Workplace collaboration applications that combine voice, video, chat and file-sharing are routinely touted as essential for the modern workplace. And why not? Allowing far-flung team members to come together on a common platform to share ideas, solve problems and accomplish tasks is bound to improve productivity and team morale.

Except when it doesn’t.

In fact, there is growing evidence that while people like the idea of using collaboration applications, they don’t particularly enjoy the actual experience.

A recent Spiceworks survey of more than 400 IT professionals found that 70 percent say collaboration is a high priority or even essential to their organizations. However, a lack of standardization is making the process more complicated and chaotic than it ought to be.

The survey finds that organizations are using, on average, 4.4 different solutions. Managing multiple solutions from multiple vendors typically results in feature overlap, inconsistent experiences, slow adoption and reduced productivity.

The problem is that there is no way to bridge multiple solutions with a single user interface. These applications are built with a walled-garden approach to boost security, but that prevents information in one app from being accessed by another. As a result, people wind up using different apps for different audiences.

The apps that are supposed to help us communicate and collaborate often have the opposite effect. Users report that they believe the quality of their work decreases as the frequency of collaboration increases. Continual streams of messages from different apps interrupt workflow, leading users feeling rushed to complete tasks.

It seems fairly clear that organizations would be much better off standardizing on a single collaboration platform to increase efficiency, reduce complexity and cut costs. Choosing a platform requires some due diligence, however. There are an astonishing number of collaboration apps on the market, and more are being introduced every day.

Here are a few questions you should ask:

Is it versatile? Your users need to access the content and messages they need from anywhere on any device. Your collaboration app should work seamlessly with both mobile devices and your organization’s phone system. If you’ve invested in a unified communications platform, you’ll want an app that can be easily integrated.

Will it enhance productivity? Look for an app that lets you upload files directly so that documents can be accessed straight from the app. Many collaboration apps don’t have that feature, forcing you to send a link that must be opened from within a separate application. Additionally, the app should make it easy to create virtual rooms, or workspaces, where teams can come together.

Is it easy to use? The app should have an intuitive interface that makes it easy to open and use. It should be simple to join a new workspace, and it should be easy to stay organized with a comprehensive view of new items, tasks and deadlines.

Is it secure? Collaboration often results in team members saving files to their mobile devices. You need an app with encryption and data loss prevention features to ensure that private data remains private.

Organizations that have implemented ShoreTel systems have any easy choice. The company recently introduced Teamwork, a real-time collaboration tool that meets all the above criteria. Teamwork was built from the ground up on the ShoreTel Summit architecture so that it would complement ShoreTel Connect’s unified communications suite.

ShoreTel Teamwork enables collaboration on a range of different devices, making it easy to manage projects and collaboration. Give us a call to learn more about how Teamwork can help you simplify workplace collaboration so you can focus on productivity and efficiency.

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