5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Enterprise Collaboration Tools

The collaboration market has grown rapidly over the past few years, with many companies trying to grab a slice of an ever-expanding pie. The result of this healthy competition is that there’s now more choice than ever before, which can make the task of picking the right tools a tricky prospect.

Whether you’re Chief Information Officer in a large company or the IT guy in a small non-profit, when you’re choosing collaboration tools for your team, there are a few important questions that you must consider.

  1. Where will your team be working? You may not always know where your team is working from, especially with telecommuting employees,. But it’s a question that’s important to answer, because you may need to figure out how to get access for a team member who doesn’t have high-speed Internet, or you may need to look for a secure tool that won’t expose your data over the local coffee shop’s wireless network.
  2. Does it offer room for your team to grow? As your organization grows, some collaboration applications may not scale with you. Unless you’re willing to move your data whenever your organization gets a little bigger, choosing tools that can keep pace is crucial.
  3. How stable is the company that makes the application? Especially with web-based collaboration tools, it’s easy to find applications that didn’t even exist six months ago…but those tools may be gone again in another six months. It’s important to make sure that you’ve bet on a company that isn’t going anywhere.
  4. How bleeding edge do you need to be? Many application developers will court users when they’re still in beta, offering free services and tools in order to get feedback on their work. This can be a great way for an individual to find inexpensive applications as well as get access to the newest features, but there’s a downside when you’re working on the enterprise level. Applications in beta are less reliable — what happens if you can’t get at your data because something breaks?
  5. How does the pricing break down in the long-term? Many web-based applications use a subscription system, rather than selling you software outright. There are benefits to such deals — you don’t have to pay for each new version of the software as it’s rolled out and the upfront cost can be lower, for example — but in the long-term the pricing can wind up higher than with a package deal. Price shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it is important to consider.

Depending on your needs, there are other questions you’ll want to ask. But these five are important to both large and small organizations, as well as companies of different types.

What questions do you you ask before choosing an enterprise collaboration tool?

Image by Flickr user fncll, licensed under CC 2.0

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise

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