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

Craft collaboration metrics to enhance business benefits

Collaboration metrics should focus on more than just how well platforms and tools function. Metrics should shift focus to how much collaboration tools improve a business.

Collaboration tools and platforms have become an integral part of workflows in most organizations. Collaboration allows for faster access to information and idea sharing. While the majority of organizations seem to agree that collaboration is valuable, measuring that value is less clear cut.

Successful collaboration requires more than just finding the right tools and platforms. IT needs to understand which groups are collaborating, where they are collaborating and how the ideas shared are affecting the overall business. Creating a set of collaboration metrics can help inform business plans and quantify the success of collaboration tools.

What are the challenges of measuring collaboration?

Because collaboration has many different forms, it can be difficult to pin down an exact way to measure success. For some organizations measuring collaboration comes down to what ideas and information are shared, which can prove problematic if not all kinds of collaboration are recorded.

The three key types of collaboration that organizations should consider, according to Richard Tworek, vice president of next-generation products and Mitel Labs at Mitel Networks Corp., are the following:

  1. one-on-one collaboration, or individual employees working with one another;
  2. work group collaboration, or different groups in an organization working together on projects; and
  3. external collaboration, or employees working with individuals or groups outside of an organization's collaborative environment.

To better monitor collaboration success, IT should be familiar with the types of collaboration most prominent in the organization. One-on-one collaboration, for example, can be difficult to measure, since some in-person collaboration may not be recorded.

Collaboration tools make recording collaboration easier, but that will depend on user adoption. Without strong end-user adoption, IT will struggle to get an accurate read on how employees collaborate and how productive they are.

What areas of business should collaboration metrics focus on?

In the past, collaboration metrics focused primarily on platform performance, determining success based on call quality, reliability and ease of use. Today, most collaboration tools have matured to a point where IT leaders are less concerned with measuring the overall performance of a tool and more interested in understanding the effects of these tools on the business.

Nemertes Research Group, located in Mokena, Ill. conducted a study on collaboration that identified three metrics that determine if an organization's collaboration deployment is successful:

  1. Does use of collaboration tools increase revenue?
  2. Do the collaboration tools reduce the cost of doing business?
  3. Have the collaboration tools improved business processes?

This new set of collaboration metrics moves away from asking whether the tools work to focus on how the tools are affecting the overall business -- which gives a better idea of ROI. However, to get full insight with these metrics, IT will need to do some planning before deploying new collaboration tools.

How can IT plan for business focused collaboration metrics?

When planning a new collaboration deployment, an early stage of planning should include deciding what collaboration metrics will be used to measure the deployment's success. Once metrics have been established, IT leaders need measure a baseline for comparison.

Measuring project times before and after a collaboration deployment, for example, can clarify whether business processes were improved through shortened turnaround times. If IT determines that there isn't enough of an improvement, it will be easier to reassess collaboration priorities and develop a new roadmap.

Planning for collaboration metrics can also include considering the spaces that will be used to collaborate. If an organization uses huddle rooms, IT leaders can use the room's digital environment to track who contributes ideas and how often those ideas are used for a project.

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