Once you’ve realized how important it is to invest in a digital workplace and have secured the budget you need to move forward with your plan, it’s time to begin looking for a collaboration solution to support this new way of work.
Ultimately, the goal is to bring your people, content and technology together in a single, unified content-experience platform that promotes effective team collaboration. To get there, you’ll need to move beyond conventional collaboration applications, which typically include only file sharing or chat, to a more comprehensive solution that includes visual collaboration. But with so many new visual collaboration platforms emerging, how can you decide which one best suits your needs?
My advice is to proceed methodically, paying special attention to factors such as enterprise readiness, flexibility, scalability and ease of use. To help guide the process, here are eight key questions to answer as you gauge which visual collaboration platform is right for you:
- Will the platform you’re considering integrate with your existing infrastructure, applications and content? Look for a solution that is compatible with the conferencing systems, collaboration tools and file types you already use. Your new platform should work seamlessly with all unified communication options and not be too “app-based.” For example, avoid options that provide only screen shares, as opposed to being able to sync in real time. Remember: An effective digital workplace enhances workflow; it shouldn’t make things more complicated or troublesome.
- Does the platform offer anywhere, anytime, any-device access? Today’s “always-on” mobile workforce needs real-time access to content across a wide range of devices, from laptops, tablets and smartphones to large displays in conference rooms and auditoriums. Work spaces located in the cloud (public, private or hybrid) make access easy and convenient—which means your employees can make better decisions faster.
- How secure is it? If your industry requires a “behind the firewall” solution, it’s essential that the platform you’re considering can accommodate on-premise, as well as in-the-cloud, data storage. In addition, make sure your data will be backed up and always secure with a vendor who takes care of redundancy and disaster recovery.
- Can the visual collaboration platform you’re considering preserve and instantly restore your sessions? Look for a collaboration platform that offers content persistence, i.e. the ability to preserve and instantly restore all files, video, web pages, annotations, etc. after your meetings end. With true content persistence, you can pick up right where you last left off—and you’ll no longer live in fear that someone is going to erase the notes you wrote on the whiteboard in the conference room.
- Is the platform a comprehensive hardware and software solution, or is it just one piece of the puzzle? The best collaboration platforms come complete with robust software and hardware solutions, such as interactive touch screens based on leading-edge, high-definition, energy-efficient, large-screen display technology. You want to be able to combine apps, content, video and the web into a powerful, all-in-one interface for seamless collaboration and data visualization. You do not want to waste time and money finding other vendors to fill in the missing pieces.
- Will people use it? A visual collaboration platform can’t help accelerate innovation, build teamwork and boost revenue unless people use it. An intuitive, easy-to-learn interface is key, and the vendor should provide the education, training and on-going support your employees need to be successful.
- What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI)? Keep in mind that a visual collaboration platform should not be just a technology solution, but an investment that will pay its way, lead to greater efficiency and contribute to the growth of your enterprise. It’s critical that you find a solution that will benefit multiple departments and offer concrete business results.
- Does it have augmented data visualization? One of the best aspects of a good visual collaboration platform is that it gives you the ability to view multiple pieces of information from many sources on screen simultaneously. This provides deeper insights into your data, helps you solve problems and accelerates decision making.
There’s no doubt about it: Technology and mobility are transforming the way people work, and more and more companies use visual collaboration platforms as the cornerstone of their digital workplaces. Answering the questions above will lead you towards the visual collaboration platform that can best suit your needs and help you cut costs, improve employee satisfaction and drive better performance.
This article originally appeared on Network World/IDG Contributor Network on January 10, 2017