Mobile Collaboration: Empowering Collaboration in a Mobile World

by Travis Smith

As we recently read from Josh Warcop in his post, Collaboration – What does it mean?, collaboration “defines how people interact with other people and data”. If I take it a step further, collaboration is the interaction of people with data in order to produce or create something. So mobile collaboration would then mean:

the interaction of people with data through mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, etc.) in order to produce or create something.

There is no longer a question of the importance of mobile, mobile applications, or a mobile-first mobile responsive web presence. In a world where mobile internet usage has now surpassed desktop internet usage, how can businesses better facilitate collaboration of our mobile-immersed employees? Is the intranet mobile responsive? Are web applications mobile responsive? Are the existing collaboration tools enabled for mobile devices (native apps) or are they mobile responsive web applications?

Here are a few tips on how to empower mobile collaboration or improve your business’s current collaboration tool(s):

  1. Evaluate corporate readiness for mobile collaboration tools.

    Corporate culture will dictate the adoption of any tool, especially collaboration tools. Whether its social business tool, corporate intranet with collaboration capabilities like SharePoint, or a messaging application like Lync or Jabber, the tool does not dictate adoption regardless of the technology’s ease of use or convenience. The corporate culture does.

    Collaboration will happen and the corporate culture will dictate this overtly, explicitly, or implicitly. Some corporate cultures, companies with established tranditions, or companies in certain industries prevent or even obstruct the adoption of newer collaboration technologies, and this can result in corporate political battle lines being drawn, mutiny among the newer workforce, who expects some level of social collaboration opportunities, or even the loss of top talent.

    So, you must evaluate the current readiness of the company to adopt new collaboration tools. For example:

    • What are the current tools and technologies that exist within the organization that are already mobile-ready?
    • Is there a bring your own device (BYOD) policy within the organization?
    • Are there any mobile devices being used already?
    • What is the mobile-ready state of the current intranet? extranet?
    • Do you have integration in cloud applications like Office 365 that have native mobile applications?
    • Do you currently use Yammer or Lync to enable mobile collaboration?
  2. Develop a mobile-friendly or mobile-first strategy for collaboration.

    While a lot can be said of a good collaboration strategy (e.g., include a purpose statement, include objectives like “increase knowledge worker efficiency”, work alongside and consider a company’s data warehousing strategy, etc), making the current collaboration strategy mobile-friendly is important. The decision to make the strategy mobile-friendly and/or mobile-first will require the business to analyze all their applications and the application’s need for a mobile makeover.

    While not all applications will require a mobile presence, many times a hybrid IT approach or cloud application migration or custom cloud web application extension (e.g., AngularJS) can solve many of the mobile readiness issues at once. Regardless, a decision must be made on the company’s strategy of all applications (or at least all new applications) and their ability to work on mobile devices as either native applications or cloud applications.

  3. Conduct business impact and ROI projected evaluations on mobile-first application migration and conversions. (see Luxury Retailer Application Mobile Conversion)

    Many people buy into the myth that ROI cannot be determined with collaboration tools. However, careful analysis of the business combined with solid project management principles and SMART goals, business impact (level 4 analysis) and ROI (level 5 analysis) can be measured and determined. Even the purchasing, developing, and the deployment of an Enterprise SharePoint Collaboration Development SharePoint solution can be measured for ROI when you considered cost savings from the implementation of workflows, delivery of employee communications, and the cost of employee retention. The same can be said of converting applications into a mobile-first approach.

    As technology progresses ever so rapidly, the business also needs to consider the opportunity cost of deciding whether to ensure or make their collaborative tools mobile enabled (e.g., intranets mobile responsive). For example, “If I choose not to make my current toolset mobile responsive and decide to migrate to a new system, then I must consider any current integrations, possible data loss, and adoption of the new tool along with the cost of doing business as the organization learns the new tool.” Likewise the business needs to consider the current opportunity cost as well as the cost of lost opportunities if they choose one tool over another.

  4. Innovate, deploy rapidly and in smaller portions.

    Instead of doing a massive overhaul of the intranet all at once, gradually upgrade and replace smaller portions faster with better assurance and quality. Get small, quick “WINS” and use them to champion the cause to garner support and faster adoption. Plan and roadmap migrations and deployment with activities around launches and education and training opportunities for employees.

    One really good example of this is a company’s decision to use agile methodologies instead of the traditional waterfall approach to development. Agile improves the ability to deliver migrations, innovate on current applications as well as new applications, encourage user adoption, and meet the business needs when the business needs it doing so rapidly.

  5. Accept that there will not be a “one size fits all” collaboration tool. Invest in a suite of collaboration tools.

    Sometimes, a cloud application is the best approach and other times a native application is better. No one tool will provide a solution to all the collaboration needs of a business.

    The closest tool that can provide many collaboration tools is SharePoint. SharePoint provides tools like wikis, blogging, employee profiles, activity feeds, social tagging, user-generated content, content management, communities, and discussion forums. It does not provide instant messaging though through its integration with Lync, it can provide online presence information. SharePoint also does not provide web or video conferencing though it can archive recorded sessions. Through custom application development, SharePoint can be extended to integrate with web/video conferencing. So a wise company will invest in a suite of tools that work well together with the least amount of customization.

In a world where mobile internet usage has now surpassed desktop internet usage, businesses can better facilitate collaboration of our mobile-immersed employees by building and/or converting their existing web applications into mobile-ready, mobile-friendly, mobile-responsive web applications. Business can develop, improve, or solidify their collaboration strategy to include direction and key objectives around mobility encouraging the enablement of mobile native apps.

Do you have any other suggestions or tips on how organizations and business can improve their mobile collaborations?


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