More and more organisations are looking for tools to improve collaboration within their teams. Quite often though, it is not very clear what is really meant by collaboration tools and what the benefits are. So, what exactly are collaborative tools and how can they be beneficial for organisations?
In simple terms, a collaboration tool helps a group of people to collaborate in order to achieve a common objective. Collaboration tools can be either of technological or non-technological nature, but for the purpose of this article and considering our passion for technological innovation, we will focus on collaboration software. Generally speaking, any software which offers interaction between people on a shared platform can be considered as a collaboration tool. Take slack for instance: Slack helps teams to communicate and share files on all devices in an effortless and secure manner, and offers a large variety of third party integrations such as Google calendar, Trello, Zoom and many more. We are probably all aware of the fact that the amount of administrative work for companies has drastically increased in the past decades, and although more and more companies are recognising the importance of teamwork to reduce individual workload, teamwork by itself is often not enough to speed up these processes and may even be counterproductive. However, using collaborative software has the potential to improve teamwork and facilitate collaboration. So let's find out how.
To begin with, one of the biggest benefits of collaboration tools is that they offer instant access to information to all participants. In a study conducted by Paul (2018), 72% of the companies surveyed confirmed that the use of collaboration tools significantly improved their access to information within the organisation. For the remaining 28%, chances are that they were simply using the wrong tools, preventing them from experiencing the true benefits, but more on this later. Instant access to information is probably the most important feature when it comes to speeding up organisations’ workflows as it bypasses the slow-moving processes of email communication or transferring documents via mail which may take up to several days or weeks. An employee can simply upload the information or file to the collaboration platform, and immediately all other team members of the project can access it from anywhere in the world, and at any time. In addition, through the integration of features like video conferencing and photo sharing, collaboration software also overcome the limitations of the traditional form of voice communication, such as high call rates or limited interactions, and facilitate the sharing of different resources like images or videos (Lomas, Burke and Page, 2008).
Furthermore, building on the previous point of instant access to information, collaboration tools can significantly increase the speed of administrative workflows and facilitate communication between all project participants, which ultimately leads to greater efficiency and productivity for all organisations involved. What’s important here is that the information flow and document exchange is not limited to one company. Collaborative software makes it possible to share information between multiple companies and institutions involved in a single project. A strong use case for the implementation and usage of such tools is real estate: real estate developers, agencies, municipalities, banks and end-clients all play a significant role throughout the different phases of a project. However, using traditional and heterogeneous tools, information exchange between all parties can be very slow and inefficient. It may take a long time for some file or document to pass from the initiator through the various organisations and employees before arriving at the end user. During this time, other processes may stand still because they have to wait for that one piece of information or they may need the approval of a specific member who still has not received the document. Of course, processes differ from stakeholder to stakeholder, and municipalities have different workflows than real estate developers and vice-versa. But having access to a multi-sided collaboration software can homogenise the common processes all parties are involved in, while also increasing the user experience and reducing time-wasting tasks for the parties involved. All this is to say that these issues can be solved by using the right collaboration platform to which all participants have instant access, and this will eventually contribute to an ever improving ecosystem from which all stakeholders can benefit.
On top of that, it is important to consider that online collaboration tools are designed both for traditional businesses and for businesses with a predominantly remote workforce (Ivankovic et al, 2020). In fact, collaboration software can be so powerful that it basically becomes irrelevant whether a company’s workforce is remote or office-based. What really matters is how these tools enhance the real collaborative aspect of dynamically and efficiently working in teams, regardless of where the team is located. Nowadays, many of the established companies set up large teams consisting of team leaders, project managers and various other roles to tackle all kinds of projects. While the intention is good, the outcome may not always be as expected. With so many different members being implicated, instead of the project becoming more agile and efficient like intended, communication, document exchange, decision making and other processes often become an even bigger challenge.
However, powerful collaboration tools can reduce the number of members needed to work on a single project by simplifying and imposing certain workflows as well as providing a clear structure and overview to all projects. Linked to the aforementioned and true on so many levels apart from the collaboration aspect we tackle in this blog post, we’ll just put Jeff Bezos’ two-pizza-team rule out here for you to let sink in and reflect on: No team should be larger than the number of people that can be adequately fed by two large pizzas.
Last but not least, there is one benefit of collaborative software that might be less known but should definitely not be neglected. Deloitte (2013) found that employees who had access to digital collaboration tools were 17 percentage points more satisfied with their workplace culture than those who didn’t, and 22 percentage points more likely to think that the company cared about employees’ morale. Deloitte also added that access to these tools increases employees’ overall happiness and their drive for innovation, all of which contributes to a company’s improved productivity.
Naturally, there are two sides to every story, and so far we have only talked about one side. Despite all of the above listed benefits, the challenges that may arise with the use of collaborative software should not be ignored. Paul (2018) found that amongst the companies surveyed, 59% of them reported problems with data security, 40% said that their employees did not use the application correctly, and 35% outlined that the integration of their existing applications into the collaboration tool was insufficient. According to Hardwig et al (2018), one major reason for these arising issues is that many companies regard the adoption of collaborative software as a purely technical task, while they misjudge the actual scope of change that is necessary to successfully implement these tools across the organisation. Very often, the entire work system and culture of the company needs to change for the implementation to have a substantial positive impact. Thus, change management has become increasingly important, especially for large institutions. The transition from traditional tools to new collaboration software requires numerous organisational changes, such as the onboarding and training of all employees as well as the monitoring of pre- and post-change activities to make sure that the implementation was successful. In addition, different case studies concluded that a successful implementation also depends on whether the company chooses a collaboration tool that is appropriate for its specific tasks, supports the type of documents it uses to avoid any privacy issues when handling sensitive data (Ivankovic et al, 2020), and the extent to which team members make an effort to adapt to the new tool (Argote and Fahrenkopf, 2016; Quan-Haase et al, 2005).
To sum up, we profoundly believe that the benefits of adopting the right collaboration tool far outweigh the potential challenges. The keyword here is ‘right’. As mentioned earlier, most of the issues arise because companies simply do not select the software that fits their specific needs and ignore many of the organisational changes that need to be taken into account. A survey conducted by Ivankovic et al (2020) showed that the most popular tools amongst organisations are Slack, Microsoft Teams and in-house developed software solutions. While Slack and Microsoft Teams are tremendous tools for basic collaboration tasks such as communication, document exchange or video conferencing, it is very interesting to see that in-house developed software made the top 3 in this list, as it underlines the importance of personalised tools for many companies to meet their individual characteristics. The only remaining task for organisations is then to wisely choose the right solution and IT partner that fits their specific needs, which is a task that certainly must not be underestimated when opting for a more collaborative way of working.
By largely replacing heterogeneous tools and inefficient workflows, kodehyve effectively is a collaboration tool (SaaS) allowing real estate professionals to more efficiently manage their construction and commercialisation projects as well as the property and client relationship management during a property’s lifetime.
Through the careful selection of powerful modules, such as document storage, document exchange flows, e-signatures, KYC and AML checks, task management, billing, live chat and many others, kodehyve enables real estate professionals to build their unique collaboration tool so as to maximise its value for their specific context and use cases.