Most of us use collaborative tools every day. Anyone using Facebook to organise social gatherings, share photos and provide views on “hot” issues amongst friends is using a collaborative tool. Often, companies that can emulate this in the workplace work smarter, faster and are more efficient and responsive. Implemented well, the benefits can be considerable.
Collaboration software is quite different from traditional software. Usually collaboration systems connect people through a series of processes, and activities across a number of departments sometimes involving external input, for example, from suppliers updating delivery schedules and invoicing. Collaboration systems deliver a common space where every user, regardless of their location or device, access data to make decisions based on the latest information. It involves sharing information to improve decision making. Some participants will be prompted when input is required whilst others can view activities and events at leisure.
For example, BDO’s Technology Advisory team helped a client in the natural resource sector to implement a system to approve and track orders. Our client required different signatories for exploration machinery and materials, and each varied according to the value of the order. Online collaboration simplified and accelerated the process – orders are now approved in parallel, reducing bottlenecks. The same client now shares geological information with external partners for review and comment. In addition, to project plan an office move with multiple suppliers, they used online collaboration to track issues and manage tasks.
Collaboration solution providers
There are many familiar players providing collaboration tools. These include Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, but there are also newcomers such as Huddle and Evernote.
Whilst the statistics indicate that Microsoft has a march over its competitors, cloud-based solutions such as Google and Huddle are gaining traction. We may be about to see these native cloud SaaS providers challenge Microsoft's stranglehold on email, collaboration and productivity. Google, for example, has a number of government and business accounts such as Specsavers, Jaguar Land Rover and Rentokil. Their pricing model is also very attractive with no upfront hardware investment on a rental basis with a set fee per user, per year rather than a licensing model.
Help your clients to avoid the common pitfalls
Many businesses who have implemented collaboration tools feel that the anticipated business benefits were not delivered. The reasons for failure are no different from any other technology procurement project - usually due to factors such as insufficient management and user involvement and the failure to accurately articulate deliverables and success criteria. To avoid the pitfalls, clients should take care to plan the project carefully, ensure that the deliverables and benefits are understood from the outset and that there are measures and milestones along the way to measure progress and deliver the anticipated benefits.
BDO’s Technology Advisory team are currently running a series of breakfast seminars called ‘The Reluctant IT Director’ aimed at the non-technical board member with responsibility for their organisation’s IT. These events will explore some of the key issues for those responsible for IT and look to answer questions often faced by Directors in this difficult position. For information regarding the next event, please see http://www.bdo.uk.com/events