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Developing New Criteria for Team Collaboration Tools

Team collaboration tools have shifted from a collection of basic features to user-extensible workspaces.

We can clearly see the changes transforming team collaboration tools. The concept of the team workspace application is shifting from a bundle of simple, lightweight document, chat and task management tools into extensible platforms with a focus on a specific use case. 

Need chat-based collaboration? Applications such as Slack provide a messaging platform that can be extended to capture and manage information. Need to collaborate around projects? Basecamp provides a configurable set of collaborative tools built around a project management framework.  Need a use-case specific, data- or process-driven application? Use Trello, Airframe or Pipefy to configure or build what you need. 

The approaches to team collaboration tools may differ, but common threads include vast improvements to customization, extensibility and workflow. For IT organizations that need to help empowered teams of end users pick the right tool, the choices can be dizzying and seemingly endless. 

To best serve end users, focus on the near term--on the ways in which you can realize productivity gains quickly and create a degree of independence from IT, especially when it comes to customization and integration. Make sure the governance as well as content and communication audit capabilities meet your organization’s needs, and be prepared to vet smaller consulting and implementation companies that departments may need to use from time to time for customization and integration work.

A flexible attitude and an eye for adaptable solutions should guide the decision-making process. Your environment will change, your employees will change, and your needs will change. You can’t anticipate all those changes, but you should expect them to happen.

In 10  years, some of the key applications this tool must integrate with today will no longer be part of your environment. Even if the vendors remain the same, they’ll have likely rearchitected those applications by then. Look for solutions that integrate easily through configurable connectors or iPaaS (integration platform  as a service). The less code you have to write and maintain, the more you can not only keeps costs down, but also ensure that as the workforce changes, someone new will be able to understand how to manage and maintain these connections.

Likewise, focus on solutions that can be customized through configuration or no-code programming. Not only does this make customization by end users an option, but it also makes it easier for non-programmers to understand how the application works and how to make changes years later.

Many of the vendors in this space happen to be smaller, with companies such as Atlassian, Slack, Microsoft and Google being the exception, rather than the rule. Therefore, organizations need to prepare to work with smaller, regional consultant and integration partners, rather than big system integrators. It’s a good idea to advise the department purchasing the application to set aside yearly budget for customization and integration.

If the platform relies on a configuration or no-code development methodology, make sure changes can be tracked and documented in accordance with any governance requirements. Any communications and changes to data similarly should be archived and discoverable in accordance with industry regulatory requirements. 

Given all this change, it should be worth noting that flexibility in licensing and billing metrics can have significant implications long term. Look for platforms that support multiple user tiers, such as both named and guest users. Also check if pricing can be scaled based on usage metrics, such as transactions or active workspaces. 

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