Virtual collaboration tech platforms – business as usual?

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Francois Kriel | Change Management Consultant | Kriel & Co | mail me


Business is looking anything but usual for many organisations, large and small. The national lockdown, a decisive strategy to flatten the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is causing leadership and employees to rapidly consider virtual communication strategies for employees who are able to continue with business while working from home.

But the choices when it comes to virtual communication platforms are vast and enough reason for leadership – and frustrated home-bound employees – to scratch their heads trying to decide which platforms to adopt.

Before COVID-19, many organisations might not have considered making their operations more agile to enable a remote working environment. Under normal circumstances, adopting a virtual work environment and the supporting new technology can take any organisation months or years at best.

Adopting a digital workplace overnight 

Now virtually overnight, organisations have had to adapt radically to maintain business as usual during a time when the reality is unusual to say the least.

I have observed a mad dash to set up digital infrastructures that allow employees to continue work (somewhat) uninterrupted.

The secret to implementing a successful digital transformation strategy depends heavily on whether you have secured employee buy-in, provided ample training and empowered teams to  confidently and independently use these platforms, not to even speak of the first step – deciding which virtual technology platform will fit your organisation best.

For organisations needing to implement measures in a short space of time, the question now is: Which platform will work best from the start?

Available off-the-shelf platforms

I highlights a handful of ‘off-the-shelf’ platforms available, with key dos and don’ts to consider, based on his consulting experience

Google Hangouts – easiest platform to get up and running

Google Hangouts is a natural choice for organisations already making use of Google Cloud services.

Google Hangouts is by far the easiest platform to get employees onto and to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. The platform is easy to adopt and intuitive to navigate. It’s easy to invite external attendees as well as employees to its video conferencing feature, which comes standard.

Do:  

  • consider investigating Google’s G-Suite for a more comprehensive cloud-based approach to virtual collaboration, including file collaboration, email and other services.

Don’t: 

  • make the decision to expand into Google Cloud services too quickly without establishing adequate levels of security and privacy policies, as well as employees’ adoption and trust in the platform.
  • believe that the organisation can simply migrate to another platform at a later stage if this does not work out.
Facebook Workplace and WhatsApp – resist the temptation 

Facebook’s services are consumer-orientated and its intention as a social media platform has been adapted for business use. Whilst features are competitive, familiar, simple to use and easy to access, there are privacy and data security concerns to be aware of.

Since WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, the same applies to using this platform for team documentation.

Do:  

  • keep WhatsApp and Facebook for personal use. To separate business from personal platforms is now more important than ever to maintain boundaries for those working from home.

Don’t:  

Zoom – best video conferencing quality

Zoom is by far one of the most reliable and high-quality choices for video conferencing with superior streaming quality.

If your team is scattered around the country/world with different levels of reliable internet connections, Zoom is a good choice. Inviting external parties and large groups is easy and straight-forward.

Record meetings and share files automatically with attendees at the end of the meeting. If your organisation already has an existing IM platform (such as Skype for Business) and seeks a more specific solution for video conferencing, Zoom’s interoperability might be a good fit.

Do:  

  • remember that the free offering of Zoom cuts video conferencing calls and sessions after 40 minutes. Budget for the Pro version.    

Don’t:  

  • expect Zoom to be a one-stop-shop for all your virtual collaboration needs. The platform is yet to be integrated with other cloud services for a complete virtual collaboration experience.
Microsoft Teams – best long-term all-rounder

Microsoft Teams is a natural choice for organisations that already make use of Microsoft’s cloud services, such as SharePoint and OneDrive, which augment existing document sharing for collaboration.

Much of the platform’s strength lies in its intention and ability to integrate with its own cloud services and the ability to integrate with numerous non-Microsoft services, such as DropBox.

If Skype is a consideration, rather jump one step ahead as Microsoft stated that Skype for Business online is set to retire in July 2021.

Microsoft Teams’ video conferencing quality competes well with that of Zoom. However, it allows participants to control a colleague’s shared screen for improved collaboration. Inviting external participants is easier than before, although not as straight-forward as Google’s offering with a lesser sense of familiarity.

The mobile app features the same VOIP calling capabilities and access to all chats and groups. Handing over from desktop to mobile on MS Teams is one of the most seamless experiences on the market today.

Microsoft is looking to enable even more integration of Teams into its products and services and includes Microsoft Teams within most of its main licence suites. It is one of the world’s safest and most reliable cloud services and an excellent long-term investment into your digital strategy.


 



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