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February 20, 2019 | By

The Hidden Problems of Too Many Collaboration Tools

Doing right by your employees includes giving them the best collaboration tools and experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean giving them the most tools. Overloading a team with too many options can actually make the working environment less organized. Scattering assets and insights in different screens, browser tabs, and apps can make it harder to get prompt answers. And when frustration sets in with one tool, it can be difficult to revive enthusiasm for using the others that are still meeting expectations! Consider this list of some of the other hidden risks, and how to steer around them by thinking about the consequences before adding too many collaboration tools.

Buying a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

Users often ask for new collaboration tools out of impatience and frustration with their current option. But sometimes, the real issue would be solved by spending a little more time learning about the tool they already have. One way to deal with this is to spend time doing root-cause analysis with users when they criticize the collaboration tools available to them. You can discover if the most strident complaints are about capabilities you actually offer users, and determine if they aren’t working, aren’t accessible, or just aren’t sufficiently clear. You can also discover ways to refine training processes so everyone is more confident using the tools they have on hand.

Diluting Your Vendor Relationships

Apart from the top-line cost of adding more software or cloud solutions, each new collaboration tool brings with it some amount of training, integration, and maintenance expenses. But there’s a deeper and potentially more potent opportunity cost as well. When you spread your collaboration tools across a wide range of vendors, you miss the chance to establish a deep relationship with a provider that can invest time and energy understanding your business. This could mean missing out on what a true partnership delivers – personal communications about feature usage or new releases, exclusive beta or pilot programs, and complimentary services like training or implementation.

Overloading Mobile Devices

A typical collaboration application can be well over 100MB in size. That doesn’t sound like much on a traditional computer, but many employees are now using their mobile apps just as often as their computers for getting work done.  So given that a wide variety of today’s smartphones have 32G or less of storage, filling your employees phones with collaborations tools could mean they might spend more time trying to deal with “storage low” alerts than actually working within the tools themselves.

Eroding User Trust

Consistency breeds trust, and inconsistency erodes it. Your employees want to feel confident that you’re providing them the proverbial “latest-and-greatest” tools, and they know where to find assets they need or the the people they need to connect to. Scattering assets and experts across numerous collaboration tools undermines that trust they have in you. Building integrations and connectors between tools just increases costs and creates more software to maintain. Think about the best ways to put a “single source of the truth”, or as close as you can reasonably come, in front of your users.

Ignoring Your Real Collaboration Challenges

Maybe your collaboration problems don’t lie within the tool – but within the communication style itself. Adding more tools may be a costly way of ignoring deeper problems with your training, culture, or workplace compatibility. A Harvard Business Review article points out that cumbersome management layers, poor feedback practices, and organizational complexity all have fixes that require attention, but don’t require software. Get together with your human resources department, talk, and ask hard questions about what people need in order to better work together.


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