When it comes to Enterprise Collaboration, many organisations remain 'land-locked'; restricted by the architectures, deployment models, and functionality of solutions that were conceived in another age - an age when there was no Web 2.0, no mobile Internet, no impending pandemic, and no economic crisis. Of those organisations that are trying to move ahead in the 'new world of work', many IT departments are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly-changing world of information worker solutions and with the consumerisation of collaboration technologies in particular. Web-native collaboration solutions are continuing to grow in popularity amongst the twenty-something 'net-generation', and these Internet-born offerings are now starting to cross over into the world of enterprise IT. The challenge for IT managers is to reap the benefit of the best aspects of these new tools, whilst avoiding the pitfalls that can arise from ignoring these possibilities altogether. Moreover, this must be achieved against a backdrop of shrinking IT budgets and increased expectancy.
- Fundamentally, Enterprise Collaboration is about driving better business results and outcomes.
- Enterprise Collaboration systems underpin many of the real value-add activities of organisations.
- Increasing the productivity of Sales, General, and Administration personnel means reducing the cost of doing business.
- Organisations must increase collaboration effectiveness amidst the threat of pandemics and other global disasters.
- E-mail remains the lowest common denominator for Enterprise Collaboration, but as consumers we are exploring new collaboration options and models.
- The white collar workers of established economies are no longer the sole focus of Enterprise Collaboration solutions.
- End-users increasingly expect Enterprise Collaboration solutions to be time, location, and deviceindependent.
- Google’s US$50 per user, per year Google Apps offering calls into question the real value of onpremises Enterprise Collaboration solutions.
- The economics of cloud-based collaboration offerings could help some organisations weather the global recession.
- Established Enterprise Collaboration strategies are being adapted to accommodate Web 2.0.
When it comes to Enterprise Collaboration, many organisations remain ‘land-locked’; restricted by the architectures, deployment models, and functionality of solutions that were conceived in another age – an age when there was no Web 2.0, no mobile Internet, no impending pandemic, and no economic crisis. Of those organisations that are trying to move ahead in the ‘new world of work’, many IT departments are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly-changing world of information worker solutions and with the consumerisation of collaboration technologies in particular. Web-native collaboration solutions are continuing to grow in popularity amongst the twenty-something ‘net-generation’, and these Internet-born offerings are now starting to cross over into the world of enterprise IT. The challenge for IT managers is to reap the benefit of the best aspects of these new tools, whilst avoiding the pitfalls that can arise from ignoring these possibilities altogether. Moreover, this must be achieved against a backdrop of shrinking IT budgets and increased expectancy.
Recognising the fact that they are now just another node in a complex mesh of business-to-business networks, supply chains, and industry ecosystems, organisations are looking at new ways to extend the reach and range of their businesses through collaborative efforts. For many this means giving serious consideration to new ways of thinking, new ways of engaging, and new ways of working.
However, organisations across all industries and sectors have spent large sums of money on Enterprise Collaboration solutions in recent years, and yet in most cases these investments have failed to produce any clear competitive advantage or significant return on investment. If CEOs are to support proposals for new Enterprise Collaboration investments, then CIOs must be certain that the products, solutions, and services their organisations select will be of immediate and significant business value.
E-mail, teleconferencing, Web conferencing, video conferencing, electronic meeting rooms, portals, and Document Management systems are all in use today, and yet so many business processes are still hampered by ineffective collaboration. With competition intensifying, and windows of opportunity closing, organisations must re-examine their Enterprise Collaboration strategies as a matter of priority in order to better support business endeavours and to reduce the cost of ‘information work’ – an activity that now consumes around 80% of salary costs.
Over the years, the notion of collaboration has been responsible for some of the most utopian and naïve visions of what IT can deliver in terms of enterprise IT, and yet organisations continue to seek new means by which that most expensive of all human corporate resources – i.e. the information worker – can become more efficient, effective, and productive.
It is hardly surprising that investments in Enterprise Collaboration facilities are flattening-off, given the current level of economic uncertainly, but Butler Group contends that such investments should be maintained, as employee productivity will undeniably impact future business outcomes as global markets recover.
Enterprise Collaboration systems, along with their supporting communication technologies, underpin many of the real value-add activities of an organisation, and if one looks at the Sales, General, and Administration figure of any large company, then one can instantly get a feel for the importance of information technology to this section of the workforce. Moreover, with ‘outperform’ now the new ‘perform’ in these uncertain economic times, established businesses are having to take-stock, as new start-ups, unfettered by layers of legacy IT and archaic business processes, reap the rewards of agile IT infrastructures and a highly-effective workforce.
From a business-leader perspective, it would be irresponsible to ignore the prevailing economic and social conditions. As we write this Report businesses leaders are preparing contingency plans as concerns relating the ‘swine flu’ pandemic grow, and here Enterprise Collaboration can be part of the solution by providing the means for the organisation to work with minimal on-site staff, potentially reducing the spread of infection by ensuring that as many staff as possible work from home for the duration of the high-risk period.
