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Communication software: Are you spreading your data thin?

(Image credit: Shutterstock / whiteMocca)

Workplace communications need to be both secure and in-sync. The recent uproar about WhatsApp's modification to its privacy policy spurred an exodus from the platform and got everyone thinking. 

WhatsApp’s move fueled fresh concerns about big tech whittling away user privacy. The news was a wake-up call for many businesses who rely on informal channels to communicate with increasingly distributed workforces. Enterprises that were sleeping on the risks of doing business across external platforms are now wide awake.

Consumer software isn’t built for business use. End-to-end encryption protects data in transit but there are vulnerabilities when technology isn’t designed with the workplace in mind. Diminished security is not the only risk. In fact, there is one factor that gets less attention but poses a huge opportunity cost. By working across several platforms, organizations are spreading their data thin — leaving themselves at the whim of multiple company policies and losing out on valuable insights.

The risks of spreading data too thin 

The rise of remote and distributed teams in the last year has transformed how teams talk to each other, and organizations have relied on informal messaging channels to get things done. Statista research found that workplaces communicate across 3.56 different platforms on average. 

These digital collaboration platforms are information-rich and data-intensive. IT Managers strive to capture most, if not all, of the knowledge elements serving business stakeholders. Yet, the very same ‘always on’ digital workplace can pose a challenge to this. A recent survey by Asana shows that employees switch between 11 apps 27 times per day to do their work.

This means employees could be using one app for team-planning, one for call-trees and another to track projects and workflows. Doing so is the digital equivalent of holding an in-person meeting across three different floors — data is siloed, and there is no central hub where people can sync their work. Information is trapped on separate platforms, making it difficult to see the bigger picture. The long-term effects can be crippling for a company, as data visibility is an essential factor in predictive analytics, risk mitigation, and decision-making. 

There is also the issue of productivity and process. To achieve their best, people need time and space to focus on the work that matters most. Constantly shifting between tasks and apps depletes concentration, impedes agility, and disrupts focus time. To further that, sending and receiving information through several channels creates a lot of noise. The larger and more complex the workplace, the louder the noise. Important messages are drowned out, and it’s harder to prioritize and keep track of work. And as businesses scale and become more collaborative, streamlining communication is more important than ever.

Keep your data where the work happens

Enterprises usually have workplace-sanctioned software for communication and collaboration such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This software is typically designed with controls and features that make these offerings suitable for business communications — including different administrative, encryption and integration levers. 

Sometimes, a business may need more. Consider your employee requirements — synchronous communication aside, what else is required for effective work? Is it document sharing, interactive timelines, archiving solutions, workflow management or corrective action plans? Perhaps it may be a combination of all those functionalities. If that’s the case, a digital operations management platform may be better suited to the organization’s needs. 

Whether it’s optimizing for communication, collaboration or innovation, actionable data is of high priority in a distributed workforce. Digital operations platforms provide all the essential tools for communication and workflow management, in one private space. It’s a holistic solution made for a data-rich environment.

Instead of being designed to be sticky, they’re designed for efficiency. Unlike consumer apps, digital operations platforms aren’t looking to retain your attention indefinitely. Their purpose is to reduce the hours and energy wasted on ‘work about work’, and over time, turn data into learnings that support organizations to reach their full potential. 

Built for enterprise action

Streamlined collaborative experiences are the foundation of agile enterprises. We see this daily in our work, for example with BOS Solutions, a liquid solids separation enterprise. With a large, dispersed workforce, BOS found that their old way of data capture created information silos. They lacked visibility into safety and quality statistics and managers faced challenges when reporting on compliance. We helped them find a way to centralize all data in a single dynamic hub. Actionable communications were baked into workflows and bottlenecks were eliminated with greater transparency across all operations. 

A digital operations management platform is more than just a communication channel — it allows you to identify, track and complete actions as a team. By tracking corrective and preventative actions all the way to completion, BOS Solutions employees and managers could respond to issues quickly, safely, and efficiently. 

Our experience driving safety and quality across various industry sectors has given us insight into what functionalities benefit synchronous communication and workflows at scale. In particular, features like messaging, task logs, and record of completion tie communications to tangible outcomes, driving productive cross-team collaboration across an organization. 

Driving digital transformation with data consolidation

Workplace productivity is facing new challenges and the pace of innovation is only increasing. The digital workplace has arrived, and even as workers slowly return to the office, distributed teams and workflows are here to stay. This presents companies with an opportunity to better equip employees and teams by providing meaningful workflow tools and analytics to accelerate. 

Data consolidation might not often seem high on the list of businesses’ priorities, but it’s essential. Niche external programs were a useful stop-gap in the rapid transition to online work. But in the future, organizations that unite their people and operations together on one coherent operations platform will be better equipped to drive agility in their enterprise. Global technology trends, such as the adoption of digital operations management platforms, are likely to become a bigger part of digital change management and technology investment. In facilitating this shift, companies can look to improve collaboration, productivity and deliver a long-term return on investment.

James Simpson, Vice President of Engineering, SafetyCulture (opens in new tab)

James Simpson is Vice President of Engineering at SafetyCulture.