This article is more than 1 year old

Why your collaborative workspace should work with all applications

Let users and third parties continue with the tools they know and love

Sponsored Communicating with your colleagues used to be simple. Turn to the desk next to you and there was your co-worker. Open Windows Explorer and there were your records and documents next to the network drive that you had access to. These days however, your staff and co-workers are likely to be working across dozens of content, creative and collaboration applications across multiple devices, with hot-desking, remote working, VPN’s, FTP’s and even multiple time zones factored into the mix.

As a result, collaboration and knowledge sharing has become a friction-filled challenge for today’s workforce. The State of Collaboration by Vanson Bourne for Dropbox has found that this tsunami of technologies and tools is creating more problems than collaboration. On average, respondents believe they waste 29 per cent of time at work on tasks that don’t add critical value.

A quarter (26 per cent) of survey respondents found their time eaten up by email-related tasks and meetings and a further 45 per cent of their time was swallowed by non-business critical tasks. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of their time, 25 per cent, is spent on strategy, planning, creative tasks, innovation and brainstorming. In other words, only a quarter of the average workers’ day is spent doing useful stuff.

Andrea Trapp, Head of Dropbox Sales EMEA, points to a Pegasystems research study, which showed employees are forced to switch between up to 35 critical applications nearly every minute. ‘The impact of employees ability to work as efficiently as possible, is being hindered by ineffective processes and a lack of collaborative tools’.

The big issue is the siloed nature of applications. Ninety-three per cent reported experiencing barriers to improving collaborative working, partly with the tools they work with, that were built as siloed applications. But most commonly, struggles with overcoming business culture and attitudes. With teams being kept separate, and applications that are not being shared across the business.

Not more tools

As you can imagine, the answer to this inefficient way of working lies not in buying yet-more tools but in creating more of a connected smart workspace - an environment that brings together people, tools, content and conversations together in one place to improve productivity. This will see people spend less time trying to find files or work out which version of a document is the most up to date.

But while there’s a widespread recognition a problem exists, the challenge arises in knowing how to fix it. Eighty-three per cent believe those in the C-suite should place more emphasis on collaborative working but just 22 per cent within the C-suite believe collaborative working is a key business driver. The implication is obvious: if collaboration is not believed to provide value, then there’s little or no reason to invest in it.

Interestingly though, the survey suggests a way forward. A large number of respondents (40 per cent) say they see the task of creating a collaborative working culture as being the responsibility of those in the IT department.

It seems there is a growing school of thought that identifies IT departments as the accelerants in this conversation around collaboration, the ones that can lobby the C-suite to build that collaborative platform everybody else keeps badgering you about. So, how do you persuade those occupying the C-suite to drop their resistance and open the purse strings to invest in collaborative working?

Obviously, you are going to have an uphill task as C-suiters aren’t likely to acknowledge the problem (well, 78% of them, anyway). But there’s one language that C-suite will always talk – the language of profit and loss. While you’re never going to be able to get them to sit down next to you and see how difficult it is to implement a culture of collaboration, you can show them the cost that this lack of collaboration has in terms of productivity.

A survey by Forrester showed that information workers saved four hours a week through improved collaboration and information sharing- that’s around 11 per cent of an average 37 hour week, or £3,346 per employee per year based on average earnings. Additionally, an October 2019 survey by Asana calculated the average worker could save 167 hours a year by avoiding unnecessary meetings and save 209 hours a year from duplicate work through effective collaboration.

But you need to go further than this. You need to look at the arguments around the culture of the business, too. Vanson Bourne shows that just by improving the tools in the IT stack you boost employee satisfaction by 46 per cent. To get the full 100 per cent you need to get staff using the tools - and using them effectively.

When making the case for greater collaboration you must also consider every device - not just desktop and laptops. 451Research found organisations still have an archaic approach to addressing mobile devices, seeing them as an added feature, but employees rely heavily on smartphones for business communications. Some 64 per cent use their smartphones several times a day for work purposes and 75 per cent of employees state that they use SMS for business purposes on a daily basis. The smartphone will be the tool the C-suite employs the most, lending added importance to the need to factor in devices to your argument.

Tell me why

Getting everybody on side means more than simply explaining the reasoning behind the change, it means you must highlight the benefits employees and the business will gain. As we’ve seen, that would mean reducing the time spent switching between applications and trying to locate documents. Streamlining the collaboration process can also be an integral part of the bigger shift towards digitalisation - that is, delivering more products and services online and employing a greater use of devices. The digital business depends upon streamlined processes and workflows. Silos of information, isolated teams and boxed-off applications cannot exist in this world. Making the case for the connected workspace should have three key considerations, fostering cultural change, changing employee attitudes and tech optimizations.

Collaboration should be a key consideration as part of any business’ ongoing digital transformation strategy. As outlined, collaboration will provide efficiencies within your workforce and essentially your P&L.

Andy Wilson, Dropbox principal for media, stresses it’s important to tell this story. “The number one thing is communication, it’s having the story, setting in the right context, and telling it, and telling it, and telling it again,” he says.

As part of the communication process it’s important to realise that not everyone will look for the same results from the move to collaboration. As Trapp points out: “Different teams and different parts of the business will expect different outcomes. For some it might be improving the ease of transfer of information across teams whereas others might look for better ways for their team to communicate when they work across global time zones.”

When making the technology argument, don’t be tempted into choosing tools that tick the governance and security boxes simply to win the nod of approval from those above. You must persuade the C-suite to embrace tools and processes that the teams currently use rather attempt to standardise on a single vendor’s technology stack. The risk of being locked into a vendor’s roadmap is real and will – almost certainly – damage the productivity of staff familiar with their existing tools.

It’s vital, therefore, to insist that you maintain an open ecosystem of tools – you need to be open to being open. Your collaborative workspace should work with all applications, from Office 365, Google Docs, Salesforce and Zoho – and more. To collaborate across this kind of ecosystem, you need an open platform.

Dropbox, for example, lets users and third parties continue with the tools they know and love. “Our biggest partners are Microsoft as well as Google - but you can also use it to work with over 200,000 other applications allowing the IT director a choice of what kind of stack they want to build,” says Wilson.

Greater collaboration should make your workforce happier, improve productivity and boost the bottom line. Less time spent on unproductive tasks like finding files, fretting over version control or identifying the most up-to-date document. More time spent on work that makes a difference.

Management couldn’t argue with that, could they? But then, this isn’t just about management. Successful rollout means persuading all those who see it as the duty of “somebody else” to make it their duty, too. Successful rollout of your collaboration platform therefore means making a persuasive case to everybody - not just those in the C-suite.

Sponsored by Dropbox

More about


Send us news