Everything You Need to Know About Enterprise Collaboration

Shawn Boehme
Post by Shawn Boehme
January 29, 2019



“Enterprise collaboration” is not just another fancy IT term that salespeople use to get you to buy something you don’t need. It is a critical part of doing business today, and without the right enterprise collaboration software, tools, and systems, a company can be at a great disadvantage.

But what exactly is enterprise collaboration and why is it important? What are some of its main benefits? How can an organization employ best practices and the right tools to best leverage IT systems and apps for interactive collaboration?

What Enterprise Collaboration Is and Why It’s Important

Enterprise collaboration (also known as EC) is the use of technology to connect diverse, disparate teams and departments across an organization to share work and collaborate. EC can be used to facilitate communication and work interchange between local departments, different branches, or even offshore teams.

Internal and External Enterprise Collaboration

Basic enterprise collaboration works internally—that is, within the business or organization and among its employees, teams, departments, and remote freelancers.

External enterprise collaboration may also entail partnerships with external vendors and outside companies, who may offer products or services beyond the scope of a company. It may also incorporate the conversations a company has with its customers such as on social media.

This provides the basic distinction between “internal” and “external” enterprise collaboration. But, as may be expected, that line is often blurred or crossed these days, as companies use tools to communicate both within and outside the organization.

EC utilizes all the modern tools of the connected office—email, group messaging, intranets, cloud storage and sharing, project management tools, CRMs (customer relationship management services), and more to support effective cross collaboration between local and distant teams and departments.

For example, a company might use some cloud-based messaging software to organize online team conversations at a central online host that offers web-based and mobile app access.

What Is an Enterprise Collaboration System?

Certainly, business teams can use a variety of tools from different vendors to create a loose “system” for enterprise collaboration. Go as basic as using an online bulletin board for internal discussions, group email messaging to send out memos, a file-sharing account, and a simple online shared calendar for scheduling.

However, serious enterprises often need an “enterprise” level solution, and an Enterprise Collaboration System or ECS can provide that functionality in a more cohesive and integrated manner.

For companies that need more robust tools, ECS solutions provide a more comprehensive suite of connected apps and systems that solve serious business problems.

For example, PanTerra offers an Enterprise Collaboration System that includes a powerful cloud PBX system as well as web conference, file sharing, business intelligence analytics, and other collaboration tools.

A more in-depth look at enterprise collaboration tools is provided below.

Why Is Enterprise Collaboration So Important Today?

EC is critical today for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is that the speed of business has simply changed since the advent of the modern internet. Things get done fast – and competitors aren’t waiting around for permission to get out there and launch a new product or service.

Businesses that take advantage of enterprise collaboration are simply more agile and able to get great things done in a faster amount of time.

Collaboration using robust ECS solutions can also provide a number of other benefits, including better security and tracking for the sharing of files.

What Type of Organization Will Benefit from Collaboration?

Virtually any type of organization, small or large, can benefit from enterprise collaboration.

1. Small Businesses

Smaller companies, especially those with tight budgets, can potentially get a huge return on investment by using digital collaboration to connect teams and outside freelancers. Small businesses often rely on independent consultants and freelancers to do jobs that can’t be done in-house, and cloud-based collaboration tools can help keep everyone on the same page.

2. Medium-Sized Businesses

Like the small business, mid-sized companies may have freelancers or remote workers that can be more easily kept in the loop through an enterprise system that enables external collaboration. It can also give an edge to hungry companies that want to keep teams connected to foster innovation and idea generation.

3. Large Corporations

The larger a company becomes, the more challenging internal communication can be. This is especially true when it comes to keeping that important connection between management and employees.

Diverse and sometimes incompatible legacy systems can often make the situation even worse. Unified ECS systems designed to handle enterprise-level communications are often the best choice for large companies that need to finally get technology working for them, not against them.

10 Benefits of Enterprise Cloud Collaboration

Cloud collaboration via ECS can make remarkable positive impacts on an organization.

1. Improved Communication

Better communication at all levels of an organization has obvious benefits. It enables teams to get more things done, more quickly and with better results.

