Collaborating in the Cloud

In addition to finding the right software fit, companies need to train workers on using the technology effectively, notes Syntex Creative CEO Tim Trudeau. His $9.5 million independent digital music distribution company uses a number of independent collaborative cloud technologies, including Google Apps for calendar invites and to share employee calendars.

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“It’s access to data that takes work off of the backs of people. We can remove a lot of nonsense that clutters inboxes.” —Tim Trudeau, CEO, Syntex Creative

“I travel all the time, so employees can see where I am, what’s going on and whether it would be a good time to reach out,” says Trudeau. “It’s access to data like that that takes work off of the backs of people. We can remove a lot of nonsense that clutters inboxes, like an email saying ‘What are your plans for tomorrow?’”

Collaboration software also helped Trudeau keep his company’s head count in check, as the tools can do the jobs staff members carried out in the past. “Maybe one person’s job used to be to manage travel and executive calendars—now, with collaborative tools that do that, you’re able to have a much leaner team,” he explains.

However, too much collaboration, or a too firm a focus on collaborative tools can have a downside, warns Trudeau, who considers the potential for misuse as a possible drawback.

Executives may start monitoring every thread and employee conversation, which is rarely necessary and takes time away from more pertinent tasks, he says. “You feel you’ve accomplished something by responding to this or that, but really you haven’t,” he says.

Adoption of new, yet ultimately unnecessary technology is also a potential pitfall, he adds. “Sometimes executives get so gung ho about the technology that they’re constantly bouncing around and sort of creating instability for their employees,” he says. “Once someone learns and knows [a tool], you pull the rug out from under them by going to another one and that’s very frustrating.

“If you’re running the company you need to be aware of people’s feelings on this stuff,” he says. “There are ways to do it that can be fun and enjoyable and ways to exasperate people with it.”

The bottom line? Collaborative cloud software is often a significant investment for most companies. Software choices need to be made with care, but taking the time to choose well and implement the tools effectively can pay off handsomely in the end. Perhaps Cassoff sums up the business benefits best: “There’s nothing falling through the cracks anymore,” he says.

This article is featured in the January/February 2017 issue of Chief Executive magazine. Find it on page 57. And look for part II of this two-part series on collaborative software in the March/April 2017 issue of Chief Executive magazine.