As IT services move to the cloud, collaboration tools have been quick to follow. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools are replacing and complementing existing collaboration tools, helping companies adapt to changing work environments and user demands.

Companies like Google, IBM, and Microsoft are offering tools in the space, along with smaller companies that are just starting up. Before you choose a SaaS provider, consider the benefits and challenges that accompany collaborating in the cloud.

Benefits of SaaS as a Collaboration Tool

Tools can make a company more adaptable. Online collaboration tools offer businesses a centralized workspace where all employees, suppliers, partners, and customers can work together and innovate quickly. This environment enables a business to be responsive to the changes happening in their industry and market.

Software features can keep up with trends. As the business world changes, managers want to tweak technologies so they don’t get left behind. Instead of being held back in a three-to-five-year refresh cycle, online services offer quick upgrades to keep you ahead of the game.

Technology can support a mobile workforce. With so many IT workers working remotely, and many more maintaining a mobile work schedule, SaaS collaboration tools can provide the tools needed for reliable connectivity and increased productivity, regardless of what device workers use.

Before you even start sifting through the host of providers on the market, you should consider some of the potential downfalls, too.

Challenges of Saas as a Collaboration Tool

Can the service handle business? While IT managers are impressed with vendor offerings, what they really want to know is whether a service can handle whatever their business can throw at it. In other words, can the service offer sufficient support services and contractual terms for business clients, are the policies and procedures thorough enough for an enterprise to remain compliant, and can the infrastructure scale to large deployments?

Is the service secure? You can’t talk about the cloud without addressing security issues – many people will want to know how data can be encrypted, and how access is controlled. More issues include whether data centers are physically secure and how vendors will handle removing client data from retired servers.

Will the services work with my existing infrastructure? If on-premises collaboration platforms will be nestled in with the computing infrastructure of your company, you’ll want to know if a vendor’s services are customizable, accessible on various PCs and mobile devices, and integrated with legacy applications.

Is the vendor in it for the long haul? Before committing to any service, IT managers will want to know if the vendor (including its services) is stable enough to be around for a long time. And, in the case of already-established vendors, managers should ask if the vendor is committed to its online service, and not just viewing it as an experimental project.

Research company Forrester recommends providing collaborative frameworks so that a business’ entire ecosystem can be included in the conversation. Participants include channel partners, suppliers, customers, and employees. If companies want to empower their stakeholders with collaboration tools robust enough to get the job done, while addressing security and infrastructure concerns, it will be vital to check off the questions presented above while shopping for a vendor. Then, your team will be ready to reap the benefits of using SaaS as a collaborative tool.

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