Assessing The Value Of Today’s Collaboration Solutions

In the last decade, we have moved from the first generation of collaboration focused on individuals within a single company, to more advanced tools that facilitate social sessions across organisations. Now more than ever, a network-centric approach is essential to maximising the benefits of today’s collaboration technology.

Collaboration technologies add value in a host of important ways. In an era of dispersed teams and reduced travel budgets, it is increasingly difficult to build trusted relationships with customers, partners, and even colleagues. Private social networks, audio and web conferences, team spaces, video, and chat help us overcome the limitations of distance and time zones. Indeed, effective use of these collaboration tools has become essential to business success.

Collaboration 1.0 and 2.0

In order to understand the importance of collaboration today, it is helpful to go back to the beginning. The first generation of business collaboration tools began with a focus on documents that were created and shared by individuals who used one device: the PC. Information resided safely within the walls of the enterprise, and personal productivity improved.

Collaboration 2.0 shifts the focus from documents and PCs to people and social sessions, defined as the new fundamental unit of collaborative work, in which groups of individuals interact across company and geographic boundaries. The goal of a social session is to create the effect of presence within the reality of absence.

This new collaboration experience helps us cope with information overload by delivering only what we need, just when we need it. We can find experts in an instant and participate in blogs, videos, wikis, social networks, team spaces, and conferences from a variety of devices. Thanks to advanced security and policy management, we can include partners, customers, and suppliers in our one-to-many communications.

Focus on Value

Cost savings are one way to measure the results of business collaboration, but many companies also realise significant productivity gains. Effective collaboration can improve the product-development process or take time out of the sales cycle.

When you implement more efficient processes, achieve faster time to market, and reduce cycle times, you extract more value from your collaboration investment. If you can identify opportunities to shorten the time needed to make critical decisions, there is no better place to invest. Finally, new collaborative engagements make it possible to design new ways of interacting with customers, partners and suppliers that enable whole new business models.

The Importance of a Network-Centric Approach

Effective collaboration begins and ends with the network. Only a network-centric approach can support our increasing mobility and the full range of communication devices that allow us to communicate with one another. In addition, emerging collaboration applications, such as immersive video, fixed mobile convergence and location-aware services also must live in the network.

A network-based approach to collaboration delivers benefits across five major areas that are critical to success in today’s environment:

  • The Network Connects the Right People and Information in Real Time: Our increasingly mobile, distributed environments make it difficult to connect with each other. We need the broadest range of secure, federated services to overcome this reality, so that we can find the best possible succession of experiences at any given time.
  • The Network Builds Trust Through Rich, Reliable Interactions: Rich interactions can span distance and time zones, resulting in better decisions and faster time to market. Video is the communications river that changes everything, and it is becoming increasingly easy to use.
  • The Network Accelerates Team Performance: Companies now rely on clusters of experts, within and beyond the firewall. Powerful social software for the enterprise can facilitate the dynamic formation of teams based on expertise.
  • The Network is the Basis for Collaborating with Confidence Across Company Walls: Intercompany collaboration encourages productivity, innovation, and intimacy. But to reap the benefits, companies need high standards for secure video, voice, and presence across organisations. Intercompany security and policies must be ensured across any medium.
  • With an Intelligent Network, You Can Better Maximise the Value of IT Investments: Interoperability and integration are the keys to success with any collaboration solution. Customers must be able to protect their existing investments and provide end-user flexibility.

Conclusion

In summary, business collaboration tools, such as TelePresence video conferencing, enterprise social networking, and unified communications, can herald fantastic benefits. By connecting distributed team members across organisations and time zones, collaboration technology enables companies to reduce and avoid costs, accelerate time to market, and transform entire industries.

Is collaboration worth it? The research says, yes. According to Pearlfinders latest IT index, unified communications and collaboration has overtaken cloud and virtualisation as the technology most in demand from IT directors as the BYOD trend starts to have serious implications on infrastructure.

A modest level of collaboration results in moderate performance gains; however, progressively better collaboration yields progressively better performance and returns. Now is the time to plan your collaboration strategy. Pioneers in financial services, healthcare, education, and other industries already are defining new enterprise standards in their industries. Don’t miss the opportunity to be an innovative collaboration leader.

Andy Chew is a Senior Director, and recently joined Cisco UK & Ireland as the Head of the Collaboration Architecture team. He had previously been doing a similar role in Cisco’s Emerging Markets. He has the overall responsibility for development, and execution of Cisco’s collaboration strategy for the Theater and leads the Sales and Business Development activities for the architecture. Prior to joining Cisco Andy spent 7years at Siemens Enterprise Communications where he held various roles, including heading up global Unified Communications business management and Alliance Development for Unified Communications. Andy has 20+ years General Management experience in the IT software and Services sectors, and has held a broad range of international positions. He holds an MBA from MIT, where he is a Fellow of the Sloan School of Management.