Collaboration tools are an integral part of everyday work life. More than 80% of companies indicate that they use them every day. But are they using them correctly? At Bechtle, we discussed this topic with our collaboration consultants, Jan Convents and Tomas Kreemers, to find out how Belgian organisations work (remotely) together.
Jan Convents: "I can't speak for all of our customers, but the vast majority of them are definitely working on it. The pandemic accelerated that process. Most of the customers who were working with collaboration tools before COVID-19 were mainly companies that had a lot of employees who worked externally, such as consultants or account managers. Other companies often didn't even know they had such tools. Only until March 2020, with remote working, they discovered that they had Teams in their Office365 package. So a lot of companies already had some sort of collaboration tools, but only started using it when the pandemic hit. But there's still a difference between owning collaboration tools and using them correctly and effectively.”
Tomas Kreemers: "Yes, one of our major focal points regarding collaboration is the user adoption part. Organisations need to understand and acknowledge that without user adoption, employees will not use the tool adequately. That's why we provide necessary trainings at Bechtle. This part is necessary for the customer to achieve the desired result and to get the necessary ROI out of the collaboration tools.”
Tomas Kreemers: "A number of years ago, the tools were not quite up to speed and the bandwidth wasn't optimal. The majority of our customers were not ready to make the investment because the tools were too expensive. Today, these tools have become affordable and easier to use. That is why many of our customers see the added value of them."
Jan Convents: "In the past, collaboration tools were mainly a business for companies that had a huge cost in terms of travel. Consider, for example, international companies. For them, the added value quickly became clear and they were one of the first to invest. These days, that investment has decreased considerably because of simple memberships, it is no longer difficult to roll out such a collaboration project. Nowadays, people just want to be able to work wherever and whenever they want. By having these tools, working from wherever is possible.”
Tomas Kreemers: "We also see that customers, who took the step towards collaboration tools a few years ago, now look for hardware to optimize their employees' experience, such as the layout of meeting rooms, interactive screens and more.”
Jan Convents: "A significant part of the online meetings are more productive. First of all, due to the fact that you don't have to take transportation into account. We all know that feeling that you need to 'recover' from a long drive. For instance, think of the car journeys to Antwerp or Brussels, which can end up in traffic jams. It's a pity that your employees spend an hour, an hour and a half in the car and then have a meeting of a quarter or half an hour. Of course face to face meetings remain important, but most companies are aware that follow-up meetings should no longer take place face to face.”
Tomas Kreemers: "Absolutely, productivity is definitely going up. And in addition to that advantage, I also think about the flexibility that collaboration tools bring. Imagine you're in a meeting and there's a problem that only another colleague in the company can talk about. Then you can easily add him or her to the meeting, without him or her having to be present at the office. Flexibility is certainly something that such a tool can offer.”
Tomas Kreemers: "It is important to think beyond the virtual meetings in collaboration tools. Within those tools, you basically create a whole new way of working. And that new way of working is the future.”
Jan Convents: "Within Teams you can actually practice your entire document management. For example, you invite a team of people, internal or external profiles, to work on projects together in the same environment. Say goodbye to long e-mail chains. Via these tools, you can collaborate much faster, which in the end leads to more productivity. You no longer have to ask questions to twenty people individually, no, you ask the question in a group and everyone can read along immediately. I also suspect that 'teams' is going to be the new standard."
Tomas Kreemers: "With the help of Teams environments, you can optimize internal business processes.”
Tomas Kreemers: "By linking APIs (Application Program Interfaces) to a Team environment, you can start optimizing business processes. An example: A company experiences a fire. They want to prevent this in the future. How can they do that? Choosing a Teams solution. By linking the sensors of their fire protection via APIs to Teams. Then, within the Teams environment IT managers and safety ambassadors are added and from the moment the temperature reaches a certain point, a notification will pop up in the group. This gives them an immediate choice to take action.”
Jan Convents: "One of the great examples within the (Microsoft) Teams story is the one of Ben & Jerry's. In their factories, all employees have a device that runs on Dynamics365, including the people in production. They all have a smartphone where certain processes in Teams are linked to products via API's. This gives them direct live information. If they need to take action, they receive a notification. An advantage of this is that the employees no longer have to work with five different software packages, but only with one application. This makes the learning curve for a new employee much less steep than in previous years. Furthermore, the integration of software packages in one application is also a cost that can be reduced by the fact that you don't have to buy an expensive computer or device. For such a process, a tablet or smartphone will suffice."
Jan Convents: "They are definitely trying to work towards that goal. I certainly see that there will be a focus on APIs that make certain software talk to each other. That development is going very strongly."
Tomas Kreemers: "I share this opinion. For the time being, our focus is on the integration of the necessary software links in the company network of our customers in order to optimize their way of working. Interesting: In the future, we hope to sit around the table with various departments of our end customers to listen to their daily challenges. In order to explore how we can solve these challenges together through the use of collaboration tools.”