The Battle for Control in the Age of Collaboration Tools

We are in a golden age of collaboration. We message each other on the fly, simultaneously co-edit documents, create virtual reference libraries of institutional knowledge and sync our individual devices to team-wide, or even company-wide storage space in the cloud.  If you have any doubt as to whether or not this trend will continue, see 2017 State of Enterprise Collaboration, a report put together by SmartSheetafter surveying approximately 1,000 U.S. enterprise IT decision makers from a diverse range of industries, company sizes and geographies. A key finding is that collaboration tools are not considered a luxury that’s nice to have. Rather, enterprise organizations consider collaboration apps to be essential to their ability to compete.

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Who Gets to Choose which Collaboration Tools to Use

There are more and more, and better and better tools available for helping teams work together. But when it comes down to it, all this new technology is exposing an old controversy. What should be centralized and what should be left for individual teams to decide? 

The report indicates that collaboration tools are most often (83.5% of the time) selected and adopted by individual departments.  Nearly half (46%) of the organizations surveyed report that they are using six or more different collaboration apps.   This indicates that teams are selecting the apps that they perceive as being the best fit for their individual needs. 

However, there are indications that a more centralized approach to adopting collaboration tools would be beneficial.  By far the biggest complaint that employees have about their collaboration tools is that not everyone uses them.  And when asked if they were concerned that the use of collaboration apps that are not sanctioned or supported by their IT departments put their networks at risk, two thirds of survey respondents said yes.

Can One Tool Work for Everyone?

No. Some tools are designed for immediate communication, others for document storage, and others for process management. At very least you’re going to need a suite of tools that work well together. But who gets to decide which tools make the cut? Nothing will send everyone running back to their silos faster than suggestion that one department knows what another department needs.  Thus, flexibility becomes a key consideration when choosing collaboration apps. Collaboration tools themselves can be used for decision-making (see Atlassian’s description of a Confluence Decision) and should be considered as a powerful forum for teams to discuss, nominate and decide on the applications they need.

The Atlassian suite of tools (JIRA, Confluence and HipChat) provides excellent functionality for issue management, reference documentation and real-time communication.  JIRA Service Desk has all of the bells and whistles needed to provide outstanding request management. But these tools were created by an IT company, with IT use cases in mind.  Can they be made to work for other teams? And made to work well-enough that they don’t always seem to be a thinly masked IT product? 

One way to let teams make these tools truly their own is to allow them to create forms and attach them to JIRA issues. This is a great way to acknowledge the fact that the information that needs to be collected is not uniform across every team and cannot be prescribed from the top down. While there are a variety of ways you can attach forms to JIRA issues, they can be time-consuming and cumbersome to execute. The ProForma add-on lets teams create and deploy forms that automatically attach to JIRA issues making it a great way for any team to handle request management. 

Whether or not you need collaboration tools really isn’t debatable. But which tools to invest in, whether or not the same collaboration apps are used across your organization, and who decides – are questions that will need careful consideration. The ProForma add-on for JIRA should definitely be one of the options you consider.