The cloud has most definitely arrived for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). And collaboration is one of the most popular uses for it.
What is cloud collaboration? These are tools that allow your employees to share files, work on documents at the same time, send instant messages, chat and otherwise work more closely together – no matter where they are located in the world. This new world of collaboration integrates all the typically siloed ways of communicating we used in the past. Rather than having separate windows open for email, instant messaging, and online meetings, you get a combined, single app experience that simultaneously connects you with the apps of the past and integrates live voice and video into them. Since all the work is stored in the cloud, it is easy for anyone to access. No more passing files back and forth via email.
For example, with a collaboration tool, you could have employees in California working on the same business report as employees in New York – simultaneously. All changes are saved automatically so nothing is ever lost. Different versions are saved so you can always go back and see what the report looked like at any stage of its development. Forbes Insight performed a study in which 64% of respondents overall said that cloud-based collaboration tools help their small businesses execute faster results than would be possible otherwise.
Five Best Practices for Implementing Cloud Collaboration
So how can SMBs integrate cloud-based collaboration tools into their arsenal of productivity applications?
Here are five ways to get the most out of a cloud-collaboration solution:
- Broadcast that support for the tool comes from the very top of the business. Collaboration tools require a top-down approach, so you need to make clear that all employees know you consider this an important initiative. Studies have shown that if a collaboration initiative is not seen as important to the leaders of the organization, it will peter out and deliver only limited benefits. You, as the leader, need to very publicly use the tool to communicate and collaborate with others, and expect that others will use the tool to do the same.
- Take it slow. Don’t attempt to do too much, too quickly. First, do a pilot based on one particular issue you are trying to solve. Or try it out in one department only. Let employees get used to the way the tool works, and give them time to suggest process refinements and improvements before attempting to do more.
- Do adequate training and onboarding strategy. No matter how simple the solution might be to learn, your end users will still need some kind of training. Be clear to workers about the initial goals and about any differences between the old way of doing things, and the new way of doing their jobs using the collaboration tool.
- Be clear about data governance. Make sure that your users understand how to handle sensitive data and key intellectual property within the collaboration tool. The last thing you want is to leak important business information because it is shared too widely or carelessly.
- Have a backup plan. As with any other cloud-based system, create a backup plan so that, in the case of an emergency or system failure, you can recover your data and keep working. For cloud services in particular, it’s important to understand the disaster recovery (access to your content) and business continuity (how long the system is down) terms your cloud provider promises.
Take It Slow to Accelerate Success
The advent of cloud-collaboration platforms has dramatically reduced the technical and financial barriers to collaboration. Still, a key to success is to be thoughtful and thorough in your approach. Conform to these best practices and your collaboration deployment should go smoothly.