Collaboration may be a new breed of software, but in one key way it conforms to past productivity solutions: There are lots of platforms with lots of features that all require careful evaluation to determine which one is the correct fit for the enterprise.
Like it or not, however, this decision must be made, or else employees will take it upon themselves to bring in their own solutions, which not only complicates the enterprise data environment but opens sensitive data to new security risks. But what are the criteria for evaluating collaborative software, and how should the enterprise measure its success or failure?
Most collaborative solutions these days rely heavily on the cloud. Even if the platform is hosted on-premises, data and applications will likely make it into the cloud, since it is easier to collaborate when everyone has access to a scalable storage environment. Market Prognosis estimates that the cloud collaboration market is rising at more than 13 percent per year, with a target valuation of $55.5 million by 2023 – and this is likely just the beginning of what many expect to be a multi-billion dollar industry before long.
But what does the enterprise need to know about emerging collaboration platforms in order to make an informed decision? According to eWeek’s Chris Preimesberger, collaboration relies on a number of support functions that enhance the simple act of communicating and sharing files. Cloud-based videoconferencing and interactive displays, for example, allow remote users to work on live projects in real time. Virtual reality, meanwhile, will give all participants the sense of co-location, as in, say, a meeting in a board room or a tour of a factory floor. Going forward, artificial and ambient intelligence will allow the platform itself to learn the behaviors of participants and draw on internal and external data stores to provide information and even offer guidance.
Impressive as this may sound, at the end of the day, collaboration must provide some tangible benefit to the enterprise model, or else it becomes just another nifty toy for techies to play with. CXO Today’s Sohini Bagchi notes that one of the most noticeable benefits is customer loyalty, which can translate directly to revenue streams. Aberdeen Group ran a study recently that saw a 200 percent boost in customer loyalty when employees were more engaged, while disengaged workers cost about $500 billion annually in the U.S. alone.
A properly configured collaboration system allows the enterprise to handle customer requests and get products to market faster and at less cost than traditional methods, which means the enterprise really can do more with less, provided it has the right technology. What is a properly configured system? Bagchi recommends a basic setup that features an intuitive, user-friendly interface, broad integration with third-party apps, enterprise-class search capabilities and intelligent automation.
Collaboration is more than just a new productivity tool, however. It alters the way in which knowledge workers interact with each other and the data around them, and this will impact long-standing processes and perhaps the corporate culture itself.
For this reason, the right solution is not just a question of which one fits best with the enterprise today, but which one can take you to where you want to be tomorrow.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.