Future Trends for Collaboration Technologies

December 22, 2010

What’s ahead for collaboration technology? According to research firm Gartner, you can expect a lot of energy and investment on this front for the next few years – especially under the “social” moniker.

Gartner offers several key predictions for collaborative technology:

  • By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users. Greater availability of social networking services both inside and outside the firewall, coupled with changing demographics and work styles will lead 20% of users to make a social network the hub of their business communications. Gartner recommends that organizations develop a long-term strategy for provisioning and consuming a rich set of collaboration and social software services, and develop policies governing the use of consumer services for business purposes.Companies should also solicit input from the business community on what collaboration tools would be most helpful. After all, user adoption must be wide-spread in order to increase the value your organization can achieve from increased connectivity.
  • Through 2012, over 70% of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail. When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70% failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives.A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, enterprises will realize that social media is not a “hit or miss” activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. At that point, post-2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society.It’s time to consider enterprise “social” technology solutions such as Cisco’s Show and Share for video communities and conversations to enable continuous learning and collaboration that promotes better decisions and improves productivity.
  • Within five years, 70% of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modeled after user experience lessons from smart-phone collaboration applications. As we move toward 3 billion phones in the world serving the main purpose of providing communications and collaboration anytime anywhere, Gartner expects more end users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools on these devices. The experience with these tools for all who use them will enable the user to handle far more conversations within a given amount of time than their PCs simply because they are easier to use.Gartner’s advice? IT organizations should continue to procure leading-edge smart-phones for testing and accumulate knowledge on how collaborative applications on such devices accomplish business tasks. As more organizations consider replacing desk-phones with cell phones, they may wish to anchor their collaboration tools also on the cell phone.

“A lot has happened…within the social software and collaboration space. The growing use of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by business users has resulted in serious enterprise dialogue about procuring social software platforms for the business,” says Mark R. Gilbert, research vice president at Gartner. “Success in social software and collaboration will be characterized by a concerted and collaborative effort between IT and the business.”


Successful User Adoption Drives UC Value

December 16, 2010

To take Unified Communications (UC) to the next level in terms of success, organizations are challenged to focus on user adoption. While the business case for UC often is extremely compelling in terms of overall savings and productivity benefits, none of these gains can be realized unless UC is embraced by an organization’s workforce.

The first challenge to adoption lies in how a UC solution is presented in the first place. “All too often when Solutions Integrators are proposing a communication solution – whether it is basic VoIP or a UC solution for collaboration, instant messaging, unified messaging or even communication enabling business processes – they get so involved in the technical aspects of the solution that they overlook one of the most basic components of business communication,” writes Pam Avila at Unified Communications Strategies, a portal devoted to UC trends and opportunities.

“That component is the ‘equipment’ that sits on the end-user’s desk or travels in their pocket or briefcase. We refer to this equipment as the ‘end points,’ which sounds very official and technical,” she adds. “In reality, however, it’s all about the end-user experience. Provide a great end-user experience and acceptance of technology is almost assured. Conversely, move the end-user too far out of their comfort zone and a disaster looms.”

Mike Sapien, a principal analyst for Ovum, contends that UC services should be introduced in the enterprise the same way as new PCs have been introduced. As he explains, users gain upfront training. They are educated on new applications, features and the value of these capabilities.

“Just like with new PCs, UC users may at first be completely unfamiliar with some new features and have only very narrow experience with others,” he contends. “The assumption that end users can immediately jump in, knowing which tools to use to improve their productivity, is a bad one.”

He explains that some of the most successful UC implementation results are produced when companies create  formal and informal teams to focus on training users, encouraging adoption, and identifying valuable uses of UC capabilities. In most of these cases, top management also embraces the technology and leads by example.  The rest of the enterprise, in other words, is watching what they do.

“Consider earlier communication technologies, such as voice mail and e-mail, and how often senior managers relied on administrators to manage these tools for them. Some managers went so far as to ask assistants to type up their voice mail.” he adds. “This sort of avoidance technique won’t work with UC features such as instant messaging and telepresence. It has to be clear to employees that they’re expected to use UC features, and bypassing these tools will leave them behind professionally. Senior management has to model regular and effective use of the UC features so that others will respond similarly.”

When senior managers embrace Unified Communications, they set the stage for widespread adoption across the enterprise. They accelerate time to value by taking steps that encourage others.

The Critical Role of Collaboration for Your Company

December 7, 2010

A convergence of technologies is set to increase our capacity to interact by a factor of between two and five in the near future. This enhanced interactive capacity will create new ways to configure businesses, organize companies, and serve customers, and have profound effects on the structure, strategy, and competitive dynamics of industries. – McKinsey & Co.

Organizations have spent a considerable amount of time and money over the last decade focused on improving efficiencies, streamlining operations and driving out costs associated with manual processes. The question is whether all this automation has fully prepared our enterprises for the growing demands and expectations of today’s customers.

IT organizations have delivered tremendous results. But the bar continues to reach new levels. It’s no longer enough to be efficient as lone enterprises. We are now moving into an era in which our ability to compete and perform revolves around our ability to effectively manage interactions across organizational and geographical boundaries

Globalization, specialization and technological change have made interactions increasingly pervasive in modern economies. Indeed, it’s estimated by McKinsey that 80% of all employment in the United States now involves participation in interactions as opposed to the extraction of raw materials or the production of finished goods.

Research indicates that sectors hiring in today’s difficult economy are seeking employees who tend to be engaged in complex interactions – ones who must exercise a high level of judgment and most likely are actively collaborating in teams.  “[T]he most complex type of interactions — those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems — make up the fastest-growing segment,” according to the firm.

Beyond the efficiencies associated with intra-enterprise automation, it’s now time to seize the opportunities associated with inter-enterprise collaboration and interaction. Collaboration technology will play a critical role in enhancing the quality and speed of analysis, decisions and actions. It will make it easier for individuals to engage in complex interactions to produce results.

As McKinsey puts it, “The use of technology to complement and enhance what talented decision makers do rather than to replace them calls for a very different kind of thinking about the organizational structures that best facilitate their work, the mix of skills companies need, hiring and developing talent, and the way technology supports high-value labor. Technology and organizational strategies are inextricably conjoined in this new world of performance improvement.”

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