As millions of workers get used to a new way of working, remote technologies have overnight become among the most important concerns of IT leaders – how can you equip workers with secure platforms that employees actually want to use?
The traditional phone call might still be just about alive, but there can be no argument that the enterprise messaging app and the rapidly converging video conferencing platform have almost entirely replaced it. Employees at large organizations use an average of 3.1 different collaboration and productivity applications, while employees at smaller organizations use an average of 2.5 of these tools. The most widely used applications include Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, Microsoft Teams, Slack, WhatsApp, Workplace by Facebook, Webex Teams, Skype, and Confluence, but there are many, many more.
Somewhat surprisingly, despite this digital sprawl employees generally do not identify the number of collaboration tools as a source of frustration. In a 2019 study by NetMotion, some respondents pointed out that one of the biggest problems faced by employees using these tools is a general lack of cross-platform compatibility between the various collaboration and productivity applications. In the long term, this makes it more difficult for organizations to transition from one application to another without disruption.
But more significantly, application incompatibility wastes employee time. Just in the area of unified communications alone, incompatibility often results in meeting delays as employees (and external parties) scramble to download and install new browser plug-ins or additional applications in order to join a call or video conference. Many of us have experienced this first hand.
Collaboration apps have proliferated because most IT decision-makers are trying to accommodate their engineering teams and others who love Slack, while also trying to standardize the rest of the company around Microsoft Teams, because it integrates so nicely with Office 365. …Unless companies figure out how to navigate coexistence of team collaboration tools, communication happens in silos and decision making gets slowed down, productivity decreases, and there are unnecessary inefficiencies.– Tom Hadfield, CEO, Mio
For mobile workers, problems with unified communications are often amplified. In that same NetMotion study 57% of respondents ranked video conferencing issues as a top 10 frustration, particularly technical problems with video and VoIP calls. Rather than making communication among team members faster and more efficient, many of the Unified Communication tools in use today were rated poorly because of difficulty signing on, lack of consistency between the desktop and mobile version of the apps, and poor video and sound quality for participants.
For IT teams, this often creates a dilemma. Here’s a common scenario. The organization as a whole has invested in Webex Teams, giving IT complete visibility into the application to help assist with upgrades and troubleshooting at any time. That may sound great, but only a third of employees are actively using it. The engineering team has installed a different application, Microsoft Teams, because it has the features they prefer. IT still sees what’s going on, but now cross-functional teams can’t communicate with the engineering team as easily. And finally, another third of the organization has self-provisioned another tool, such as WhatsApp, without IT’s knowledge or control.
This introduces substantial security risks and other potential problems such as a lack of compliance and visibility. The exact nature of this problem will change at each organization, but the underlying problems are often similar.
Before we started investing in the right kinds of messaging tools and policies for our officers, UK policing simply ran on WhatsApp.– Owen White, staff officer at the National Police Technology Council
In late 2019, NetMotion conducted a study of several hundred mobile workers to uncover and document the most common frustrations encountered during remote working. Unsurprisingly, issues with video and chat applications were regularly cited by responders as a frequent and painful obstacle to productivity.
Of mobile workers encounter video conferencing issues frequently enough to place it in their top 10 frustrations
Only a small fraction of mobile workers consider a lack of quality collaboration tools to be the most frustrating thing about working remotely
Collaboration case study: Accenture migrating to Microsoft Teams
Many of Accenture’s 482,000 employees are mobile. The company is a global juggernaut, providing various consulting services, and has invested heavily in ensuring that its workers are connected and empowered to collaborate effectively with one another. As a Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive for Business user, Accenture decided to shift away from Skype for Business and replace it with Microsoft Teams, the well-known chat-centric collaboration platform.
The goal was to modernize the way employees communicated while giving them a space where they could share existing content securely. Microsoft was also able to fulfill another of Accenture’s requirements by creating a mobile experience on Teams that has functionality and performance on par with the desktop version.Methodical migration.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Accenture’s migration to Teams is the methodical and long-term approach the company has taken. In the year prior to officially rolling out Teams to employees, Accenture’s IT team made the platform available on an informal basis and primarily used word of mouth to help drive adoption. When IT started to push the Teams client out to users’ devices, the company was very careful to identify end-user experience as well as resistance areas. At the same time, Accenture has been very proactive in informing employees about the migration via a multi-stage adoption campaign. This staggered, cautious approach to the rollout of Teams has allowed IT to cater to specific needs while greatly reducing disruption to workflows.
Advice for improving employee experience
- Consider talking to your HR and IT teams about self-service apps for timesheets, reviews and expense reports.
- Avoid shadow IT by adopting the Unified Communications tools that employees need. Analyze how employees communicate (via WhatsApp, etc.), and adjust policies accordingly.
- Choose Unified Communications and collaboration tools that work well on desktop and mobile devices.
- Invest in the paid version of UC and productivity applications, as they often include more robust security features.
- Implement adaptive multi-factor authentication products rather than static ones
- Monitor the types of tools and workarounds that employees might be using to bypass official policies – this can inform changes you might need to make to existing protocols