It’s only really in the last five years that business collaboration tools have burst into the mainstream — even taking on customer-facing roles. Microsoft Teams was launched in 2017, and the 2020 shift towards remote working put the business collaboration trend into overdrive.
Finding better ways to collaborate is a long-term strategic benefit that businesses have always sought to improve. Employee productivity rises by as much as 20 to 25% when workers feel connected and communicate with each other regularly. Understandably, businesses have been eager to experiment with different tools as they come onto the market. And the number of businesses starting off on their business collaboration journey this year is at record numbers.
According to our research, most organisations in 2020 reported regularly using two to three main business collaboration tools. The most popular were:
However, while businesses adopt an ever-growing number of communications tools, they’re not necessarily using these tools in a deliberate, strategic way. In fact, a stunning 60% of companies lack a long-term strategy for their internal communications. This points to a significant problem: collaboration tool overload.
Why too many tools is problematic
We know that collaboration boosts productivity and leads to better outcomes. So isn’t it a good thing that organisations have more communication and collaboration tools at their disposal than ever before? Not exactly. Here, we go back to the old saying of ‘quality over quantity’.
Although the smart use of collaboration tech tools has indeed been shown to boost productivity by 32%, using too many tools can actually have the opposite effect. Here’s why:
Too many channels = lost data
In business settings, facilitating effective communication has always been a challenge, even amongst employees working in the same physical office space. Toggling between different apps and platforms inevitably means that important messages get lost, files get buried, and confusion gets sown.
We’re all familiar with the problem of trying to locate a file someone sent us. The problem is compounded when you’re not even sure which platform this file was sent on — you then waste time opening and searching through multiple apps and conversations before you find what you’re looking for. Unifying communications to a single platform can completely eliminate this problem.
Information isn’t centralised
Building on the previous point, when you’re working with multiple communications tools, you lack a single point of access to information. This is a crucial shortfall, as efficient internal information sharing is already a barrier for many organisations. For example, using multiple applications might mean multiple contact lists and call records — trying to rectify these can, at best, be incredibly frustrating for employees and, at worst, result in lost productivity and costly mistakes.
Disjoined access and spiralling costs
Each tool you use requires a different login. This makes it challenging for employees to keep track of these different passwords and usernames, particularly if they need to change devices. Every time a device is changed, multiple applications need to be downloaded, and multiple setup procedures executed. Each platform also generally comes with additional per-user costs — which can stack up. Ultimately, the more tools your use, the more expensive, complicated and cumbersome the entire system becomes.
Unclear availability statuses
When your team is working across various collaboration platforms, it’s often unclear who’s available and who’s in a meeting or otherwise occupied. For the person on the receiving end of a request, this could mean annoying interruptions to their workflow. For the person making the request, this could mean wasted time spent waiting on a response or a file. “Presence” status notifications are an important part of what business collaboration tools provide. But the value of this is dramatically diminished when multiple tools are used.
Selecting a tool and consolidating
If unifying communications is the clear answer to these problems, then why do so many businesses continue to use so many tools? The answer ultimately comes down to how different tools excel at different things. For instance, we all know that Zoom works well for video calls, and Slack makes in-house messaging easy, and Dropbox makes file sharing easier. For many organisations, it probably just makes sense to use each separate tool for what it excels at delivering.
Essentially, the problem is that none of these common tools offer complete coverage of every communication channel. They also all have a glaring weakness — phone calls. Critically, by “phone calls” we don’t mean audio chat with other users of the platform. We mean the ability to call an actual phone number, or receive a call from a standard phone line.
Phone calls are important
The ability to place and receive standard phone calls with business collaboration tools is important for three reasons:
- Keeping phone systems outside of business collaboration guarantees a disjointed workflow. It’s easy to justify using too many tools because you are already using more than one tool by default.
- The proliferation of different business collaboration software (even within an organisation) makes standard phone calls the one uniting communication channel that can cut across these differences.
- Even in 2020, 56% of business owners state that the most popular way for customers to contact them is by telephone. External collaboration still relies heavily on standard phone calls, and real unified communication needs to take that into account.
So, how can we take the importance of phone calls and integrate that into new remote ways of working and collaborating? The answer is to consolidate around a single tool that does everything — including the placement of real phone calls.
Microsoft Teams: an all-in-one solution
We already know that Microsoft Teams is a top choice collaboration tool for many businesses. It’s used by a majority of organisations (60%). Our research also shows that the remote work revolution has seen 50% of Teams users logging on more frequently and 48% using more of the platform’s features.
All of this naturally makes Teams a strong contender for the unifying role. The majority of business users are already familiar with Teams and what it can do, even if the organisations they work for aren’t currently deploying it to its full potential. With Teams, employees get a single sign-in point, where they can access a complete suite of business collaboration tools from any device. Teams delivers simpler infrastructure, fewer maintenance problems and greater flexibility.
Microsoft Teams excels at all of the standard functions the other collaboration tools seek to provide — video calls and meetings, chat, file-sharing and much more. In addition, Teams enables more calling options than any other tool on the market — and the options keep growing. Ultimately, this is what really elevates Teams above the competition.
How to add real calling to Teams
It’s vital to note that while Teams enables calling options, it doesn’t actually allow you to place external phone calls with a standard licence. Adding real calling capabilities to business collaboration tools means you can consolidate all communication using a single tool. This improves productivity and makes what could be a confusing process — placing or receiving a business call remotely — a seamless task.
If you want to add real calling to Teams, you have a few options:
- Apps: First, there are a number of cross launch apps that can be used with Teams, including RingCentral, Cisco Jabber and Zoom. These apps are relatively easy to set up, but by their very nature, they work against our central premise. Using an app to place calls means adding yet another tool to your already overloaded arsenal — this translates to more disjointed workflows and more complex costs. Simply put, apps won’t help your long-term strategy, especially if you’re dedicated to unifying your communications.
- Microsoft Calling Plan and Phone System: Microsoft offers a cloud-based solution that connects Teams to the PSTN network. While this is a straightforward and integrated solution, it’s not a holistic one, and costs can quickly add up. With Microsoft’s plans, you miss out on the ability to record calls, perform skills-based routing or effectively manage your call queues — and the reporting functions and customer support is limited. Many organisations who deploy Microsoft’s plans wind up maintaining a separate telephony infrastructure alongside Teams — once again working against the strategic goal of unifying communications. For more information, check out our blog — Microsoft Phone System Reviewed.
- Direct Routing: Direct Routing allows you to integrate standard corporate telephony capabilities directly into Teams. You get all of the call control and reporting functions needed to completely consolidate your phone system using Teams. Users can access their business phone number on any device, just by logging into Teams. Ultimately, Direct Routing means you can truly unify your communications and solve the ‘too many tools’ issue once and for all.
At Callroute, we offer a Direct Routing solution that enables businesses to connect Microsoft Teams to any business phone system in minutes.
Ultimately, centralising your communication into one single collaboration tool will drive productivity, efficiency and, with the right provider, cost savings. Teams stands ahead as the top collaboration tool used by businesses, and combined with Direct Routing, is your best option for enabling true unified communication and collaboration. To see how Direct Routing works for your business, sign up for a free phone line for life and call from Teams in minutes.