How should companies evaluate team collaboration apps?

Team collaboration isn't one-size-fits-all. Distinct user needs must be considered when creating a collaboration assessment to find the best team collaboration apps for your users.

Meeting user needs with team collaboration apps is a chicken-or-egg scenario. Both the needs and the apps will vary depending on the type of collaboration, and the range of apps from collaboration providers is almost limitless.

Because providers are constantly rolling out apps and features, you can assume all these services meet your core, everyday needs. However, when evaluating team collaboration apps, the process becomes challenging when considering highly specific user needs that are particular to a vertical market or the nature of the job.

The starting point to meet user needs with team collaboration apps lies with an internal evaluation across your base of workers. IT may not think to do this evaluation because most communication apps are deployed and supported on a stand-alone basis. Employees would simply use the apps as their needs dictated without consideration for what an integrated collaboration platform could provide.

As such, IT must begin with an internal collaboration assessment of the most commonly used apps. If this step hasn't been done before, IT might find some surprises because the concept of teamwork is more fluid with today's technologies.

Once the internal assessment is done, it should be reviewed with prospective team collaboration app providers. Given their experience with other customer deployments, the providers should be able to refine the product in ways you didn't anticipate. For example, a provider could tailor mobile apps that are optimized for the devices most commonly used by employees.

In terms of creating evaluation criteria, you need to go beyond network-based metrics that only track the adoption and usage patterns of these applications. That data certainly has value to show management that IT's collaboration investment is warranted, but it only tells part of the story.

Companies also need structured feedback directly from employees about the value of these applications. For instance, do the apps help employees communicate more clearly, complete projects in less time and achieve better business outcomes?

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