This content is part of the Essential Guide: How best to put collaboration tools to work for your team

Understanding the components of team collaboration tools

Refresh your knowledge of which team collaboration components are essential to team workflows and what IT leaders should keep top of mind to prevent potential problems.

Organizations are always in pursuit of the best team collaboration tools. To find the right fit for their teams, IT leaders need to understand components of team collaboration platforms and how they benefit business.

The components of team collaboration tools, such as messaging, video conferencing and file sharing, create a richer and more successful collaborative environment. The right combination of components helps teams make the most of collaboration sessions.

If your organization is looking to deploy companywide team collaboration tools or you're researching which tools will be most beneficial to your team's workflow, this glossary will refresh your memory on the essential platform components, as well as potential pitfalls IT should watch for.

The components of team collaboration tools

Unified communications. UC is the overall framework for integrating communication and collaboration tools in the workplace. In most cases, the goal of UC is to integrate software that supports both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Incorporating team collaboration tools into a UC framework enables more streamlined communication that boosts efficiency and productivity.

UC should provide users easy access to all communications and collaboration tools on whichever device a user chooses. A UC platform can facilitate switching between different communications tools without disruption, such as escalating a chat session to a voice call with one click.

Collaboration platforms. Collaboration platforms bring social networking capabilities, such as messaging and file sharing, to team workflows. Collaboration platforms gather resource documents, chat conversations and other pertinent information in one place, improving collaboration efficiency and effectiveness for teams.

All collaboration platforms should facilitate conversation, integrate new tools and be able to track any issues. In addition, these platforms should be easy to use and to access from any device.

Video conferencing. Video conferencing is an increasingly important component of team collaboration as organizations embrace remote workers. In simplest terms, video conferencing enables an audio and visual connection between separate locations. Team collaboration sessions held over the phone lack the visual context of face-to-face meetings, but video reintroduces those visual cues.

High-speed internet connectivity is essential to support video performance. Without proper connectivity, the video experience can suffer quality issues, such as latency. Organizations that heavily use video in their team collaboration tools should explore network provisioning options to prevent issues during peak traffic.

File sharing. File sharing is one of the main ways information and ideas are exchanged in team collaboration tools. File sharing can be divided by levels of access or be a single shared filing system with all users having equal access.

File transfer systems may use FTP to limit who can access certain information. With FTP, files are shared with a predetermined set of users who have a password to access the files.

Instant messaging. IM enables real-time messaging between two or more users. IM provides a contextualized stream of communication that can reduce the number of emails sent among collaborators. Often, IM tools can integrate with an organization's UC platform to enable communications to take place without leaving the collaborative environment.

Team collaboration pitfalls to watch for

Shadow IT. Shadow IT happens any time teams deploy collaboration tools without the support of IT. Teams may deploy unauthorized tools if they feel the organization-supplied tools don't meet their workflow needs.

To better understand the needs of its teams, IT should keep an open line of communication. It's unlikely that teams will change their established workflows to transition to new tools they may not like.

Freemium. Freemium options often contribute to the issue of shadow IT. Freemium is a model of delivery that provides a basic app for free with a more advanced iteration and additional features available at a cost. Freemium team collaboration tools can be deployed by end users without IT's permission or knowledge, creating additional hurdles for IT when deploying company-approved tools.

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