Efficiency Starts in the Cloud - How to Select the Best Collaboration Tools for Your Organization

John Kuemmel, CIO, Triad Retail Media
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John Kuemmel, CIO, Triad Retail Media

In the past decade, workplace communication and behavior has evolved radically, and a host of new employee-collaboration tools has emerged to respond to the shift, shrinking the distance across offices and oceans. What was once unimaginable is now entirely commonplace.

"Cloud-based tools and applications that empower collaboration and connectivity enable organizations to connect anytime, anywhere"

A tech-savvy workforce is now accustomed to the same on-demand lifestyle eat the workplace as it enjoys at home — and,thus, we have the consumerization of IT, or the blending of personal and business use of technology applications. The employee plight: If I don’t have to wait to stream a television program at home, why should I have to wait for a memo or schedule a meeting a week in advance? If I can IM or text my children, why should I not be able to use the same technology at work? Decisions need to be made immediately and big ideas developed in real-time— not days or longer.

The solution? Cloud-based tools and applications that empower collaboration and connectivity to enable organizations to connect anytime, anywhere.

Implementing Cloud-Based Tools to Enhance Collaboration

As Florida’s largest advertising firm and market leader in digital retail media programs, Triad Retail Media understood that implementing such tools would be critical to connecting its more than 600 team members. Triad experienced unprecedented growth in just over a decade, growing from a single-office operation in 2004 to 13 global offices on three continents today. One of the company’s first communication priorities was to focus on day-to-day interactions, given its global footprint and fast-moving industry. Equipped with a computer and phone system that enable video communications, team members now utilize Cisco Jabber for instant messaging and WebEx for online meetings and video conferencing.

With Jabber, Triad team members are able to unify internal messaging across platforms—making it possible to quickly and easily IM colleagues with project questions or share screens to review client presentations. For external communications, Triad leverages WebEx, which offers a secure, mobile workplace for team members to host online meetings or webinars with high-profile retail partners and advertising clients. A popular WebEx feature allows team members to create their own personal meeting room, available without reservations,24/7, 365 days a year.

In addition to communication apps, Triad also utilizes Office 365 and SharePoint, two of Microsoft’s cloud-based business-collaboration solutions. Offering a single repository for developing, sharing and editing documents, Office 365 enables employees to work productively in the office or on the go. And with SharePoint, users’work is stored, organized and shared within a secure environment from almost any device. One of the most popular conveniences is single sign-on. The organization ensures seamless access to cloud tools with one click for security and convenience.

Overcoming Challenges to Connect Anytime, Anywhere

Enabling connectivity for a fast-moving organization, particularly one with team members across offices and working remotely, certainly has its challenges. With this in mind, Triad searched for tools that were intuitive enough to make the onboarding process less complicated. Luckily, due to the current movement of IT consumerization, many tech-savvy team members were able to adapt quickly to these new tools, having relied on similar capabilities in their daily lives. However, for those unfamiliar or interested in learning more, Triad also offered training courses and materials to help smooth the transition.

Once implemented, Triad offered further support by educating employees about the many benefits of the tools’ capabilities, as well as the inherent impact on employee privacy. While cloud-based tools and applications help enhance collaboration, employees must be willing to give up some aspects of their privacy—due to the openness of collaboration and sharing outside the company. For example, calendar sharing with external partners gives visibility into team members’ schedules and availability. However, the timesaving positives far outweigh the negatives, as it eliminates the back-and-forth of emails to find a convenient meeting time.

Assessing the Results

Despite the learning curve and privacy realities, the tools and services have been well received by the team. In fact, Triad has used the positive feedback and input to help the organization make decisions to operate faster and smarter moving forward.

These collaboration tools enable a more efficient workday since everything can be developed and accessed from any device. They also help make in-person meetings more productive. Without negating the need for face time, tools like instant messaging, video conferencing and collaborative documents help production move forward quickly, since details have been hashed out online ahead of time.

Advice for Adapting to IT Consumerization

Consider these three guidelines when selecting collaboration tools for your organization:

Outline your priorities. There is an abundance of technology-based communications tools in the market, and the search for the right set can overwhelm even the best IT experts quickly. For Triad, instant messaging was a priority, as the company had used older iterations of it since its earliest days. Prioritizing the search for the best solution — in Triad’s case, Jabber — was a key objective. Isolate your top communication pain points, and focus on solutions for them above all else.

Understand compatibility restrictions within your current technology platforms. For example, Triad chose Cisco Jabber versus competing tools because it tied in with the Cisco phone and video systems already in place within the organization.

Leverage your network for advice. While the process of identifying and implementing new tools can be a daunting task, hearing firsthand from those who have knowledge of your business and have gone through the process can be incredibly insightful.

Enhancing business collaboration and connectivity was a worthwhile undertaking, and collaboration tools in place can give companies a competitive advantage. Without burdening IT with operational issues, employees have the tools they need to connect quickly and easily with each other and external partners anytime and anywhere.

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