It was only a matter of time before email collaboration stepped up to the same level as web 2.0 systems like blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. However, since the process is still quite new and many businesses have only just recently switched to, many others aren't even aware of them and how they can actually improve your business in multiple pathways.
Now if I mention something like social media, most people think the first thing that will be discussed is how you can use social media to market and reach your customer base, which is all true, but collaboration applications are quite different from social media due to one major change. These applications are designed for internal communication within a company or business, not from the company outward like public relations.
So this isn't just as simple as people can use it to target certain customers and demographics, it is actually more about how such a strong and developed form of communication that is both personal and impersonal can be beneficial to any company.
The Communication Aspect
Communication is crucial to any relationship, whether romantic, personal, or even professional like co-worker to co-worker or employee to employer. So what is the number one thing software designed for inter-office communication will do? It enhances communication. It may seem obvious, but most people don't quite grasp the radical difference communication can make instead of just orders being tossed around by bosses (which is still necessary at times). But how does it do this?
Well, based on the old email system any time any communication occurred it was through formal emails sent between employees of the company or face-to-face. But the kind of communication that collaboration applications provide is grounded in formal and informal aspects. Imagine, instead of sending some document as an attachment through your email, you were simply sharing files between the employees that needed them through some database like a cloud. Then you can track changes made to that file and who had made the change. So instead of just someone trying to relay how you should change a document, they can make the change and you can see it. This is already something you can see regularly with Google documents.
Not enough? Well, in addition to that change being made you then have an instant message system between everyone in the company, so you can instantly strike up a conversation with them as though you were text messaging them. Maybe you still don't understand the change so you click on the person's name and open a chat window and start chatting to them your concern.
And that's still not all there is. Most collaboration applications also combine qualities of LinkedIn and Facebook as well, such as the concept of the wall and profile for each employee. You want a specific employee to be made aware of something you just uploaded? All you have to do is tag them in it and they suddenly get it sent to their wall where they will see it easily and with not more than typing that person's name required. And have I mentioned the voice chats too so you don't even have to type if you don't want?
Of course, how does all this help in the long run? Well, consider that you now have a way of improving anything being worked on, because multiple eyes are able to see it, and you also save a lot of time trying to send back short and quick messages, that normally would have gone through email or required you to walk to the person. All around this type of collaboration technology (which I've only just brushed the surface of) provides better means of quality control and improves the efficiency of an office by a dramatic degree.
The Collaboration Aspect
There's an even finer degree of power given to companies using collaboration applications, and that comes with the actual collaboration area. When people are using the social media means they currently have like Facebook and such, many people are more open and willing to share their opinions because the system is such an open form of communication. Anyone can say what they want, and chances are there is a possible person who will see it and then say what they want.
This creates a platform for something that many businesses tend to lack, no matter how much they may try to incorporate this. And that is an equal-footing collaboration format. It doesn't matter who you are when it comes to social media, as any opinion can provide deep insight or problems into an issue, many times issues that people in the higher up areas wouldn't even realize were a problem in the first place. By creating a medium where not only anyone can share their concerns, but also feel as though it would be heard (because of the open format of social collaboration tools), you provide a means of true collaboration that addresses the concerns of everyone who may be involved with the issue.
Think of it this way, if an employee mentioned how some pitch he was supposed to be making was actually getting angry words back to him, and then two other people had agreed they were running into this problem and in the course of them communicating they discover they have each tried to use a different type of pitch they have more success with and they share their pitch and decide to try each other's.
This simple collaboration can then turn into a company-wide sweep to an entirely different direction as it spreads. It allows for a continually improved upon process by the employees in your business, and that's not even mentioning if a random employee just started and happened to have a brilliant idea, what are the chances that idea would ever be used by a boss? Slim. But if there was backing behind that idea on a social system being used by all the employees, suddenly that idea has merit for the company.
And these are base examples that can occur, but they define the means that this type of software possesses for collaboration just by simply interacting with each other more than you generally do in your business.
Now is there more of a basis to say that this kind of software can completely change the direction of your company? But don't believe me, companies such as Royal Philips Electronics have been using it since it first emerged and has stated their company growth was directly caused by the strategic value it possessed. In fact, a recent study by IBM mentions that over 50% of businesses using social collaboration platforms were completely outdoing companies that were not using it, which is probably why they moved toward a more social business too.
So where is your business going?
Written by Chad Chalifoux is a software engineer that has been working on providing better means of collaboration applications for various companies over the years. When he isn't surfing through social media coding or the web, he's usually catching a few real waves.