The Five Most Important Features of a Team Collaboration Tool

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the many benefits of team collaboration. We’ve explored how team collaboration tools can increase productivity and remove unnecessary productivity roadblocks, and examined four ways to profit from your mobility strategy. We’ve also looked at how the San Diego Padres have used team collaboration tools to keep a massive network of world travelers and road warriors connected and productive.

The key takeaway is that team collaboration tools can transform the way your organization communicates and boost your bottom line. Team collaboration tools are ideal if you’d like to:

  • keep workers connected anywhere, any time, on any device
  • build stronger bonds with more personal communications among employees, customers, partners and suppliers
  • save money by reducing travel expenses and employee transit time
  • decrease inbox clutter
  • increase productivity, collaboration and innovation

But if you’re starting to evaluate team collaboration tools for your own organization, it can be difficult to navigate the sea of options. Do you go with a free tool that lets you dip your toe in the water, but risk facing feature limitations that reduce its effectiveness? Is it worth it to go all-in with an investment that requires some legwork but promises rich ROI? Which option is going to see the highest level of user adoption, a factor that will have a heavy impact on the tool’s overall results?

The truth is, not all team collaboration tools are created equal. Here we look at the five most important features of a team collaboration tool so you can make the most of your investment.

#1: A single channel for all interactions

First and foremost, a good team collaboration tool simplifies your life, makes you more productivity and saves you from the hassle of flipping back and forth to find the information you need. It should enable you to handle all interactions, including talk, chat, work streams, video, collaboration sessions and conferences, from a single interface to truly maximize efficiency. This creates a single source of truth for all business information, allowing users to categorize by project, subject or person and instantly retrieve emails, instant messaging (IM) conversations, documents and more.

Brought into a workgroup midway through a project? No problem – you can catch yourself up on the entire history from your team collaboration tool. Need to recall a specific detail? Gone are the days of wracking your brain to remember whether it was discussed by email or IM. A team collaboration tool worth its salt puts this information at your fingertips and significantly cuts down on time wasted digging through various inboxes and chat histories.

#2: Conversations mirrored across devices in real-time

An effective team collaboration app brings historical interactions (like email) and real-time communications (like voice and IM) together on the same platform. And, just as you’re no longer chained to an immobile desktop computer, your team collaboration application shouldn’t chain you to one single device.

So, in order to keep real-time communications in real-time, a good team collaboration tool will sync your conversations and interactions across all devices so you’re constantly connected and current. This way, workers on the go can jump from their laptops to their mobile phones without any costly gaps in communications.

The major benefit? Being able to easily switch devices without losing touch means employees can have an in-office experience no matter where they are. According to Global Workplace Analytics, this is a huge perk when it comes to employee satisfaction; its research shows 36 percent of employees stated they would choose flexible working options over a pay raise and 37 percent even said they would take a pay cut for flexible working options.

#3: An intuitive, user-friendly interface

As is the case when introducing any new technology, you’ll want to remove any barriers to user adoption in order to see a strong return on investment. Typical reasons why people resist new technology include:

  • discomfort with change
  • lack of time to incorporate change
  • inability to see the value

Your new team collaboration tool needs to preemptively eliminate these reasons for resistance by providing immediate and clear value within the first element users will see: the user interface. A clean, modern interface reduces the amount of time it takes new users to learn how to use a tool and eliminates confusion that prevents users from seeing the tool’s value.

When you watch a demo for the tool you’re evaluating, pay attention to not only the features being offered, but how the tool’s interface guides the user experience. Would you be able to navigate the interface without a tour? Will it take a significant amount of time to learn the ins and outs of the application? Go with your gut – your first impression is a good indication of what your end users will think as well.

#4: Real-time sharing made simple

In a survey conducted by Wainhouse Research, the average respondent indicated they attend about nine meetings each week. Of those meetings, 54 to 80 percent typically included remote participants attending via audio, video and/or web conferencing.

It’s not surprising then that the ability to easily share materials is critical in team collaboration. Whether you’re sharing your screen to walk someone through a new process or collaborating directly on a shared document in real-time, your team collaboration application should make teamwork simple, regardless of geographical distance.

#5: Integration with existing (and future) IT infrastructure

We discussed making adoption easy for end users in #3, but let’s take a look behind the curtain at the unsung heroes in your IT department. Your team collaboration tool should complement, not disrupt, your existing IT infrastructure in order to lower your total cost of ownership and maximize your return on investment. Depending on the level of integration, you’ll often see extra features and functionality from a tool that leverages your existing systems.

This integration isn’t limited to what you have in place today – your team collaboration investment should not turn into a sunk cost once your business needs inevitably evolve. If your organization is growing, you’ll need a tool that can scale. If you’re considering someday moving to the cloud from an on-premises environment (or vice versa), your tool should be flexible enough to make the transition.

Furthermore, look for a solution that’s easy to implement, administer and support to keep your IT department happy. In summary: examine the resources and technology you have in place and pick a team collaboration tool that’s a good fit for both.

Where to go next

So there you have the top five most important features of a team collaboration tool to guide you in your search. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the benefits of team collaboration tools and how to choose the right one for your business needs, watch this on-demand webinar or speak to a specialist that can help evaluate your best fit.

Learn more about Mitel’s offerings for team collaboration >>>

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