Collaboration Apps: Opt for an Ecosystem Over a Toolset

Slack, Trello, BaseCamp; there are a lot of collaboration tools out there these days. The makers of SmartSheet recently released 2017 State of Enterprise Collaborationthe results of a survey of approximately 1,000 U.S. enterprise IT decision makers from a diverse range of industries, company sizes and geographies. Recognizing that the ability to share, organize and manage work together has become increasingly important and increasingly possible, the research was conducted to find out how enterprises are using cloud collaboration tools. 

The report categorizes the tools by function (Store/Sync, Create, Manage, Reference, Communication/Social) and it’s interesting to note that no one collaboration tool or even one suite of tools (though Google and Microsoft are quite strong) dominates across these categories. It’s probably not possible for a single tool to be the best at all of these functions, but since having to learn how to use new systems can be an obstacle to adoption, it would be nice to narrow it down. Enterprises are likely to find themselves in a position of trying and adopting new collaboration apps while simultaneously trying to consolidate their toolset.

Several things need to be considered in deciding which collaboration tools stay and which get weeded out. Cost, security and availability of support are all important factors. Equally important however, is flexibility. If an enterprise wants all business teams to use the same toolset then it needs to ensure that those tools can truly be tailored to the way each team works. What’s perfect for IT may be clunky for Marketing. 

One strategy for ensuring flexibility is to use tools that are part of ecosystem, which is to say  collaboration tools that are created with the intention of letting others build and expand on them. The Atlassian suite of Confluence, JIRA and HipChat can easily accomplish the previously mentioned functions. But one of the greatest advantages of using these tools is that it gives you access to the Atlassian Marketplace where developers have created hundreds of add-ons for every imaginable function. This means that in addition to the great functionality Atlassian provides, teams will be able to select add-ons to fit their particular needs, ensuring that the collaboration tool fits their processes, rather than having to adapt their processes to how the app works.

One such add-on is ProForma for JIRA. The idea is simple. JIRA is great for issue tracking and workflow, but the properties that define an issue will be different for an HR team than they are for an IT team. ProForma empowers teams to create and deploy forms that are attached to JIRA issues. This lets teams manage processes in JIRA, with the ability to collect exactly the information they need, rather than being tied to a pre-defined (and defined by the needs of a different business team) set of fields. Thus teams can customize JIRA (or JIRA Service Desk) for how they do business without requiring their JIRA administrator to create a jungle of custom fields, schemes and screens.

As enterprises work to find the best collaboration apps for their needs, to bring more teams into their existing systems and even to decide who gets to decide which collaboration apps to use, the add-ons that are available via the ecosystem will become increasingly important. It may be the icing, rather than the cake itself that brings all business teams to the table.