Collaboration tools (elenabsl/Shutterstock.com)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

5 ways collaboration tools boost efficiency

Does your agency's IT system heave under the weight of network incompatibility? Does one office live on email, while another embraces an in-house messaging app? Does sharing a document between departments require a convoluted process of forms and conversions? Is it almost impossible to keep track of projects?

The world of work has changed, and virtual team technology has become commonplace in the private sector, where collaboration tools aid distance teamwork, forging the workplace of the future.

Government agencies are, indeed, facing a geographically expanding workforce -- with functions shipped out to new departments, contractors or agencies -- creating complex challenges for management.

Of course, what happens in the private sector eventually influences the public sector. Government IT can learn much from the new technologies helping private businesses collaborate remotely and securely for a relatively low cost.

One of the biggest obstacles faced by government agencies is the incompatibility of communication platforms across offices. Getting a message out quickly to team members can be disorganized and insecure -- relying on different systems that don't always interconnect seamlessly, saddling project implementations and cross-departmental communications with significant inefficiency.

The salient challenge is in keeping everyone informed and ready for action while receiving real-time visibility of everyone’s progress, which may not be easy with existing systems and processes.

Enter collaboration tools.

There are many reliable and encrypted enterprise collaboration solutions that use a single platform to coordinate entire projects, helping overcome the problem of application incompatibility.

Collaboration platforms offer a range of solutions that accommodate everyday tasks with greater flexibility and improved employee engagement -- whether that’s dealing with an emergency crisis, or working with remote team member or developing ideas in the meeting room around an interactive display. They offer improved communications through these capabilities:

1. Project monitoring. Keeping tabs on multiple projects can be difficult to coordinate using daily meetings and email threads to monitor progress. According to Bit.AI, 97 percent of executives and employees believe that a lack of alignment within a team has a negative impact on the outcome of a project or task.

Collaborative tools provide increased transparency:

  • Facilitating real-time evaluation of everyday tasks.
  • Offering management the ability to monitor milestones.
  • Allowing general workers to follow their progress in line with the rest of the team.

2. Communication. With a collaboration tool teams can create dedicated spaces for communication and action related to a specific project.

The tools’ timeline-style format provides an instant visualization of each individual’s contribution, as well as a record of all conversations -- through a single platform that workers can access anywhere there’s an internet connection. A project's salient information (which is fully customizable) is available through analytics screens and communication hubs, keeping communication threads all in one place, rather than in individual mailboxes.

3. Remote access. Staff members working from the field can log into an online hub or a mobile app to access their workload, maximizing employee engagement even when they can’t get to the office.

4. File sharing and development. File sharing and remote collaborative document development are made possible through dedicated, encrypted channels that bring workers from various departments together seamlessly.

Using a single platform for all communication, file-sharing, milestone mapping, real-time evaluation and a whole host of other functions helps agencies untangle the complex web of interoffice synchronicity.

5. Security. Of course, anything that goes over the internet is vulnerable to infiltration or attack. Agencies must consider the security of "off-the-shelf" collaboration tools, even though security challenges usually emerge from a lack of user diligence, rather than through a weakness in the software.

To avoid security breaches with off-the-shelf enterprise collaboration tools agencies should:

  • Ensure that sensitive data is made available only to privileged users, rather than broadcasting it out generally.
  • Create unique partitions to keep information confidential wherever necessary.
  • Make sure that users have secure passwords that are difficult to guess.
  • Use an app rather than a browser to access the collaboration platform. Apps that use a VPN connection offer the highest level of encryption.

Agencies should look to established, proven platforms. The top brands have the most experienced security experts supporting their products. They should also be sure to consider the support required to roll the solution and make sure that the platform is well-supported with 24-hour technical assistance.

About the Author

Natalie Harris-Briggs is the VP of marketing at Avocor.

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