As collaboration tools multiply, here’s how to avoid overload

New tools invite more internal innovation and knowledge-sharing -- and better connections with customers. But will too many choices make us less productive?

Collaboration tools: social media messages, sharing, connection, communication

Collaboration is a way of life in The Vanguard Group's institutional investors unit. For one thing, it uses the agile software development method, which requires collaboration among self-organized cross-functional teams. Vanguard also employs the scrum product development methodology, where interaction over documentation is a founding principle.

So when Kathy Fuertes sees an application that people use in their personal lives that could make employees more collaborative and productive, she looks for ways to put it to use at Vanguard — while keeping a sharp eye on the financial firm's strict regulatory and security requirements.

Fuertes, a principal and head of institutional systems at Vanguard, says she's always wondering, "How can we bring in more of those concepts that allow us to be more productive or have better collaboration inside the workplace — whether that be the official external version or one where we develop a workplace version of it?"

That's the challenge many enterprises face when it comes to choosing collaboration tools. There are so many options, it's hard to keep track of them all: Email, IM, blogs, wikis, mobile apps, enterprise social networking and unified communication all promise to unite people and make them more productive.

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