What is Workstream Collaboration?

April 28, 2021

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Don’t let outdated communication solutions hold your company back — workstream collaboration tools can enable efficiency and transform how you do business.

In this new work from everywhere era, it is apparent the way we work together just does not work anymore. Organizations are reinventing how they work and looking to workstream collaboration tools to connect their teams to the people, processes, and information they need every day, no matter their geographic location. But what is workstream collaboration? How does it differ from the way we work today? What are the tangible benefits of deploying this software?

The “Problem State” of Collaboration Today

A disconnect exists between business processes and the communication tools used throughout. After decades of building business software to help “run the business,” employees are still seeking an easier, faster way to get work done. What do they do? Employees leave the core business systems and start using email, phone, texting–and now instant messaging. Because there are so many different tools & systems with information in them, it forces employees to talk and work together in a variety of channels.

Unfortunately, this now means critical business communications, documents, and decisions/actions aren’t captured in the software designed to “run the business.” Things like the customer order flow, production systems, and/or general business process now lack the key decisions and the why behind it. Not only have you lost data governance (ever wonder what kind of files your employees have on their personal phones…even worse, former employee!), but conversations stay fragmented. People get alert overload. Decrease employee productivity. All while key information gets lost or stays locked up in yet another system.

Workstream collaboration tools were built to solve this fundamental problem. Businesses need to remove the barriers to true collaboration and put structures in place that improve employee communication, facilitate agile project coordination, and boost overall performance. Collaboration technology is a rapidly maturing market as products are built to serve as a collaboration layer that sits on top of existing systems. Now, there are more options than throwing Slack or other messaging services to the fragmented mix of existing software and systems — the workstream collaboration market helps take your workflow management, communication, and information sharing to a new level.

 

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Workstream Collaboration Defined

Gartner 2021 Market Guide for Workstream Collaboration

Download Gartner Market Guide for Workstream Collaboration

According to Gartner, “The workstream collaboration (WSC) market consists of products that deliver a conversational workspace based on a persistent chat divided into channels.” Gartner further adds, “Products in this market are intentionally designed to be extended via APIs, bots or other integration methods to support advanced functionality. The primary use case is everyday productivity, but they are used also for operational, logistical and role-based teamwork associated with project- or process-related activities. Secondary uses include online communities and employee communications.”

A panel of Gartner clients were surveyed in early 2020 and 58% of respondents prioritized WSC tools as a high priority.* Effective workstream collaboration is built on specific capabilities that offer businesses a wide range of benefits.
Primary features of collaborative processes and tools include the following:

  • Multi-channel communication: Collaboration should live in a shared workspace. Each channel serves as a focused space for communication, document sharing, workflow management, and tasking within the context of a specific project, job, order, or activity.
  • Integration with other tools: As part of the collaborative conversation, workers frequently need to leverage data or functions housed in other applications and services. Collaborative processes can take into account data from external businesses and legacy apps like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, and other industry-specific software options–like your Transportation Management system (TMS).
  • Actionable alerts and notifications: While an ongoing conversation is important, it’s also critical that teams can see and respond to urgent information in real-time. A system for alerts can help collaborative teams prioritize where their attention is needed most urgently, whether faced with customer support concerns or job site emergencies.
  • Multimedia capabilities: Workstream collaboration tools should incorporate unified multimedia communication capabilities. On top of text-based channels, WSC allows for document, image, and asset sharing.
  • Customizable workflows & tasking: Processes are highly specific to organizations. Tailoring and customizing workstream collaboration applications to match the unique processes of a company is key to user adoption. Effective workstream collaboration tools will organize team communication around business processes–using workflow and task management systems to keep everyone aligned.
  • Mobility and flexibility: Any collaboration tool in today’s digital world must be able to facilitate communications between remote team members, whether in different offices, or on mobile devices. Consider how workers not tied to a desk will consume communication, information, and manage their process.
  • Extendable to third parties: The ability to extend access to information via workstream collaboration applications to customers and vendors is necessary to meet business demands. These tools provide a new level of process control and give customers the ability to access the latest information they need such as job status and order progress.


