In 2015, Slack was named Inc.’s company of the year for what appeared to be some pretty exciting reasons. The collaboration tool gained 1.7 million users in its first 20 months in the marketplace, garnering $45 million in annual revenue. Its user base grew 5 percent per week for 70 weeks straight. Companies like Salesforce, eBay, NASA, and HBO had all tapped in to its magic. The benefits of collaboration platforms were now apparent in Slack’s “work channel” structure. It was changing the way work teams around the world worked and operated.
Or was it? Four years later, Slack doesn’t even make the Top 5 list of preferred collaboration suites in Futurum Research’s recent DXC Technology: Workplace and Digital Transformation study. Which begs the question: What are the perceived vs. realized benefits of collaboration platforms, and where should companies really be spending their collaboration dollars? The following are a few tips for bringing the real benefits of collaboration platforms to life in your enterprise.
Tip 1: Don’t Expect Collaboration to Replace Email
I had lunch with a colleague back during Slack’s heyday. She admonished me for using email, rather than Slack, to manage our project collaboration. What we have found from our study, however, is that in nearly 50 percent of cases, the use of collaboration tools actually increases the use of email, rather than eliminates it. Yes, it’s an ironic twist when it comes to the benefits of collaboration platforms. Even more ironic, those that saw an increase in email use also saw an increase in productivity. Do you see why the real vs. perceived benefits of collaboration tools can be so confusing? Long story short, don’t give up on a collaboration suite just because it leads to more communication. Maybe that’s what your team actually needs.
Tip 2: Look Beyond Slack and Webex
In our study, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and even Facebook Workplace topped Slack when it came to preferred collaboration tools. In our experience, the most important benefits of collaboration tools are found in ones that are streamlined and standardized—programs that are simple and work easily with other tech your company already uses. If it takes your team too far out of its comfort zone, it might not get a lot of buy-in. If it’s too subtle, it will never get used. Look for a collaboration suite spot that gets people excited to harness the power of collaboration, but not so much that people become overwhelmed by it.
Tip 3: Understand the Trend
Our study shows that nearly ¾ of companies are already using some type of collaboration tool, and only 8 percent have no plans to try one in the near future. Long story short, whether the benefits of collaboration tools are real or perceived, most companies are finding them worth trying. Our study showed 68 percent have seen overall improvements in productivity after implementation. Fail to implement some type of collaboration system, and your company could easily fall behind.
Tip 4: Remember Your Purpose for Adoption
The real value of workplace collaboration tools won’t be the same for everyone. While we all want to work more efficiently, some may also want to encourage smoother communication between head-butting departments, or create simpler processes for document sharing and version control. Whatever the case, work to find a solution that suits your company’s needs—not just one that helps most companies work faster and easier.
Yes, you can realize some significant benefits to collaboration platforms. As with any tech advancement, however, it’s essential that you keep your purpose and mission front and center of whatever technology you utilize. As some companies found with Slack, although it was super cool to use at the time, it also cost a tremendous amount in “noise” and communication overwhelm (er, “timesuck”). Want to avoid the “Slacklash?” Be smart. Aim for agile and simple. If communication on your team is terrible, no single collaboration tool with fix it. People skills—and leadership—are still required. Keep your eyes on the digital transformation prize and find a way to calculate your own true ROI on any collaboration platform you implement.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.