Are workplace communications tools spreading your data too thin?

By James Simpson, SafetyCulture

When WhatsApp announced modifications to its privacy policy, it sparked an exodus from the platform and ignited fresh concerns about big tech whittling away user privacy. The news was a wake-up call, and companies that were sleeping on the risks of using consumer software for business purposes are now wide awake.

While it may be simple to adopt, 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 privacy is not the only operational risk at play. When teams work across several platforms, data is spread too thin — leaving valuable information at the whim of multiple company policies and leaking potential insights in the process.

In today’s distributed workplace, digital collaboration platforms are information-rich and data-intensive. This data is essential to drive decision making and predictive analytics. 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.

Research by Statista* shows that workplaces communicate across 3.56 different platforms on average. With a variety of formal and informal tools at their fingertips, software sampling can become commonplace in an enterprise - using one app for team-planning, one for messaging and another to track projects and workflows.

A reliance on multiple channels means that a workplace runs the risk of leaving information calcified across different programs. In the short term, these knowledge silos make data management unnecessarily complex. Over time, it reduces visibility and the power to improve operational efficiency using analysis.

There is also the issue of process. To achieve their best, people need time and space to focus on the work that matters most. Sending and receiving information through multiple channels creates a lot of noise. The larger and more complex the workplace, the louder the noise. Important messages are drowned out and workflows are hampered. And as businesses become more collaborative, streamlining workflows is more important than ever to ensure productivity.

Keep your data where the work happens

Most enterprises have workplace-sanctioned collaboration software such as Office 365 or Microsoft Teams. This software is designed with controls and features that make these offerings suitable for workplace collaboration — including different administrative, encryption and integration levers.

Sometimes, an organisation may need more. Whether it’s optimising for communication, collaboration or innovation, data capture will be a deciding factor. Consider your current digital workflows - what information is required for effective work? Actionable data is of high priority in a digital workplace, especially when frontline workers are involved.

Look at the mode of delivery - is it purely on desktop, or increasingly via mobile? Is the organisation in need of interactive timelines, archiving solutions, workflow management or even corrective action plans? Perhaps it may be a combination of the above. If that’s the case, a digital operations management platform may be better suited.

Digital operations management platforms allow IT Managers to approach their technology solutions holistically. It provides all the essential tools for communication and workflow management in a single space, while maintaining a balance between customer privacy and operational risk. Instead of being designed to be sticky, they’re designed for efficient workflows. They reduce the hours wasted on ‘work about work’, integrate with existing tools, and over time, turn data captured into learnings that help organisations reach their full potential.

Designed to drive enterprise action

Streamlined digital workflows are the foundation of effective organisations. We see this daily in our work, for example with BOS Solutions, a liquid solids separation enterprise. With a large dispersed workforce and data silos, BOS lacked visibility into safety and quality statistics. Managers experienced difficulties reporting on compliance.

With SafetyCulture, they found a way to centralise all data in a dynamic hub. Actionable communications were baked into the system, so employees could close the process loop. Bottlenecks were eliminated and transparency improved by tracking corrective and preventative actions all the way to completion.

A digital operations management platform functions as more than just a single communication channel - it allows you to identify and track actions across multiple workflows. Our experience driving safety and quality across industry sectors has given us insight into what functionalities benefit digital workflows at scale.

A considered digital workflow has a clear structure, cross-functional processes and user-centered design. In particular, features like messaging, task logs and record of completion tie communications to tangible outcomes, resulting in more valuable data capture.

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. Global technology trends, such as the adoption of digital operations management platforms, will become a bigger part of digital workplace transformation.

IT Managers will facilitate this shift. Niche external programs were once a useful stopgap in the rapid transition to online work. But in the future, technology that unites people and operations together on one coherent operations platform will improve collaboration, productivity and deliver long-term return on investment.

For more information on effective collaboration, visit this guide to workplace communication.

James Simpson is Vice President of Engineering at SafetyCulture . Its flagship products, iAuditor and EdApp enable teams to perform checks, train staff, report issues, capture data and communicate fluidly.