10 Things Every Enterprise Should Ask Its Cloud Collaboration Service

1 - 10 Things Every Enterprise Should Ask Its Cloud Collaboration Service
2 - External Collaboration
3 - Mobility
4 - Usability
5 - Search
6 - Security
7 - Change Management
8 - Data Governance
9 - Return on Investment
10 - Ease of Deployment
11 - Financial Stability
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10 Things Every Enterprise Should Ask Its Cloud Collaboration Service

Cloud collaboration tools increasingly are becoming mainstream. Here are 10 things enterprises should consider when choosing cloud collaboration tools.

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External Collaboration

Collaboration shouldn't be confined to the corporate firewall. To succeed, today's agile enterprise must be able to connect and collaborate seamlessly with external stakeholders while maintaining control over sensitive data. Many collaboration tools can compromise users' ability to work with external stakeholders, often limiting functionality or restricting use. Look for a service that can deliver mutual access to shared, collaborative spaces while retaining the permissions and security management controls users need to protect their data.

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Mobility has become mandatory for today's agile enterprise. Whether traveling or working at a client site, users expect to be able to access the information they need, when they need it. An effective collaboration tool should allow users to seamlessly hop between locations and devices without losing visibility of team activity, tasks or the latest document version. Find a service that offers native apps for smartphone and tablets, with offline availability and support for mobile device management to ensure sensitive data is protected.

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Companies never want to compromise on security, but balancing security with usability can be a challenge for many collaboration tools. Striking the right balance is critical to end-user adoption, and where services become too complex and restrictive to be usable, users will often default back to less-secure methods of sharing content and collaborating on work. In addition to IT and Security & Information Risk teams, include business users in the decision-making process when selecting a collaboration service to understand how they will use the technology and how it integrates with their daily workflows.

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Search functionality is often overlooked when evaluating collaboration tools. However, when working on multiple projects or engagements, users often work on multiple documents. Flipping between activities can cause confusion, and simple actions such as finding the right document can quickly become a source of frustration. Look for a tool that combines quick response times, targeted search and an efficient user interface.

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Building enterprise-wide trust in a service demands confidence in its security credentials. Assess collaboration vendors on technical safeguards, physical safeguards and administrative safeguards. It's also important that companies select a vendor with strong experience and credentials (i.e., FedRAMP or Cyber Essentials Plus) in their industry, particularly if they are a public sector/government organization or work within a highly regulated industry.

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Change Management

Simply dropping a new piece of technology into an organization won't guarantee success. Often companies require a wider program of change management to help users and stakeholders understand how greater collaboration can deliver greater success. Don't just evaluate vendors based on the technical performance of their product; understand how they'll support the setup and deployment of their service, as well as the education and support of users. An effective change management program can make all the difference between hitting or missing success criteria and user adoption benchmarks.

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Data Governance

For some organizations and industries, governance around data (in particular, how it's used, how it's approved and how it's accessed) is of critical importance. Choose a tool that maintains a time-stamped audit trail of all file activity, user actions and user comments. This enables companies to monitor usage, compare document versions and infinitely roll back to past versions. Some collaboration services can break the audit trail by not logging activity made through a mobile device, so be sure to evaluate the level of auditability you need and whether the service meets your criteria.

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Return on Investment

Building a compelling business case is vital to the deployment success, and so is keeping track of ROI. Understand how a collaboration tool can affect physical costs, productivity and business impact. Choose a vendor that can help build a validated business case against each of these areas and then deliver the support and guidance to meet your success criteria.

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Ease of Deployment

This should be one of a company's most important considerations, as a successful deployment will set the tone for success and have a significant impact on user adoption. Choosing a vendor that understands the company's industry will make it easier. The vendor should be able to map a team's existing workflows and process into the service, manage any technical configurations and have the resources available to provide a suite of learning and support materials to help on-board users during the important first few weeks of the deployment.

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Financial Stability

The market for collaboration tools is fierce. Before entrusting their data to anyone, companies should perform due diligence around the vendor's financial stability to ensure it remains a trusted, long-term partner. Understand its ownership structure and how it is funded, and consider talking to industry analysts (such as Gartner or Forrester Research) for an independent assessment of the business.

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