Collaboration software was a critical investment for most companies in 2020 due to the need to support work-from-home operations. With the pandemic still creating workplace disruptions, tools such as messaging, video conferencing and file sharing will remain high-priority business collaboration solutions in 2021 — but with an emphasis on developing secure, robust and reliable solutions for the long term.
Last year’s sudden upheaval forced organizations to figure out remote operations as they went along. Very often, that meant the hurried adoption of consumer-grade and cloud-based collaboration and conferencing platforms. They generally enabled some continuity of operations, but there were clear sacrifices in performance and security.
Nearly 80 percent of remote workers reported having technology issues when connecting to corporate systems and resources, according to a recent global survey, and 67 percent admitted that they ignored corporate security policies in order to be more productive. Here are some of the ways that companies can address these issues and refine their remote collaboration strategies in the coming months:
Eliminate Sprawl. In the early days of the pandemic, remote employees often adopted collaboration apps without IT’s knowledge or approval. This ad-hoc adoption addressed immediate productivity requirements, but it also created application sprawl with users often toggling between different solutions throughout the workday. In 2021, companies must take steps to standardize on a single platform. Having videos, conversations, files, tasks, calendars, images and more accessible through a common dashboard will improve workflow management, create continuity and eliminate information silos.
Enhance Security. Vast amounts of sensitive information such as financial data, customer information and intellectual property are exchanged in collaboration and file-sharing environments. While providers are taking steps to shore up their products, businesses must also address security, privacy and compliance issues on their end. Data loss prevention, content filtering and encryption features should be installed on all employee endpoint devices to minimize the risk of data leakage.
Modernize the Network. Bandwidth consumption and resource contention can become issues with more users connecting to the corporate network remotely. That can create performance problems for latency-sensitive voice and video applications that won’t tolerate network congestion, packet loss or jitter. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions address these challenges by allowing a dynamic mix of connectivity options such as MPLS, Internet, cellular and satellite, which minimizes network bottlenecks.
Focus on Quality. As remote workers flocked to video collaboration platforms, they often encountered jittery, grainy video and poor sound quality — usually the product of insufficient Internet connections or poor-quality cameras and microphones built into most laptops and other endpoints. Recent surveys find that about half of all U.S. companies plan to address quality issues by buying or reimbursing remote workers for better wireless routers, headsets and cameras in 2021. IT teams must also continually monitor platform service metrics and regularly patch audio, video, USB and Wi-Fi drivers.
Improve Management. Video team meetings can digress into rambling time-wasters without management guardrails, which is one reason why about 60 percent of remote employees in a Harvard Business Review study said they wanted to spend less time responding to collaboration requests. You can regain control with the integration of meeting management software that integrates with calendar, email and chat functions to assist in planning and guiding team meetings. These tools can be used to schedule meetings, distribute invitations and agendas, take and share notes in real time, generate minutes and set timers to keep meetings on track.
A recent Forbes study finds that about two-thirds of companies say their investments in the digital workplace helped them become more agile and resilient. Organizations now must take steps to revise and enhance their current collaboration platforms in order to provide the long-term support their remote workforces will require.