Researching data and collaboration tools

What to look for when researching data and collaboration software

Emily Tippins, Product Marketing ManagerIn this blog, Emily Tippins, River’s Product Marketing Manager, talks about her experiences of using River to collaborate around data, and what to look for when researching a data and collaboration tool for your business.

Ok, so straight up, I work for River. I’ve been using our product to collaborate with our teams and focus in on our key performance measures. So, although I’m obviously not a neutral source, I thought it was worth sharing some of the main features I’ve found really useful when working with River. I hope it serves as an insight into a daily use case, but also as a shopping list for evaluating other data and collaboration tools out there.

Here are my best loved features to look out for when selecting software that will align teams around goals and activities (and ensure real business impact).

Relevant, timely notifications

This is simple, but make sure there are built in notification options. You’ll want to stay on top of what’s really happening in the business and with relevant notifications that minimise distraction and maximise value, you can do just that. Even better that my inbox has quietened down dramatically since using River. And I have just one place to go to catch up on business performance and team activities.

Team collaboration

A product that is centred around teams will allow you to get the most from that cross fertilisation of ideas that happens when you work across silos. So look out for software that lets you easily set up teams with multiple stakeholders. It’s like mapping your organisational hierarchy into a product where you can then instantly discuss goals and collaborate on activities – no matter where you are or what team you’re in.

Closed groups

Obviously, not every team will want total transparency when it comes to the rest of the organisation. There are just some things that need discreet discussion, such as mergers, acquisitions and even site closures. So, keep an eye out for a product that has built in permissions for sensitive teams that require privacy from the rest of the business.

Surface success

This is my favourite in some ways. I’ve worked in many large corporates where there are duplicate functions per region or country. Clearly, best practice is something that’s always desired, but how often have you been unaware of a really good initiative that another area of the business has launched? Find a tool that supports the recognition of successful teams with the ability to surface relevant activities to others working towards a similar goal.

Easy data upload

Data doesn’t have to be complicated. Making it simple and relevant is half the battle. The next challenge is displaying the right business information to the right teams. So, choose a tool with a simple data structure for easy upload of performance metrics. Many will also include a ‘plug in and play’ API for the most common data sources like Salesforce or PowerBI. At River, this is a key part of our product roadmap and we’d love to hear suggestions about the data services you’d like to see as part of the product.

Anyway, back to my list…

No rigid workflow

This is an interesting one. Although most businesses will have a similar challenge when it comes to KPI visibility, there simply isn’t one fixed way of collaborating. It could be that you need to collaborate with external agencies, partners or networks. Or, you could be looking for a way to track cost reduction, efficiencies, customer satisfaction, or even health & safety incidents. When searching for your ideal technology, be mindful that you’ll need to use the product in the way that best suits your company requirements. Steer clear of products that impose a workflow as it is unlikely to be fit for purpose in the long run. To really move the needle and focus on activity that impacts your business, teams need technology that supports their unique way of working.

Focused activities

Productivity is all about focus, right? With so much that’s urgent and “required yesterday”, it’s really hard to know what to focus on (especially if you’re interested in what’s truly important for your business performance). So, look out for a product that highlights the activities you are actively involved in. That way, if you feel your team wavering, there’s an easy way to bring the conversation back towards the activities which are designed to impact the right areas of performance.

Personalised dashboard

When I’m looking at data, I only want to see the highlights. Then, I want to be able to drill down into them if I want to know more. Otherwise, I admit that I get data blindness, and just can’t see the numbers for the amount of distraction and clutter. Make sure you look for software that gives you and your teams a dashboard view of the metrics and activities that are most relevant. If teams are bombarded with everything, it’s unlikely they’ll know how to laser in on what’s really important.

Collaboration around goals

Personally, I think this is pretty significant. As well as researching collaboration tools, I’m sure you’ll have considered BI software or data reporting technology. There’s a multitude of products that are designed to encourage collaborative activity. These are popular for encouraging discussion but are these conversations linked to business performance or key goals? What you’ll ideally want to find is a product that does both. Search for products that bring social collaboration AND business data together in one place.

And, as if you hadn’t guessed where this is going, if you’d like an instant demo of how River combines all these key features into one simple product, get in touch. I’d love to share how we’re now using River to run our Business Reviews. No more wasted hours preparing slide decks to provide updates. I can go straight from the metrics we are tracking, and dive in to see how they are performing. Then I can see all the teams’ activities to improve performance – all in one place – a big time saving.

To estimate the time savings River could bring to your organisation, have a go on our ROI calculator.

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