So you're an SME- You and your team work on lots of documents together and regularly share them with your clients throughout the workflow. Email just isn't working anymore as a collaboration tool so you want to use technology to improve the process, here is what you should expect from a collaboration tool.
You don’t want to have to employ IT people to develop and manage an intranet or extranet solution. Cloud based collaboration tools can be set up in minutes and easily self managed. In a busy work environment time saving and productivity is essential. Add to this the growing number of freelance or out of office workers then the need for fast, secure and easy collaboration and team management solutions is clear. Some systems are clunky, long winded and require a lot of IT support. This frustrates teams and clients alike. With most businesses moving data to the Cloud it is important that doing so is seamless as well as reliable and fast.
Many client collaboration tools offer bank-grade security to ensure that all of your data is completely safe. High-bit security in the cloud is usually accompanied by physical security at the datacentre- security that can't usually be provided for an SME's on-site network.
Storing your data in the cloud also protects it from issues such as physical hard drive damage. Having your files stored away in a datacentre means that your data is likely to be stored across multiple servers, meaning in the unlikely event of failure, there is less to lose. Datacentres also have strict backup procedures to ensure the protection of your data.
Using cloud-based collaboration tools mean there are no upfront development costs and you only pay for the amount of users you need. Gone are the days of having to pay expensive annual contract fees, more and more solutions are pay as you go or no minimum contract, plus the savings you make on IT support. As people in the workplace become more and more tech-savvy in the digital age the self managing solutions become more attractive to businesses and require minimum training. This also allows for wide scale roll out which can improve work practices across the board.
A good client collaboration tool will allow you to manage the whole relationship with the client within the tool and should include functionality such as, file sharing, document creation (notes ,wiki), events, tasks, discussions and chat; this way all the information is kept in one place allowing for seamless collaboration between your team and your clients. The added feature of an audit trail is not just a bonus in this day and age but also essential.
The ability to brand the tool has many benefits; the client will feel happier you are not using a generic file sharing tool to share their documents, your organisation will appear more professional, your brand will get increased exposure to the client and most importantly you will differentiate yourself from the competition.
As an SME, it's important to find the right tool for you, there are lots to choose from and they all offer different benefits; however, there are some affordable options which don't compromise on quality or functionality. Make sure you explore the market and thoroughly test client portals before you decide on which one to use. Just because it may be the market leader, doesn't mean it will be suited to your firm.