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A Guide to Understanding the Cost Benefits of Collaboration Software

Richard Buxton

Practice Director – Collaboration

We’re in an online collaboration boom that is unlikely to slow any time soon. Recent Gartner research found that there’s been a 44% increase in the use of workplace collaboration tools, enabling us to stay organised, focused and productive wherever we and our teams are based.

But, as pandemic disruption begins to settle, the idea of collaboration benefits at our fingertips is being challenged. When developing long-term hybrid working strategies, many businesses are finding that their collaboration software stack could deliver far greater value, with potentially less bottom-line impact.


Why does consolidating collaboration software make more productive teams?

Collaboration tools being more popular inevitably means more IT to manage and drive value from. This can put pressure on time, money, and focus. Of course, where a consultative, hybrid-first approach is in action, the engagement, productivity and even data security benefits are incomparable. But here are three important cost considerations: 

1. Collaboration software and time

At surface level, this is lost time. IT resource managing multiple solutions and vendors, and user resource spent moving between systems and adopting the new. When deployed as part of a strategic, cohesive and controlled ecosystem, collaboration software outweighs any of these costs. For example, the most effective collaborators among us are 24% more efficient, and great collaboration is associated with a 27% bump to sales.

2. Collaboration software and cost

Collaboration software is a mission-critical cost, so it’s important to have full visibility over direct spend and return on investment. Features overlap is one of the biggest challenges of collaboration along with interoperability, both of which can cost your business money in the shape of under-utilisation and duplicate spend.

3. Collaboration software and productivity

Then there’s indirect costs, partly fueled by an interesting trend dubbed “productivity sap”. Industry leaders have identified that in some cases, collaboration overload contributes to lower energy levels, more distractions and less time on “strategic and creative tasks that drive business forward”. This occurs when collaboration is fragmented or over-inflated, not suiting business value and user behaviour. But fine-tuning how collaboration is architected and utilised could boost focus by 20%, helping to generate competitive ROI.


Four reasons why businesses overspend on collaboration

Collaboration sprawl – the newest niche in that all-too-familiar cloud sprawl – is the main cause of excessive, spiraling or hidden costs associated with collaboration software. There are four key reasons why collaboration sprawl transpires:

  1. Under-utilisation at organisational and user level
  2. Duplication of functionality in the pursuit of a “complete” solution
  3. Functionality gaps filled by cheap add-ons with high accumulative cost
  4. Shadow IT such as single SaaS subscriptions and guest accounts

The above may include the following examples of convoluted collaboration:  

  • Organisations with whiteboarding in video calls may not use it. Instead, several participants annotate a PowerPoint after a meeting, and all share their versions. Thoughts and resource could be consolidated by using the whiteboarding feature during a session.
  • A business may be using two separate services to deliver task automation and external collaboration, integrated with their core platform. But all three have a chat function, which is used interchangeably and results in slower responses and fractured data.
  • A small number of staff have specific functionality needs to complete a recurring task, which collaboration software does not perform. Plug-ins enable functionality on an expensive by-user basis. A small, one-off configuration could deliver permanent functionality.
  • Proactive colleagues may sign up for a SaaS service that gets the job done better but results in hidden costs. Their initiative may deliver business-wide productivity gains with a great ROI, so may be more cost-effective to implement across the business.


What are best practices for choosing a collaboration software stack?

Follow this checklist to begin identifying hidden, accumulating costs in collaboration software. Understand where your business has opportunities for making productivity and efficiency gains simply by rethinking your approach to an everyday necessity.

  • Detail how many collaboration services are used, across how many providers
  • Calculate the direct costs of collaboration tools
  • Identify what functionality is being delivered from which services
  • Establish the levels of utilisation across your collaboration apps
  • Pinpoint functionality duplications – almost 30% of software spend is duplicated!
  • Do your utmost to uncover instances of shadow IT from plug-ins to subscriptions


Turn insight into action with a collaboration consultant

So much can be achieved from undertaking the above tasks and you may find it more straightforward and cost-effective to work with a consultant on a collaboration audit.

A consultative team can best find data within your IT infrastructure and translate it into actionable insights and recommendations for streamlining budget and enhancing performance. Working with you, they can make unbiassed assessments about why certain collaboration challenges have arisen and calculate a more cost-effective path forward. This may include consolidation, integration and training.


5 benefits of auditing your collaboration costs

In summary, understanding the cost benefits of collaboration software can deliver business-wide benefits that reduce direct and indirect costs and total cost of ownership. In addition, finding ways to make collaboration software work harder and smarter can deliver exceptional return on investment in the following areas too:  

  • Improving productivity, from speeding up processes to expediting problem solving
  • Sharpening focus to deliver quality work that attracts a higher price point
  • Enhancing customer service to develop advocacy and market reputation
  • Closing more deals through enhanced data access and communication
  • Reinforcing security with zero blind spots and controlled usage

It’s clear that understanding the cost profile of your collaboration suite can help control hidden costs, make budget go further and find ways for your business to generate more profitability potential.  

If something you’ve read here has got you thinking about fine-tuning your own collaboration spend and performance, get in touch with our experts today. We’d love to hear about where you are with your collaboration and how we can help transform it.