How to Choose the Best Social Collaboration Platform for Your Business?
Enterprise Collaboration solutions have been termed as Game Changers and are in huge demand. Leading Analysts like IDC have predicted the Enterprise Social Collaboration Market to grow at ~40% YOY and become a $4.3 bn market by 2016. This in turn has encouraged a lot of product vendors to invest and enter this market.
The Collaboration Software market has become a highly fragmented ecosystem with hundreds of products to choose from. Even worse, most of these collaboration platforms provide similar features & functionalities, making it difficult to differentiate between them. As a result, it often becomes a confusing affair for customers to decide which collaboration platform to opt for.
The right collaboration platform for your business is one which provides powerful social networking features and seamlessly integrates into your organization's culture, processes and strategy. The following 12 parameters, grouped under business, product and vendor considerations, can help you evaluate and ascertain which collaboration platform will fit your needs the best:
1. Aligns with Organizational Strategy
To start off, it is very important to understand that collaboration is not about simply deploying a technology, but a lot more. It's about embedding a culture within the organization. Implementing the platform is just the start; you need to have a clear strategy roadmap for your collaboration needs and your platform should complement it.
2. Addresses Your Pain Points
Identify the key business imperatives / challenges you are trying to address and accordingly proceed to evaluate the strengths of the platforms you have shortlisted. Business imperatives are likely to differ across enterprises. For e.g. one organization may want collaboration tools to improve customer service while some other organization may require it to foster innovation.
Collaboration solutions follow different pricing mechanisms (freemium, subscription based, per user based, etc) and are available in a range of prices. Depending on your budget and the number of users expected to use the solution, you can choose a tool which fits.
This is one of the primary factors to evaluate while deciding which tool to go ahead with. You should choose a product which will solve your business needs rather than a product which is stuffed with features. For e.g., if you have offices across geographic locations and have frequent meetings, choosing a platform with a strong video conferencing facilities will work best.
5. Usability & Customizations
In order to ensure that you're making it as easy as possible for your employees to take advantage of social collaboration software, it's important to choose a platform that is user friendly and has a neat display. Additionally, highly customizable software enable you to do a lot of bespoke development and better align the solution with your brand & culture. Some of the basic customizations you may want could include adding corporate logo and color schemes, changing layouts, etc.
Social Collaboration Solutions can be hosted on-cloud, on-premise or in a hybrid model. Most collaboration solutions offer the flexibility to host in any of the above models depending upon your requirements. As a trend, it is seen that banking / financial customers have a tendency to opt for on-premise solutions whereas Small and Medium scale enterprises have a preference for on-cloud implementations
Collaboration needs to happen not only at a business level, but also at a technology level. Your collaboration solution should be able to integrate with your existing technology set-up and allow seamless flow of information.
Mobility is one of the key aspects of any collaboration platform as it improves accessibility and results in better user adoption of the platform. A preferred collaboration platform should provide support for majority of mobility platforms (like iOS, Android, etc), if not all.
Any platform that you should choose should have appropriate security measures incorporated at application and infrastructure level. Some of the common measures include Encryption mechanisms, Security Monitoring tools, Authentication & Authorization, etc.
Scalability is another aspect which should be considered while choosing a platform. The platform should be robust enough to support a growth in the user base as well as the platform usage
A good parameter to evaluate the vendor is to check for examples of any similar scale implementations they have done in the past for other customers. Success Stories and Use Cases from these experiences can help you determine how well the product will fit with your processes.
12. Support & Vision
Each product vendor has their own support model for their platform. It is very important to assess the cost, coverage (24×7 or 16×5, email or phone, etc) and SLA's of support provided by the vendor. As an example, for critical deployments like social customer service forums, it is highly recommended to select vendors which provide 24×7 support. Another important aspect while shortlisting a product vendor is to understand product roadmap including planned features and version release frequency.