2. More Participation at All Levels

When people are left out of the loop, they are often being wasted. Better communication and access to info would mean that all team members can contribute, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

3. Better Access to Files of All Sizes

File sharing becomes much easier with enterprise collaboration software. Sharing of larger files such as videos also becomes possible.

4. Access to Analytics

Data is critical to business today. It needs to be timely and accurate. ECS allows the collection and distribution of useful internal data to help provide better information for decisions and strategy planning.

5. Real-Time Updates

Getting access to the latest data in real-time means it is that much more timely and helpful.

6. Enabling of Innovation

Brainstorming is a great way to use enterprise collaboration tools. Collaboration can inspire creativity and group innovation.

7. Improved Efficiency and Productivity

The right technologies for collaboration can definitely spruce up the efficiency and productivity of teams, especially when cross-functional collaboration is required across departments.

8. Empowered Employees

Employees can be given more of a voice with enterprise communication, allowing them to contribute ideas and suggestions. They can also take more ownership over their own roles and responsibilities.

9. More Transparency

With work communications provided in a central place accessible to all, project managers can have a bird’s-eye view of what is going on and who is doing what. Managers may be able to more easily see where breakdowns and gaps are occurring.

10. Reduced Costs

Ultimately, the many benefits outlined above (and beyond) can help reduce costs of doing business while inevitably increasing profits.

Common Challenges of Adopting Enterprise Collaboration

Setting up ECS is totally worth it. However, adopting enterprise collaboration at an organization can be challenging, depending on what ad hoc apps or legacy systems are already in place within a company’s IT infrastructure. These challenges can include:

1. No System at All

A company that isn’t used to using enterprise collaboration may think it is not needed or be slow to adopt the tools once they are provided.

On the positive, without a previous system in place, a fresh slate is available to implement ECS right, the first time around.

2. Outdated Systems

Outdated systems and legacy technologies can end up doing more harm than good in an organization, impeding progress and slowing collaboration. They may not synch up properly or connect with other applications. They may be slow and buggy. They could hamper communication instead of improving it.

3. An Overload of Apps

A whopping thirty apps is the average number that the typical person has on their smartphone. Piling on a bunch of additional apps can make things more complicated and confusing for employees. There is the learning curve, for one thing, and compatibility issues. This is why a cohesive ECS solution is often preferred, as it cuts down on the number of new apps that need to be installed and accessed.

4. Company Culture

Corporate culture, especially from the top management, can get in the way of a strong implementation of electronic collaboration.

Sometimes, resistance at certain levels of an organization can block the implementation of even basic cloud-based services and enterprise collaboration tools that might be helpful. This can hinder technical progress at an organization and make it difficult to move forward in a cohesive way.

Resistance to change can be an obstacle. It may not even be so much about being against technology per se, but it could be an attachment to existing technology that is becoming out of date. It could also be an emotional attachment to the old way of doing things.

Getting people excited and onboard with enterprise collaboration can make a huge difference in its success.

10 Best Practices for Enterprise Collaboration

Getting the most out of enterprise collaboration can be totally doable, provided some basic guidelines and best practices are followed. Here are some suggestions to get started:

1. Get Organized

When setting up an ECS, getting organized is critical. The ECS may be the most powerful system in the world, but if it is not properly utilized, then it won’t do as much as it could. Take the time to understand the system and properly migrate any data or info that needs migrating. Set up policies and procedures on using the ECS.

2. Train Your Team

Teams need guidance on how to use new tools – take the time to train them.

3. Communicate Clearly

Tools foster communication, but it is still up to management to communicate clearly with them.

4. Delegate Tasks

Delegation becomes easier to track and manage with ECS, so take the opportunity to delegate more and empower employees.

5. Encourage Feedback

Engagement at all levels of an organization fosters positive energy and innovation. Use ECS to give employees a voice to make the company better.

6. Utilize Security Features

Enterprise collaboration software usually offers great security features, which may also be important for regulatory compliance.

7. Stay Up to Date

Cloud-based services generally update themselves, but apps on mobile phones and desktops might need to be updated regularly.

8. Allow BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Provide apps for employees to use on their own smartphones and tablets.

9. Get Support

Many ECS companies offer great support and free training – take advantage of it.

10. Actually Use the Tools

Don’t let a good ECS system go to waste. Use the enterprise collaboration tools consistently to get the most out of them.