The business issues that are forcing IT management to re-evaluate their information worker strategies are, of course, many and varied; but the management and exploitation of business social networking and transactive information (i.e. that associated with specific communities of interest, their interactions, and their ‘products’ or output) is, in Butler Group’s opinion, key. Within any given market or economy, business transaction costs always tend towards a fixed point, and so it then becomes the value-add that a business can bring to these transactions that makes the difference. Maybe this is better customer support, faster delivery, or more flexible working; but whatever the difference, it will undoubtedly be linked with the way an organisation marshals and focuses its people.
Collaboration means working with people through ‘shared spaces’ that may be Internet service based, enterprise server based, or connected directly by using peer-to-peer technology. Collaboration means working within and across locations, such as home(s), hotels, and offices; it also means working across and within different businesses, organisations, workgroups, and projects; and it also means working across and between different IT regimes, business processes, and corporate policies. Enterprise Collaboration systems enable the information worker to create, find, organise, and share documents and data among all of the different desktops, devices, servers, and services to which he or she has access.
However, despite the availability of such a broad range of collaboration products, the vast majority of user-oriented, ad hoc business processes remain hampered and ineffective due to one thing: e-mail. Collaborating via e-mail is something we all do, every day; it has become second nature to us. There are better ways of collaborating, and the so-called ‘Net Generation’ is slowly but surely introducing new models of working as they shun e-mail in favour of more socially-oriented systems.
Synchronous collaboration features are a fundamental component of the ‘new world of work’. Whether it is Instant Messaging, video conferencing, whiteboarding or application sharing, moving to a unified communications and collaboration environment is something that all IT managers should be thinking about. It is clearly a mistake to think that Enterprise Collaboration is all about technology, but it is also a mistake to dismiss the technology altogether. Therefore, selecting and implementing enterprise social software solutions, next-generation collaboration solutions, and Rich Internet Applications requires careful thought, consideration, and planning. In particular, adapting information security and corporate governance policies to fit with the cloud/Web 2.0 delivery model will, in the opinion of Butler Group, prevent many organisations from going down this path at present.
Butler Group believes that Web 2.0, and advances in collaboration models, are capable of transforming the work ‘place’. Fully-featured mobile phones are now in common use, and high-speed telecommunication networks provide connectivity to a large percentage of the mobile workforce. As the cost of using these networks decreases, so more opportunities will be created for an organisation’s mobile workers. As a result, Butler Group expects that Enterprise Collaboration solutions will be tuned to mobile form factors rather than the traditional desktop PC. With high-quality voice, video, and data available almost anywhere, and with input and output technologies evolving also, the pace of change in the Enterprise Collaboration market looks set to quicken as we approach the end of the decade.
The only environment more complicated than the workplace is the ‘other place’; i.e. the home, the train, the car, the plane, the hotel, the motel, the customer office, and the coffee shop. This is where consumeroriented technology comes alive, and this is why the consumerisation of corporate IT will have a big effect on the Enterprise Collaboration systems of the future.
The continued evolution of the consumer-oriented Internet, with its Web 2.0 architectures and models, is starting to have an effect on corporate IT. The last couple of years have seen some organisations experimenting with Web-native ‘social software’ (such as blogs, wikis, and communities), and so as we move towards the end of the decade Butler Group believes that we will see established Enterprise Collaboration vendors – such as IBM and Microsoft – accelerating their ‘Enterprise Web 2.0’ solutions, and challenging Web-native vendors such as Google.
However, the question being considered by many CIOs is whether to stick with the establishment – i.e. IBM and Microsoft – or to perhaps consider something new and innovative from the likes of consumer-oriented technology companies – such as Google.
Although advanced collaboration environments, such as virtual meeting spaces and the 3D Internet, are currently confined to specialised use-cases, evidence from the consumer world would suggest that this form of virtual collaboration could prove extremely useful within the enterprise. IBM and Sun Microsystems (soon to be part of Oracle) are both investing in this new area of collaboration, and Cisco and HP are also providing ‘hi-resolution’ collaborative environments through the use of video conferencing technology. Butler Group expects this technology will be deployed much more widely over the next two years as usability improves and equipment becomes more commodity priced.
Google has finally removed the ‘Beta’ sticker from its Google Apps Premier Edition; the company’s cloud-based collaboration software. With this offering, Google is aiming to tap into a growing market for productivity tools that allow for online collaboration. While Google may be struggling to meet its rivals in terms of functionality, those organisations seeking a ‘good enough’ solution could save a small fortune by moving to the cloud. Existing enterprise vendors – such as IBM, Microsoft and Adobe – are also readying cloud-based offerings, and with compatibility and familiarity important considerations for the Enterprise Collaboration market, Google’s attempts to enter this particular sector will not be easy.
This Report reveals:
- How Enterprise Collaboration can drive better business results and outcomes.
- How organisations are adding real business value through the use of Enterprise Collaboration solutions.
- How increasing the productivity of Sales, General, and Administration personnel can reduce the cost of doing business.
- Why organisations must increase collaboration effectiveness amidst the threat of pandemics and other global disasters.
- Why e-mail remains the lowest common denominator for Enterprise Collaboration.
- How organisations are extending the reach and range of their Enterprise Collaboration solutions to integrate deskless workers.
- How Google’s new collaboration offerings are calling into question the value of traditional Enterprise Collaboration solutions.
- How the economics of cloud computing could help some organisations weather the global recession.
- How Enterprise Collaboration strategies can be adapted to accommodate Web 2.0.
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