With this list of capabilities as a guideline for tool requirements, teams are more likely to achieve successful workstream collaboration and experience an array of benefits. For instance, with better collaborative processes, employees won’t have to fall back on confusing email threads or function within previous silos. Everyone can finally work within a united space rather than piecing together ad-hoc and disparate solutions. The right tools bridge the gap between internal teams or and provide the ability to synchronize with external partners. With a centralized channel, there is less of a divide between talking about the work and taking the appropriate actionable steps to do the work.

Workstream collaboration provides a higher level of transparency throughout operational processes which means less lost information and better visibility into the status and progress of specific work. Users gain a more contextual, real-time understanding of what’s currently happening, which ultimately improves business outcomes. Overall, a more streamlined process creates more opportunities for success, reducing frustration and eliminating bottlenecks.

What Enterprises Can Gain from Workstream Collaboration

For enterprises looking to invest in a workstream collaboration, now is the time. In this rapidly growing market, vendors are providing more advanced offerings that go beyond just everyday teamwork, communication, and content sharing. New applications have advanced capabilities that can handle highly complex workflows, specialized industry use cases, and advanced collaboration all the way out to the frontline worker. If collaboration is a key part of your process, there is a workstream collaboration solution for every scenario.

The following are just a few examples of circumstances in which improving workstream collaboration is critical:

  • Conversation-driven work: No more piecing together bits of conversation between email, Slack, phone calls, and video chats. Unified collaboration allows groups to stay on the same page and keep each other in the loop every step of the way, whether it’s an internal department working on a proposal or an international team delivering products to a customer.
  • Dynamic, non-routine work: The rise of non-routine workflows means that teams need to be able to talk to each other to make decisions that fit the current situation. Any team responding to an unplanned incident has to act according to what’s presently happening, even as the situation changes rapidly.
  • Cross-departmental work: Teams often need to share information across business silos to share expertise and bring deliverables to completion. For example, a quality assurance team and a customer service team may need to work together around a customer complaint or risk miscommunication resulting in a dissatisfied customer.
  • B2B collaboration: Collaborative processes aren’t just internal. An efficient process can be extended to business partners and customers to benefit all parties. For example, partners up and down the supply chain need to be able to hand off goods seamlessly, which requires communication capabilities that other tools simply don’t have.
  • Exception handling: When ad hoc teams are formed around handling emergencies, exceptions, and other special circumstances, collaborative processes must be in place. Everything from a data breach to in-the-field disaster response can benefit from the collaborative capabilities that these pressing situations require.
  • Rapid response: Whether due to circumstances in the field or the real-time pressures of modern business, being able to respond immediately with actionable information requires highly effective workstream collaboration.

 

 

Enhancing Operational Processes with the Right Collaboration Tools

No matter your particular circumstances, workstream collaboration tools can greatly improve your operations and communications–resulting in tangible benefits throughout business operations. Rather than leave employees to find their ways of piecing together temporary solutions, implementing a true workstream collaboration tool will get everyone working together. But don’t be fooled by rehashed messaging apps — real workstream collaboration needs to be specific to your unique use case.

Which processes could benefit from improved communication between teams? Which routine or non-routine situations would benefit most by providing teams with ready access to the people and information they need to get their work done more efficiently and effectively?

Consider workstream collaboration tools that can be customized to work the way your business works while improving your processes at the same time. Choose a software option that is flexible enough to grow and change along with your business. Additional specialized features like geo-location information can provide an integrated way to implement asset tracking and other unique requirements specific to your workflow. Finding a purpose-built workstream collaboration tool that meets your needs can truly redefine the way your teams work.

* Gartner, “Market Guide for Workstream Collaboration,” Mike Gotta, 30 March 2021.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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