support multiple solutions. However, we typically find that organizations can be more effective — and reduce costs — by consolidating their collaboration systems.

We recently worked with a large university where different academic and business departments were all using different tools, causing significant confusion among users and running up costs. Students faced difficulty learning to use a number of different systems to complete and turn in their assignments, depending on the academic department.

We recommended that the university streamline its environment by embracing a common solution across departments. While there will be a learning curve as departments transition away from their favored collaboration tools, the change will ultimately result in a leaner IT budget and a better user experience.

Promote Adoption

Sometimes, circumstances have a great influence on the technology decisions that organizations make. For example, as businesses shifted to remote work at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many were required to rapidly adopt collaboration tools for the first time or swiftly expand their environments.

Due to the on-the-fly nature of these rollouts, employees might not use or even understand all the features of their new collaboration solutions. Organizations should embrace adoption services that incorporate effective communication and user training. They should also track the effectiveness of their collaboration solutions over time.

By identifying and implementing the right collaboration tools, and then taking steps to set your employees up for success, you can optimize your environment for both cost and productivity.