How IT Can Fuel Strong Collaboration Among Remote, WFH Employees

eWEEK DATA POINTS: As we’ve adjusted to the virtual office, IT has been tasked with ensuring that the right technology is matching with the right employees to drive maximum companywide productivity.

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In the last three months, our workplaces and workspaces have changed, big time. Conference rooms, white boards and in-person meetings have given way to collaboration applications, virtual meetups and home offices amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Collaboration applications are helping maintain work continuity in a major way–from video meetings to always-on, real-time chat. eWEEK's community talked about this trend in a recent #eWEEKchat discussion here on CrowdChat.net/eweekchat.

When it comes to collaboration, for example, Zoom usage has skyrocketed since mandatory work-from-home orders went into effect. At the end of 2019, Zoom reported 12.9 million active users; by April, usage had skyrocketed to more than 200 million users—most of whom were consumers, not only businesses. 

As we’ve adjusted to the virtual office, IT has been tasked with ensuring that the right technology is matching with the right employees to drive maximum companywide productivity—with all-remote teams, of course. In this eWEEK Data Points article, Productiv CEO Jody Shapiro outlines how IT can best support collaboration and productivity among an all-remote workforce.

Data Point No. 1: IT leaders first need visibility into which applications are being used by whom, and how these apps are being used

If three of my business units are collaborating in Slack and one unit is using Teams, that’s a potential problem. This collaboration friction can sap productivity and increase frustration among teams as workers search for files while toggling between Box and OneDrive. And remember, they’re just a credit card click away from purchasing their own collaboration tools and stitching together shadow IT apps.

Just as personal laptops lack the security safeguards that protect company-provisioned devices, shadow IT comes with its own set of risks; specifically, shadow IT apps increase collaboration silos and undercut the uniform employee software experience. IT leaders need a centralized and accurate list of applications and licenses to begin to understand workplace collaboration. They also need the real story behind the application count, or how we are engaging with these apps.

Data Point No. 2: IT can examine application engagement data and then identify overlapping applications

If there are applications with similar functionality deployed across various teams, you need to know this. The goal is to understand which apps are being used the most heavily, so you can then migrate employees off  lesser-used apps and standardize on the best one. This eliminates overlaps and what we call app sprawl. It’s important that you evaluate redundancies by examining engagement data rather than login data alone. If your organization has 1,500 people provisioned on Microsoft Teams and 1,400 people provisioned on Slack, the numbers appear almost equal. But if we look at engagement–or what happens after someone logs in–we see that logins do not equal engagement.

Data Point No. 3: Once you identify overlapping applications, you need to look at engagement at the feature level. 

Look at overall usage, the types of activities people are performing and whether collaboration is happening inside or outside of an organization. Are you getting the most out of each application? What percentage of users are sharing video during Zoom meetings? Are files being shared in Box? If we drill down on features in the Teams/Slack example mentioned above, we might see that employee Slack engagement is 10 times greater than in Teams. This feature-level engagement data gives a more complete picture of how your employees are collaborating remotely.

Data Point No. 4: Next, use this feature-level engagement data to adjust existing application licenses as well as forecast changing application use patterns. 

Perhaps your sales team has Zoom’s Pro licenses, because most virtual meetings are longer than 40 minutes. Meanwhile, an engineer who has fewer meetings may not need such a license. But during the present remote work surge, you need to adjust your license provisioning strategy.

During this new WFH norm, you may have more team members spending more time on Zoom. Your company’s leaders may schedule more video-enabled Zoom meetings to foster a sense of community during this time. Thus, you may need different license tiers for employees. IT leaders can also get regular updates on an application-by-application basis and automatically deprovision, upgrade, or downgrade licenses based on individual usage patterns.

Data Point No. 5: After you have tracked application engagement over time by team, feature and device–and made relevant “right size” license adjustments–you can begin to collect and compare benchmark data

Collect trend data from application engagement based on app, industry, geography, company size, etc. This allows you to compare your company’s business collaboration metrics with similar data from other organizations. Benchmarking your organization's application provisioning against industry benchmarks  also ensures that your application selection is being done in the most data-driven way possible.

Data Point No. 6: Summary

IT has a key role in enabling effective, efficient collaboration within an organization, and this role is even more critical when all employees are working remotely. By following the aforementioned steps, IT leaders can pass the remote work “stress test.” They can crack open the application engagement black box, gaining visibility into how employees collaborate. This, in turn, helps IT eliminate redundancies and make real-time adjustments as workers’ collaboration needs change. 

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