Types of Enterprise Cloud Collaboration Tools Available

As mentioned earlier, organizations can start collaborating with tools as simple as an online bulletin board. Organizations have two basic ways of setting up enterprise collaboration both internally and externally.

One way is to select standalone cloud-based tools from a variety of vendors. The other is to utilize an all-in-one system or unified solution created and maintained by a single vendor.

A third way is to use an enterprise collaboration system for most of the functionality, but use a few third-party apps for specific needs. This is a hybrid EC system.

Standalone Enterprise Collaboration Tools

Enterprise collaboration software can be as simple as using a Google or Microsoft online calendar to schedule meetings. It can be as rudimentary as using a group email conversation to communicate with various members of the team. Many articles are available online with a list of various standalone apps and tools that can be cobbled together to foment collaboration.

Apps used for enterprise collaboration include:

  • Dropbox
  • Microsoft Office
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Slack
  • Salesforce
  • Zoom Video Conferencing
  • Skype for Business

However, these are not “enterprise collaboration tools” so much as Internet and cloud-based services that can be combined to create an ad hoc enterprise collaboration system. A company could use all of the disparate tools to achieve true collaboration, but enterprise organizations are typically better served by an all-in-one system.

All-in-One Enterprise Collaboration Systems

An all-in-one enterprise collaboration system, or unified ECS, is a comprehensive system designed to provide powerful collaboration out-of-the-box. For example, PanTerra offers clients cloud collaboration tools available under their Streams platform. This includes:

  • Cloud Phone Systems: Offering PBX and VoIP, this powerful Cloud PBX includes texting, conferencing, faxes, and web meetings.
  • Team Messaging: Team messaging includes unlimited team rooms, shared multimedia content, mobile device support, persistent content, and more.
  • File Sync and Sharing: SmartBox offers HIPAA compliant secure file sharing and unlimited cloud storage.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Analytics and business intelligence features provide powerful reporting to enable key decision making.

As these examples show, unified enterprise collaboration systems often provide extremely powerful tools that go far beyond the simple features offered in some standalone enterprise collaboration software apps.

Hybrid Enterprise Collaboration System

A hybrid EC system might use an all-in-one solution for the main enterprise collaboration system, but add-on or incorporate additional tools by other vendors for specialized functions.

Ideally, these other tools and systems can “talk to” or integrate with the main ECS using an API or developer’s interface. Thus, even though external apps are used, they are integrated, and become part of the greater “all-in-one” enterprise collaboration system.

For example, PanTerra’s unified ECS talks to Salesforce, Dropbox, Skype for Business, Microsoft Office, Gmail, Zoho CRM, Freshdesk, and many other cloud services.

Enterprise Collaboration Is the Future

Enterprise collaboration is how virtually all business will be conducted in the future. By establishing the right enterprise collaboration tools, businesses can experience a number of positive benefits, from improved communication and more innovation, to reduced costs.

To see how enterprise collaboration can benefit your organization risk free, try PanTerra’s Streams platform for free today.

Shawn Boehme
Post by Shawn Boehme
January 29, 2019
Shawn Boehme is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in the Unified Communications space. As the Director of Sales for PanTerra Networks since March 2015, Shawn has played a pivotal role in empowering businesses across the U.S. and Canada to maximize their productivity and streamline costs through advanced cloud communication solutions. His unwavering commitment to delivering top-notch service and driving business growth through effective communication strategies has earned him the reputation of an expert in the field.

With a deep understanding of the challenges enterprises face in harnessing the full potential of their phone systems, Shawn is dedicated to uncovering each client's unique needs, pain points, and successful aspects of their existing communication infrastructure. This extensive industry experience, coupled with his specializations in phone and messaging platforms, PBX and call centers, contact centers, and unified communication, allows him to design tailor-made solutions that address specific challenges and expedite businesses towards success.

Shawn's unwavering dedication to providing unmatched value and a superior customer experience demonstrates his commitment to surpassing client expectations. He leverages his extensive knowledge and technical expertise to not only meet but exceed the unique demands of each client. When seeking advice or solutions in the Unified Communications space, businesses can trust Shawn's judgment and rely on his proven track record of driving growth and delivering exceptional outcomes.