tools: focus on
interoperability to
avoid tool fatigue

Author: Mike Elgan

As the workplace continues to evolve and implement new technology, technology continues to improve to meet the ever-changing demands of the workforce. For many organizations, collaboration tools are no longer a perk, they are essential, and the remote workforce needs them now more than ever.

Gone are the days when email was the only way for organizations to communicate internally. Today, businesses need powerful threaded conversations, robust and feature-rich video conferencing tools, and to be 5G-ready. What used to be futuristic considerations are now important features: ultra-high quality video and HD audio; low latency video and audio calling; and the ability to archive and readily access documents and conversation threads.

Given the myriad options available, how do business leaders choose the tools that are right for their organization?

The trouble with tools

Collaboration tools enter organizations in unique ways. Some technologically enthusiastic employees try a lot of apps, tools and pieces of collaboration software. When they find one they enjoy using, they tend to advocate for that tool inside the organization. After all, they cannot really use it unless other people start using it, too.

But online collaboration tools, like social networks, are driven by the network effect and thrive by seeking out new users. Active users are not just active users; they are evangelists, perpetuating the proliferation of different—and often incompatible—tools used as ad hoc workarounds to an organization's officially sanctioned solutions. Inevitably, the result is silos or islands of tools that don't interoperate or federate with other tools, which inevitably leads to inefficiencies and security risks—not to mention frustrated employees.

Picking the right tool for the job

Online collaboration tools should break down silos, not construct them. This is one of the things that make the silos caused by incompatible tools so exasperating. Although there are plenty of options, often the most popular tools come with the biggest headaches, ranging from gaping security holes and incompatibility with employee devices to upfront payment and maintenance. The last thing the IT team wants or needs are more new tools with incompatible features that create needless work and expenditures.

But for most organizations, the greatest challenge is also the most intangible—the general, creeping collaboration tool fatigue that threatens to burn out employees who already have a lot of new ground to navigate. Collaboration tool fatigue is especially problematic because it is so hard to measure. If employees feel distracted, disgruntled, and frustrated or unable to interact with their peers, they will simply find workarounds—or they will stop trying so hard to communicate and collaborate.

In the past, the solution to collaboration fatigue would have been draconian: choose and mandate a small suite of tools and ban all the others. But that approach doesn't fly today.

Collaboration tools that have low usage and don't play well with others are essentially useless. Instead, new tools that integrate nicely with the business's existing suite of apps and tools have already passed the first test toward acceptance.

The rewards of getting it right

Collaboration tools are indispensable, and they will be for the foreseeable future. With teams geographically dispersed more than ever and remote work rapidly becoming the default, collaboration tools and apps are the new virtual office, water cooler, or conference room.

But businesses must get this right. That means finding and deploying tools that are not only high-performance and high-quality, but that are also appealing and easy to use. And above all, these tools must work with one another. When it comes to selecting essential end-user tools, interoperability, like security, is non-negotiable.

Because without interoperability, there's no real collaboration.

Learn how BlueJeans Meetings lets users connect over video, audio and text in a way that integrates with the major business, productivity and communication tools already in use.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.