Email is great – but collaboration is better!

Take a guess at how long email has been around..20 years, 30 years?  Admit to rocking a mullet, rolled up jacket sleeves or Bananarama style and you can probably dimly recall email over dial up modems in the 80s.  In fact, it’s been with us for an amazing 50 years.

Email is a great tool – but ask your colleagues about the state of their inboxes and it’s clear that email takes its toll on time and isn’t always the best route to getting things done in the now.

It’s estimated the average worker spends more than 11 hours a week on dealing with email, the equivalent of 620 emails.  On any one day, emails sent internally will typically have 15 document attachments (should they really be living in your inbox?)

And it’s not just the time actually spent on email itself that eats into our working day – apparently, it takes 23 minutes for us to refocus when our attention is diverted which means that checking email 5 times a day actually equates to around 2 hours of “lost” time.

That’s not to say that the world’s most widely used communication tool is over – some sources estimate that 246 billion work emails will be sent and received every single day in 2019 – simply that thanks to cloud technologies, working practices are changing rapidly.  We need the right tool for the job.

Thinking about the way we work

We can call on vast lakes of information at the touch of a button from wherever we are and the pace of working life has speeded up accordingly.  Instant answers are what we expect and often need to be productive.

That’s where instant messaging has the edge over email – need a quick answer? Send an IM to your colleagues.  They need more details?  Send them files, images, links to shared document storage via your corporate collaboration system.  They still have questions?  Set up an online meeting in seconds, and chat to them face-to-face.  Job done.

If you have Office 365, you can implement better collaborative working now – it’s all provided in Microsoft Teams.

“Microsoft Teams is the chat-centered workspace in Office 365. It’s the hub for team chats, calls, meetings, and messages. Microsoft Teams is extensible and customizable, and it’s secured and standards-compliant to make sure your company’s most sensitive collaborations are private”.

Using IM can be especially helpful for mobile workers – Planning and Building Control inspectors for example can use Teams features to share real-time images of builds and stages with their colleagues back at base and get on the spot feedback that can help to speed up the inspections process.  This is a big tick in the box for customer service, especially in the competitive world of Building Control. 

With the instant ability to check/share images with colleagues (and access documents via Agile@WORK), officers can check on potential issues such as structural calculations, soil conditions or concerns over tree root ingress in foundations inspections at the time of their visit, potentially saving their customers thousands on the cost of any pre-inspection advisory survey.  

For office-based Planning staff, Teams provides an easy route to share location-specific information such as footage and documents with Parish Councils or any other consultees in the process.

Teams is designed to co-ordinate every aspect of collaboration, allowing you to track your IM, calendar and projects as well as sharing documents. It can even keep track of your email for you via Flow. Today, there are “More than 13 million people using Teams on a daily basis—and more than 19 million people who use it weekly”

What about content?

Chances are your organisation will have an EDMS – possibly a corporate solution but more often as not, a number of departmental EDMS systems acquired over time.  Many of these will be proprietary which means that the pool of resources available to support them is limited by comparison with newer technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint.  With the decreasing cost of cloud power, online solutions such as SharePoint provide robust, secure and easily scaled document management that is configurable to suit the business needs and rules of any department across the organisation.

SharePoint Online provides collaboration features beyond document management and is available within the MS Office 365 suite

In document intensive fields such as Planning and Building Control, setting up document workflow within SharePoint ensures that any documentation associated with a planning or building control application progresses in step with the application itself so that the latest (and clearly marked previous) versions are always on hand and fully traceable.  Any notes/comments can be easily added to documents stored in SharePoint using standard tools such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, Adobe or Trapeze.  Documents can be easily shared with any specific, authorised (and verified) external user who needs to work with your team.

For officers who are out and about on inspections, this easy access to any current/past SharePoint documents needed for their visits is simply more secure and convenient than taking physical documents to site.

Beyond IM and content to social collaboration

“Collaboration is no longer a nice-to-have business application,” according to Wayne Kurtzman, research director, Social and Collaboration Solutions, IDC. “Digital transformation now mandates that we leverage different team members, subject matter experts, cultures, and skill sets on a platform made to digitally work together.”

According to McKinsey (, , improved communication and collaboration could raise productivity by 20% – 25%. 

That’s a significant benefit for any organisation and particularly in local authority Planning and Building Control where reduced head count or difficulties in recruitment may put pressure on the ability to meet statutory deadlines.

Collaboration works for Agile customers…

At Agile Applications, we’ve enhanced the power of our Planning and Building Control software by integrating  our back office, Citizen Portal and our Agile@WORK productivity app for mobile with SharePoint online as part of our “better workplace tools” strategy. 

and for us

Choose an Agile solution and you’ll see Teams and SharePoint collaboration at work – that’s how we manage our projects.  To take a closer look,  give us a call on 0330 100 3675 or contact us via our website and join us on Teams to see collaboration in action.

Mobile working just got smarter – be Agile@WORK