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7 Strategies to Tame Collaboration Complexity

October 30, 2020 Collaboration and Productivity
Hunter Willis
By Hunter Willis

Over the past few years, the software that organizations use to create content and collaborate has grown in complexity, as have the corresponding compliance and privacy regulations.

Gone are the days of attaching a file to an email and sending it off without another thought. That’s marks an important evolution in security, data loss prevention, and privacy — but it puts a burden on both end users and IT.

Workers still need the ability to collaborate quickly and easily so they can do their jobs, but they also need to understand how to organize their information, manage collaborative workspaces like Teams or Channels, control who has access to their content, and be aware of business processes that are continuously evolving to align with changing regulations. That’s a lot to ask of Bill in accounting!

Establishing and maintaining a robust and compliant digital collaboration structure is also a heavy burden for IT professionals. There are near infinite ways to configure information governance, lifecycle management, data access management, external sharing, guest user access and other key controls within digital collaboration platforms. Finding the right mix to make users productive, secure and compliant while absorbing an avalanche of new features is a tall order.

With that in mind, here are seven strategies to keep up with collaboration complexity:

1. Consolidate Collaboration Platforms

During COVID-19, cloud collaboration sprawl accelerated as normal decision-making processes were dropped in the face of rapid and unprecedented changes to working routines. “Do whatever you have to do to make it work” became the mantra.

But having multiple collaboration platforms created its own challenges including increasing costs, IT management burden, end user training, information silos and more.

Related Article: Content Sprawl Happens: How Will You Manage It?

2. Use Powerful Native Features to Boost Productivity

Microsoft Teams has many features that help users control access, identify their information. and more. It's recently taken this a step further, associating collaboration content with chat collaboration, task management programs and what has become an endless list of connectable online software to help with productivity.

Microsoft Teams also brings the organizational power of SharePoint Online, the collaboration features of the Office suite and Exchange, One Drives as well as newer programs like Planner and Power Apps together in one powerful secure platform. 

3. Understand Files Are Just Part of a Bigger Picture

Especially now with the massive cloud adoption COVID has thrust upon nearly every business in the world, it’s vital to understand that files no longer stand alone as the primary medium for collaboration — they are part of a bigger picture, often involving chats, task applications, emails and more.

With Microsoft Teams, this often includes conversations, Power Automate workflows, Planner and One Note information, permissions, lists and metadata structures that all work together to create a productive collaboration experience.

Related Article: You Rolled Out Your Remote Workplace in Record Time. Now Let's Talk Governance

4. Know How Your Organization Is (Really) Working

For IT and security teams to truly understand their data and the information they have, they must maintain an understanding not only of how users are using these features to collaborate, but also how they manage access to information, especially sensitive information like PII. It’s also important to factor in this collaboration information when developing security and governance strategies for the organization.

5. Determine Which Features Your Compliance Strategies Need to Include

Just because chat information is more informal, doesn't make it less important than the information in databases, lists and the documents users create.

Important information is often communicated though chat. Sometimes the only link a user has to a document is in a chat conversation they have with another user. Other notes, instructions and sometimes formal communications are also posted in chats.

Tasks, OneNote information, Planner boards and other connected apps may also contain information vital for business continuity.

As time rolls on, these informal methods of collaboration are increasingly important, sometimes even more important to users than the formal files or emails that they reference within their informal collaboration. 

Related Article: We Need 'Set It and Forget It' Governance

6. Ask How You Can Scale Compliance Within Your Collaboration Systems

The changes we're currently witnessing in the IT landscape have been on their way for a long time. Having a real security and governance strategy now entails having a deep understanding of your collaboration platform features and capabilities.

It’s important to understand how to manage them in ways that scale for your organization. Are there sufficient backup, security and governance features to ensure data security without hindering collaboration?

Do native features allow you to manage the breadth of information your organization has within the platform in a scalable way? Do you have tools and strategies in place to enable users to easily understand and take advantage of all the features you get with a platform like Microsoft Teams?

Also vitally important: can you implement data lifecycle controls that reduce information sprawl, but do so in a way that is scalable and flexible for your users?

7. Make It Easy to Obey Rules and Have Enforcement Mechanisms in Place if They Don't

Having or developing governance policies that adhere to your organization's needs is the first step, but implementing them in ways that scale enforcement both for your administrators and your users is the only way to ensure your organization will meet them. Without enforcement, policies are just a suggestion.

Developing processes and implement solutions to meet these needs can be challenging and require a lot effort, but taking the time to do the right thing will save a ton of time, effort and stave off potentially disastrous scenarios in the long run. Perhaps most importantly, it will significantly reduce the pains of future challenges that are inevitable in our ever-changing landscape of technology.

About the Author

Hunter Willis is a product marketing manager at AvePoint and the president of the Richmond SharePoint User Group, MSCA O365. He has been in web development, SEO and social media marketing for over a decade, and entered the SharePoint space in 2016.

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