Every day it is a given that you will work with a large number of internal and external stakeholders.
The tools that you use make all the difference. For working with internal colleagues, you may well use an intranet which will help you to improve collaboration in your team and organisation.
But what about external collaboration? This is a bit trickier. There are a number of factors that could be holding you back from delivering successful project outcomes.
This blog post will look at the issues surrounding collaboration with external partners in more detail and offer solutions to these problems.
You rely too much on email
With the average employee sending or receiving 112 emails per day, email is the most common form of communication in the workplace.
But does the most popular mean the best? Of course not! There are plenty of reasons why it can be detrimental to external collaboration:
- Security – One study has found that 78% of people claim to be aware of the risks of unknown links in emails. And yet they click anyway. If you’re in a data sensitive industry, a phishing attack could result from this which would be catastrophic to both you and your external partners.
- Not inclusive – It is difficult to involve new stakeholders into email conversations because of the time it takes to search through long trails of messages.
- No version control – If you’re sending out different versions of a document, it can be difficult for stakeholders to keep track of which one is the most recent version.
- Wasted time – People now spend one-third of their time at the office – and half of the time they work at home – reading and answering emails. Couldn’t this time be better spent working with your external partners?
You’re using too many different tools
If you’ve moved away from email and have started using other productivity tools – great!
Currently you may well be using one or a combination of the following for external collaboration – email, Microsoft SharePoint and file sharing software.
However, this is not ideal for collaborating externally. Firstly, with key data shared over so many different systems, there is a real danger of this information ‘getting lost between the cracks.’
This then becomes a burden and affects productivity for both your users and IT teams, as they have to spend time trying to recover the missing data. Your external stakeholders won’t be too impressed either!
There is also the issue of having a large number of passwords to memorise. To put this into perspective, the average person has 19 passwords to remember. If you had say 10 different passwords for those accounts, anyone would struggle to remember them all. It makes my head spin just thinking about it!
Lastly, there is clear evidence that people are now feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps that they have to use on a daily basis. This is clear from one report that found that 64% of respondents have more desktop apps than they actually need.
The solution is to use an app that combines all of your tools into one. Yes, it is possible! There are solutions that have file sharing, document collaboration, survey creation and other rich functionality to ensure that you can consult, inform and ultimately engage your external stakeholders more effectively.
You’re only using simple file sharing software
Cloud-hosted file sharing software is still hugely popular.
In fact, according to one survey by cloud security experts Skyhigh, around 39% of corporate data that is uploaded to the cloud is related to file sharing applications. That is more than any other category.
So with this sort of domination, most would feel that is this the best way to collaborate with their external partners. On the face of it, this type of software is a simple and secure way to share and collaborate on documents.
Don’t get me wrong, for quickly and securely sharing a file it works well. However, if you think about it, how often do you share a document with stakeholders and they don’t want to discuss its contents?
My guess would be rarely, if not never! Yes, you could use email but as discussed, this isn’t an ideal way to collaborate with multiple stakeholders.
What you need is a collaboration tool. This can help you to easily work on documents simultaneously with your external partners. You can ask them to review specific sections and can see a full audit trail of what has been changed and by whom.
But that’s just a small part of what external collaboration tools can do. You can also create forums to discuss different topics of shared interest, assign tasks to ensure everyone is staying on track and even create surveys to get instant feedback from stakeholders. Basically, it takes external collaboration much further than a basic file sharing tool or email ever could!