When the coronavirus pandemic prompted a massive increase in remote work across the country in mid-March, countless customers came to CDW asking to purchase videoconferencing tools. Makes sense, right?

Yes — until you consider that some of these companies were already paying for collaboration suites that have videoconferencing capabilities; the companies simply had never used them.

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While many organizations have adopted new collaboration tools in recent years, they often struggle to take full advantage of them. Here are five ways to get the most out of these essential solutions.

1. Move Beyond Email

Especially for mid-career professionals, email can be something of a crutch. There’s a time and place for email, of course, but it’s become an inefficient tool for sharing files or for back-and-forth conversations. Organizations should instead embrace the file-sharing and persistent chat features of their collaboration suites. By now, everyone has heard the saying “This meeting could have been an email.” The next evolution is “This email could have been a chat.”

2. Embrace Co-Creation

This accompanies the first point. Too often, when teams need to collaborate on a document, members will send information to a single point person, who then pulls everything together and sends the document back out to team members for review. This is terribly inefficient.

A far more efficient tool is one that allows for seamless collaboration. For example, if a team is putting together a sales forecast, instead of lobbing facts and figures back and forth, team members can add their information in a shared space within a collaboration tool, where everyone can see it, correct any errors and ask questions.

3. Share Knowledge Across the Organization

Collaboration tools create shared spaces where employees can ask questions about specific initiatives, policies, IT tools and other aspects of their companies. This can become a valuable resource for employees who, instead of spending unnecessary time searching their old emails for answers, can quickly check to see if their question has already been answered.

4. Optimize Videoconferencing

It’s one thing to use video collaboration tools; it’s another to use them well. Many organizations have adopted video at scale for the first time during the coronavirus crisis. To get through the early days of this new, widespread remote work environment, most people were willing to tolerate some poor lighting, iffy audio and even grainy images. But as people become more accustomed to video collaboration, their standards will rise. Organizations should begin thinking now about which investments they’ll need to make to support the best possible experience.

5. Cut Costs Through Consolidation

This goes back to my initial point about how organizations often don’t fully understand all of the capabilities of their existing tools. For instance, some organizations are still paying for audio bridges, despite having nearly identical functionality in their collaboration suites. (In the past, audio bridges were far less expensive than platforms that included video, but this cost difference has largely been erased in recent years.) By moving everyone over to the collaboration tool and eliminating the audio bridge, a large organization might be able to save millions of dollars a year.

Many organizations are currently supporting multiple redundant collaboration platforms. I recently worked with one company that was using nine different video collaboration tools. Nine! It might make sense in certain circumstances to use more than one similar tool, but any organization that is supporting so many collaboration platforms will likely be able to get the same functionality for far less money by consolidating its tools.

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