Collaboration between employees, teams, and clients is more important than ever before, and there are a variety of new technologies and platforms available to facilitate communication and group work.
The E-Commerce Times spoke with several experts in the field of collaboration software and technologies to get their take on the many ways that people are finding to work together, both remotely and in person.
"Teams are more dispersed than ever," Oliver Huebler, managing director of the Americas for Meister, a provider of collaborative task management solutions, told the E-Commerce Times.
"There is a growing trend of hyperproductivity, [and] this started even before the coronavirus crisis. It is a problem of modern work. Companies and the employees working for them are overwhelmed by work coming in from different directions."
Challenges and Opportunities
This new era of collaboration has brought a variety of challenges -- and opportunities -- for businesses trying to manage their workplaces and maintain productivity.
"We live in a time when it is technologically possible to always stay online and always be productive," explained Huebler. "Why should work stop when orders can be handled automatically? Where payment is instant, and delivery is global? It is an organizational, and sometimes also a logistical, challenge.
"Teams still need to be aligned and productive even when they are sitting in different offices, in different time zones. Covid-19 didn't create the need for smart and efficient collaboration. It exacerbated it."
These new needs for collaboration have, ultimately, brought about the need for new technologies and platforms.
"Modern problems require modern solutions," said Huebler. "Many industries have announced that there most likely won't be a full return to the traditional office environment.
"The only way for teams to collaborate going forward will be to use solutions that work online. They need a tool that can centralize work, is easy to use, can integrate with the software that they're using already, and is flexible enough to fit their teams' individual needs."
With so many employees working remotely -- now and in the future -- businesses are having to rethink how they facilitate communication and collaboration between those employees and between the customers and clients they serve.
E-Commerce Website Monitoring
"Collaboration software such as remote access plays a vital role for businesses becoming more efficient with their time and resources," Christoph Schneider, director of product management for TeamViewer, a provider of remote access and collaboration tools, told the E-Commerce Times.
"Take the e-commerce sector. This is an industry in which the pace of competition continues to increase. There is a constant push for lower prices, quick response times, continuous uptime of shop-relevant systems, and seamless logistics. An unreachable website or an unresponsive shopping template can be devastating in terms or revenue and customer experience," he explained.
Teams working remotely in these circumstances need to be able to communicate quickly and efficiently to keep a business running smoothly.
"Remote collaboration tools help to respond quickly by providing reliable connection capabilities to the server for instance, after the website monitoring sends out an alarm," Schneider continued.
"A new era of collaboration software is also already rising with the use of AR-remote support in the e-commerce environment.
"For example, whenever you are in the server room and do not know how to swap broken drives, you can call an expert for help providing a live video stream with your smartphone and he can guide you through with real-time-annotations. [It's] a simple, seamless approach, with collaboration at its core."
One of the key reasons why collaboration is important is to ensure that various departments within a business share the same goals -- and communicate those goals with each other.
"It is important for marketing, sales and technology teams to collaborate to ensure they are all focused on achieving the same goal," John Brumbaugh, senior director of commerce for Avionos, a digital commerce and marketing strategy firm told the E-Commerce Times.
"Marketing cannot just generate qualified leads and have that be the KPI they are monitoring the closest, just like sales cannot just be looking at the first sale revenue for their KPIs.
"Additionally, the technology teams need to be able to facilitate the conversations between these other two stakeholders as seamlessly as possible for them to continue to deliver results for their customers."
Effective collaboration tools and strategies are vital to making sure that businesses stay on track and work together to achieve their goals.
"Imagine a customer has goals for Black Friday and the holiday season, but marketing has not allocated sufficient budget to drive traffic to the site during that crucial period for sales," Amit Shah, chief strategy officer for e-commerce platform provider Vtex, told the E-Commerce Times.
"Sometimes we find in our customers that the online commerce team doesn't always control the marketing budget and activities. So creating a shared plan across teams around revenue objectives is one way our customer success teams work with our customers."
A Collaborative Future
The collaboration era is just beginning, and it will only become more central to the way business is done after the pandemic's over.
"Globalization and a surge in home working as a result of the pandemic promoted a high demand in collaboration software over the last twelve months, but the demand for better collaboration is just beginning," said Schneider.
"After the challenges of Covid-19, leaders must commit to their digital transformation strategies in 2021 and continue to invest in the right collaboration software solutions for their business.
"The rollout of 5G, and the prompt adoption of augmented reality and IoT in remote access management tools are coalescing, enabling people to transcend time zones and locations. These emerging technologies will become a catalyst for connecting us to others in both our personal and professional lives."
Though it was the pandemic that originally brought the need for collaboration to the forefront of business strategy, the fact that so many teams will likely continue to work remotely even after the pandemic is over will make collaboration a central part of business life in the future, as well.
"Collaboration software has become a business-critical asset in the pandemic, but it will be an influential tool when it comes to workplace culture and CSR going forward," said Schneider.
"Whilst many parts of the world are preparing to ease lockdowns, the chances are that many businesses will still operate remotely in some way in the long term. Many businesses are using this opportunity to make remote work part of their culture, so they stand out amongst competitors and make it easier to recruit the next generation of star employees.
"Harnessing the right collaboration software will be integral to the success of future working, as organizations look to operate either entirely remotely or adopt a hybrid model."
Tools that allow for seamless collaboration across time and space can also, ultimately, help the planet.
"As issues such as sustainability and climate change move up the business agenda, remote-working tech and collaboration software has a key role in helping us get closer to the European Commission's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030," explained Schneider.
"In fact, a recent study by TeamViewer and sustainability experts the DFGE Institute for Energy, Ecology and Economy revealed that remote working tech will reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 11 million cars on average per year. That's more cars than registered in the Netherlands altogether.
"Collaboration software, therefore, has not just been a quick fix for businesses during the pandemic but will be an increasingly significant tool as companies turn to address bigger societal issues in the future."