Enterprise collaboration at its most basic level comes down to how a large organization communicates. It includes the various technologies and platforms that individual members of the organization rely on to discuss work, deliver feedback, and cross-pollinate their ideas. The use of enterprise collaboration software can also reveal a lot about a company's culture and how they assist or impede the exchange of ideas and information.
Enterprise collaboration software is becoming more popular each day, as companies look for efficient ways to connect increasingly dispersed and remote teams. In fact, one survey noted that 60% of respondents planned to purchase some sort of collaboration software for their business.
Here we talk about what enterprise collaboration is, why it’s important, and how directors and project managers can strategically use it to increase productivity. We’ll also go over frequently asked questions about implementation and introduce a new tool to help you get started.
What is enterprise collaboration?
Enterprise collaboration is the process of helping diverse teams work together — which sounds simple, at first.
But, in a world where thought leadership and personal branding are still on the rise, many individuals are now being hired as specialists who function independently rather than generalists who are used to working as part of a team. Even if this isn’t your company’s hiring strategy, you may have noticed a recent uptick in contractor and support roles throughout various aspects of the organization.
Either way, it’s up to enterprise directors and project managers to help these individuals function through one cohesive system even though they all may be miles apart, a one-time contributor, or have competing goals.
In addition to providing support systems for day to day tasks, teams will also need help understanding what the big picture is, how each project supports that vision, and what contributions every team member is expected to make.
Why is enterprise collaboration important?
In an Inc.com article, Wrike CEO Andrew Filev points out two undeniable benefits of collaboration:
- By collaborating internally via social tools, wikis, videoconferencing, and more, you increase productivity.
- By collaborating externally with customers, partners, and vendors via user forums, blog comments, social media, live webinars, conferences, and meetups, you gather feedback that increases innovation.
It makes sense that cross-functional team collaboration as well as external collaboration with stakeholders improves efficiency and effectiveness. When communication channels are open, it's easier to find the information you need or turn to colleagues and customers for feedback and assistance.
In addition to this, collaboration helps organizations meet top business priorities such as improving business processes and reducing enterprise costs. The Aberdeen Group surveyed 299 organizations and discovered significant benefits of enterprise-wide collaboration:
- 53% improvement in customer service metrics
- 49% improvement in workforce productivity
This data proves that enterprise collaboration helps teams and customers alike. When processes are improved and communication becomes more efficient, team members can focus on delivering value to customers.
How does enterprise collaboration boost project productivity?
Enterprise collaboration boosts project productivity through a holistic approach. First, you begin by taking stock of where your team is today. What tools, workflows, and systems are already in place? How do those help or hurt progress in the short and long term?
After you have a good idea of which areas need improvement, you move on to strategy. Connect the dots between your business goals, project goals, and team goals by discussing them with your collaborators all at the same time. Before you can even begin to establish a new way of doing things, you have to get everyone on the same page. This is exactly what the first phase of enterprise collaboration does.
Then it’s time to try new strategies, examine your results, and adjust as needed. These steps are often long and involved, but they’re key to figuring out how to maximize your team’s potential. As you go along, actively listen to what people say about their project productivity and be prepared to apply feedback on what is or isn’t working.
When you approach project management through this lens, you’re able to boost productivity by bringing everyone in the loop through strong communication practices such as centralized document sharing and @ mentions that directly bring collaborators into the conversation without missing a beat.
Laying all the components of your workflow out also helps anticipate breakdowns before they even happen. It also makes it easier to try new things. This is an essential part of increasing productivity because, as we all know, if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll just get the same results.
What are the challenges of enterprise collaboration?
The number one challenge of enterprise collaboration is complexity. With competing voices and priorities in the mix, it can be tough to sort out even the simplest workflows. For example, let’s say a marketing agency is collaborating with a freelance designer for a client’s website. If the client prefers to be extremely hands-on, you’ll need to have a strong enterprise collaboration system in place in order to prevent their feedback from derailing forward movement.
Then there’s decision-making. Choices like task management, meeting arrangement, and workflow designation can benefit from the input of everyone involved. But if a project manager or director doesn’t create rules and systems, it’s really easy to miscommunicate, promise deliverables without consulting team members, and create other issues that leave a bad taste in the client and the collaborators’ mouths.
Even if your team already has its own internal way of getting things done, it may be hard to bring new people into the fold as one-time contributors. Enterprise collaboration is meant to be agile so if your team needs to adjust their process at any stage, you’ll need to quickly accommodate, reforecast, and keep everything moving without missing a beat.
At the end of the day, using enterprise collaboration in your business saves everyone a lot of time and unnecessary headaches even if it takes a little set up or getting used to.
Enterprise collaboration starts with culture, not tools
In the past decade, the number of enterprise collaboration tools has exploded. Although they're beneficial tools, they're not an out-of-the-box solution for an organization hoping for immediately efficient teamwork.
After all, any technology that promises collaboration cannot bring about change on its own. There has to be a simultaneous shift in internal culture — from individual silos to transparent and generous sharing of ideas and resources. That shift doesn't happen overnight. It has to be something that your organization works at every day in the processes it puts into motion and in the policies it enforces.
Good enterprise collaboration habits to instill into your organization
You can begin to infuse enterprise collaboration habits into your organization on a macro and micro level. The three most important habits for both include:
- Consolidating all project updates to one single source so everyone can refer to the latest information with ease.
- Being conscious of realistic timelines for projects, phases, and even individual tasks.
- Taking care to work within realistic limitations on budget, resources, and personnel.
Why you should invest in enterprise collaboration software
One way to move toward enterprise-wide collaboration is to get teams accustomed to sharing information within a collaborative platform. Choose a platform that enables file sharing and open conversation outside of long email threads.
You'll have to take baby steps to get individuals to voluntarily share their workloads, upload the files they're working on, comment on best practices, and even draw in other people into their projects for cross-team collaboration. But once something as simple as a habit of sharing information becomes ingrained in the company's culture, it becomes easier to build processes for wider collaboration between teams in the enterprise.
Introducing Wrike as the enterprise collaboration platform for your company
The best way to communicate company-wide project systems is through Wrike’s highly visual system that makes it easy to adjust as you go and add input from outside collaborators without sacrificing productivity. Chances are if you’ve been using the same old system even though your team and the world at large has radically changed, your usual workflow needs to be examined. Note what works, remove what doesn’t, and use customized dashboards to streamline the rest.
Here’s a sample of Wrike’s standout enterprise project management features:
- Collaborator calendar management so that you always know how to balance the workload amongst your team even if they’re working on more than one project at a time.
- Visual timelines that allow you to drag and drop tasks to both plan projects before they begin and quickly adjust as you go.
- Internal messaging so that details like deadlines and meeting links aren’t buried in anyone’s email inbox.
- Review and approval cycles that plainly show other team members what’s going on at all times.
- Collaborator dashboard views you control so they can follow progress without getting too wrapped up in the backend process.
In a nutshell, Wrike is a highly effective, full-scale solution for enterprise collaboration on projects of all sizes. With it, teams are empowered to work together with and not against each other.
Take it step by step
Your organization doesn't have to jump head-first into doing everything collaboratively. Start by creating space for individuals to connect within the organization and grow ideas with shared resources. It's about building an enterprise-wide framework for productivity, innovation, and velocity.