The Shortest Path to Reliable Intercompany Collaboration: Cutting Through the Hype

first_imgBy contrast, the simplest solutions in quadrant C, webmail and telephone, are rarely discussed as collaboration solutions because there is no multibillion-dollar market driving further innovation in that space. Everyone can use them, whether inside or outside the firewall, and they are already deeply entrenched in the normal daily workflow of most information workers. Some solutions that are more sophisticated than webmail and telephone could still be placed in quadrant C because they do not require IT intervention. Google Apps is one example of such a solution. Without IT assistance, a team could use the consumer-oriented version, Google Drive, for basic collaboration functions, such as document sharing and common content creation tools, inside and outside the firewall.Collaboration Solution Sweet Spot For most line-of-business managers and their information workers, the collaboration sweet spot lies between webmail and telephone at one extreme and complex converged solutions at the other. When a team’s collaboration approach is in that sweet spot, users are empowered with essential capabilities that easily extend beyond the firewall and are not weighed down with rich features they might not want or use. We find that the sweet spot’s essential capabilities are as follows: Social capabilities such as blogs, wikis, and activity streamsMobile user experience optimizationSophisticated native platform analytics, including predictive analytical capabilitiesPlatform scalability and extensibilityPrepackaged integration with collaboration tools and applications from major vendors Easy-to-Implement Solutions This blog is part 2 of 4 in a series focused on enterprise collaboration that explores a recent Prowess Consulting study. An Overstuffed Toolbox?Many hardware and software vendors are eager to help your business users share content without barriers. Some of the largest enterprise software and hardware vendors play in this space, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco. The ongoing need for collaboration and potential value of the market continue to attract new startups and new solutions, such as those from lesser-known but well-regarded vendors such as blueKiwi, Moxie, Huddle, Jive Software, Mzinga, and many more. Enterprise collaboration is also a topic of ongoing research and interest to industry analysts including Forrester, Gartner, and IDC.Why all the attention? Because enterprise collaboration software is predicted to be a market worth $4.5 billion by 2016, with rapid growth expected between now and then.But not all solutions are created equal. These vendors deliver a wide range of functionality.  The graph represents feature richness on one axis and ease of implementation on the other to illustrate the spectrum of solutions currently available. At the upper extreme of this spectrum (quadrant B, upper-right) are comprehensive, feature- rich social collaboration solutions, which are large-budget projects driven from the top down. They would likely include advanced capabilities such as integrated VoIP and video capabilities for face-to-face meetings and screen sharing over the network. At the low extreme (quadrant C, lower-left) are simple collaboration tools like webmail and telephone that require little or no setup action by anyone except the individual user or department manager.Converged SolutionsIndustry wide, a great deal of resources are spent evaluating, analyzing, and promoting comprehensive collaboration and social suites such as those represented in quadrant B. Such solutions can integrate traditional e-mail–based collaboration with social functions to enable relationship building, not just data sharing. Their goal is to enable an ongoing conversation inside and outside the firewall, and as IDC states, “activity streams, discussion forums, blogs, and wikis are becoming assumed functionality of enterprise social software to facilitate collaboration in real time and in context.” Examples include IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, Chatter, and Cisco WebEx Social.Because of the reach and scope (not to mention price tag) of such solutions, their adoption must be a company-wide initiative driven by top leadership with early planning and input from IT managers. With a nearly unified voice, analysts are predicting that comprehensive solutions are set to transform business, and analysts are generating enormous volumes of research and reports to help enterprise IT organizations choose the right solution. A glance at the criteria that analysts consider essential reveals the ambitious nature of these solutions: Your organization might be among those that are evaluating converged collaboration options with long-term plans to arrive at a fully converged solution. However, as businesses invest more in their infrastructure with such solutions, they increase dependency on that infrastructure and impact information workers’ abilities to collaborate outside the firewall with organizations and individuals that use different tools.Meanwhile, as your IT organization evaluates and tests a comprehensive solution, your team members need a solution that works readily with current workflows and tools without weeks or months of procurement plus extensive backend overhauls. The ideal solution is the one that provides the shortest path to the sweet spot without creating future complications for IT’s long-term plans.If you missed it, Part 1 in the series is The Shortest Path to Intercompany Collaboration: What Does’Collaboration’ Mean to Information Workers?Opens in a new window No hype, just research – for cutting edge research on the current state of mobile workplace computing trends, click here. For more conversations about IT Center and Enterprise Collaboration, click on the Hashtags below:#itcenter #enterprise Shareability: Content created on one team member’s device must be viewable and editable on others’ devices.Work flow integration: The solution must function with minimal disruption to user work styles. It should require little or no re-training and must integrate seamlessly into information workers’ workflow.Multitasking support: Information workers are accustomed to working with multiple windows open on their laptops or desktops. They might have open a content creation program (such as Microsoft Word), an e-mail and calendaring application, and one or more instant message or other communication windows to collaborate with colleagues. In high-end quadrant B solutions, these functions might be served by one or two applications that call in multiple services. But in the collaboration sweet spot, users accomplish these tasks through multiple applications and windows. Therefore, it is important users’ tools have sufficient processing power and task management capability to support easy switching between windows.Infrastructure integration: The solution must function with little disruption to IT—either to the current infrastructure or to the company’s future collaboration plans.Security: At minimum, the solution should support encryption for secure exchange of data while in transit and while stored on devices.last_img

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