The clock is ticking on digital transformation. Over the past decade, driven by a wave of technological breakthroughs, companies across industries have come to realize their fate depends on digitization. Remaining competitive and sustaining growth are now, to a huge extent, about integrating technology into every aspect of the enterprise.
COVID-19 only raised the stakes and accelerated the timelines. When the office, factory floor, or job site suddenly became public health hazards, companies relied upon expansive digital technologies to shift their operations elsewhere and maintain business continuity. How much progress a company has made toward digital transformation correlates with how much it’s been disrupted by the pandemic.
That begs the question: What’s keeping companies from achieving digital transformation? Are there missing pieces or obstacles in the way? The answers are crucial for companies that want to complete their transformation before it’s too late.
Collaboration: The Centerpiece of a Digital Transformation Framework
Digital transformation isn’t about stuffing the enterprise with tech tools; it’s about integrating the right tools in a way that upgrades every effort a company makes.
If integration is the key, collaboration is the glue that binds everything together. We often talk about digital transformation in the abstract. But on the ground, it looks like every member of a team, from any location, working together in perfect sync. Team members seamlessly share information in real time, work efficiently through shared objectives from remote locations, and assist each other in overcoming challenges. Digital transformation may be driven by technology, but the end result is stronger, smarter relationships between collaborators.
This insight is important because, without it, digital transformation risks becoming an endless effort that delivers little value. By focusing on collaboration and communication tools, companies do the reverse: reining in new tech investment while making meaningful progress toward digital transformation. The right collaboration software connects all the various functional parts to streamline workflows and improve operational efficiency through shared access to actionable information.
That being said, not all collaboration tools are created equal. There are hundreds on the market, offering things like chat, file sharing, and mobile project management. Yet 80% of respondents to one survey said their companies require them to use collaboration and productivity tools that feel redundant, making things less efficient. Disconnected tools are a similar problem. When collaborators have to jump between tools and manually move data in between them, it turns technology into an obstacle — the opposite of digital transformation.
All companies could benefit from making collaboration software the centerpiece of digital transformation, as long as they choose the right tools.
Selecting Enhanced Collaboration Software
With so many collaboration tools to select from, it’s important to choose in the context of digital transformation solutions. Specific features can help companies achieve their goal of using technology to become more connected, efficient, productive, and innovative.
First and foremost, the best tools use a broad definition of “collaborator.” That means they’re not limited to specific teams, departments, or even companies. Instead, the tools expand to incorporate vendors and customers as well, uniting all stakeholders in one place. Widespread collaboration means that everyone can contribute to a process. Likewise, everyone can observe that process in action so less is left up to chance. Collaboration software should incorporate everyone while also offering strict access controls.
Companies should take a similarly expansive approach to data. More than just chat boxes, collaboration software should provide easier access to all the data inside existing IT systems. Best-in-class tools will also bring sensor data into the mix so collaborators have a view of the organization’s front lines. Ease of access is another priority. Users should be able to quickly and easily find the data they need without being overloaded with extraneous details. Great tools connect users with answers, not just data.
Along those same lines, real-time collaboration software should put information in context, transforming raw data into actionable information. Functionally, that means positioning data within workflows to highlight the relationship between information and action. The goal is to create situational awareness where collaborators understand all the circumstances at hand (on-site and off-site) before making decisions. Judge collaboration tools on whether they increase understanding or just make more noise.
The right collaboration software does everything you would expect: persistent chat, file sharing, status updates. But it doesn’t stop there. It also harvests data from sensors, offers mapping capabilities, and builds seamless links between collaborators — driving digital transformation forward and laying the groundwork to complete the effort.