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How to assess
business collaboration
technology:
the data you need

Author: Mike Elgan

The remote work trend makes clear how central and necessary collaboration technology has become. Collaboration tools connect employees and enable them to share ideas and information, ultimately helping companies remain productive and move forward.

These tools enable real-time and asynchronous communication using threaded messages, chat, screen sharing, document editing, virtual video and audio meetings, and more.

Business collaboration tools are clearly valuable. But how can we measure that value?

We can't improve what we can't measure. We need actionable criteria upon which to make purchasing and policy decisions. Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of collaboration tools helps evaluate their quality and efficacy, justify their purchase and understand their contribution to the company's success.

There are a range of metrics you can use to evaluate the effectiveness of collaboration tools. Here are some of the most useful to consider.

Participation rate and active users

Participation rate is based on two data points. The first is daily logins; the second is hours spent logged in. Successful business collaboration tools inspire active use so monitoring participation rate metrics over time can provide some indication of the value employees gain from using them.

You should also keep track of who is active and who is not. This can help you determine why less active employees aren't embracing the tools as much—and what they're using instead. If they're not using the intended tools to collaborate, are they using other tools? Look for activity by department and functional role. For example, you might see wide usage by large numbers of employees in general but low usage by management and team leaders in particular, indicating a problem worth investigating.

Cross-functional interaction

You can also look at how well collaboration tools are helping or encouraging engagement across functional divisions. Are organizational groups or teams mainly talking to themselves or are they reaching out across the company? This is key because one of the potential benefits of collaboration technology is to facilitate cross-functional flows of information.

Travel costs

One of the easiest ways to measure ROI is to track travel costs over time. Better collaboration tools should reduce business travel by incentivizing employees to interact from their respective work locations instead of traveling to in-person meetings and racking up expenses.

Customer response times

While customer satisfaction is a critical larger metric, customer response time is a key part of customer satisfaction and is easy to measure. Effective collaboration technology should help reduce average customer response times so if they aren't, you'll want to understand why.

Employee satisfaction and retention

Collaboration tools are a major influence on overall employee satisfaction. Better tools can reduce frustration, shorten commute times, improve job performance and give employees a sense of being "in the know." Surveys conducted before and after the rollout of collaboration tools and again months later can give you additional insight into how well those tools are working.

Over the longer term, measuring employee retention is another way to understand how overall employee satisfaction is going. Collaboration tools that make employees more productive, efficient and connected can help reduce turnover, save the organization money related to costs of hiring and training new talent and enable it to leverage the benefits of a more experienced workforce.

Project completion times and time to market

Collaboration tools can help teams complete projects on time or close to it. By measuring how late or early projects are completed—or the number or percentage that are completed on time—you can track how a change in business collaboration tools is affecting project completion.

Depending on the company, measuring time to market can also demonstrate how collaboration tools are enabling various parts of the company to get products to market faster.

Revenue growth

It can also be instructive to measure changes in revenue after sales and marketing teams embrace new collaboration tools, especially if those tools are major elements of external communications and outreach.

Post-training metrics

All of these metrics are valuable before and after rollout, as well as on a regular basis thereafter. This is especially true after training. The efficacy of business collaboration tools is based in large part on how knowledgeable employees are in their use. Targeted training on the tools, followed by testing and quantifying the effects of that training can give you a clearer picture of how well those tools are contributing to the objectives of your organization.

As collaboration technology grows ever more central to the success of every organization, it becomes more important to understand which tools are best for you. And the only way to understand is to measure, track and quantify.

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