IT Consultants and the Collaboration System User Interface

Question markAs IT consultants are well aware, collaboration systems are the next hot development in internal communications. For years, email has been the main method of communication between employees. However, the advent of cloud technology has made for a leap in collaboration system user interfaces. These new systems make it easy to share files, edit collectively, arrange scheduling, and much more.

But here’s the thing about collaboration systems: They require actual collaboration. If a company decides to use a collaboration system but employees don’t widely adopt it, it ultimately becomes useless software. That’s why it’s important to choose a system that not only meets the needs of the intended users but features a user interface that won’t alienate them.

Here’s a look at some of the questions to ask in order to choose the right collaboration system for your company:

Are we a team of power users? Power users are technological whizzes. They understand how your application software works and are able to use its special codes to run background processes, such as long reports. If your employees are more casual users, an easy-to-use portal solution would work better because it would allow entry to only a limited selection of applications (such as payroll, vacation calendars, etc). Talk with one of our IT consultants for more details about the technical training requirements of various collaboration system interfaces.

Do we have the resources to maintain the system, or are they included? Some user interfaces are software-based, while others are hosted via the web. IT consultants often recommend the latter for SMBs, since the vendor maintains hosted programs. (Think less downtime and fewer sunk costs, as the systems are on depreciating on someone else’s books.) IT consulting firms can also provide regular “checkups” to make sure the collaboration interface is performing optimally.

How easy will it be to install this collaboration system across all our machines? Companies with more control over hardware likely have more consistency among machines and will therefore have an easier time adopting an interface such as remote desktop services, aka Terminal Services. On the other hand, firms with more decentralized technology will have a more difficult time adopting these across all employees’ machines. In these cases, perhaps an infrastructure upgrade is needed, or a managed private leased service (MPLS) or virtual private network (VPN). Knowing the best solution is about more than just technology and what has worked – rather, what makes the most sense for your business is what would likely be recommended by IT consulting firms.

Which tools do our users rely on most often? A collaboration system that doesn’t get used is just a waste of money. Therefore, the ultimate question IT consultants and organizational leaders should ask is which features users need. How easily and quickly these features can be accessed is a major point of distinction among collaboration interfaces.

[ Photo by: Marco Bellucci, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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