Ten Steps to Make the Most of Collaborative Assets

by CXOtoday Staff    Dec 03, 2009

Collaboration is no longer only about the tools or the technology used in it, the culture and structure also makes a difference in the collaboration experience. Currently organizations are adopting more collaboration technology to improve productivity in the various business processes. However there are a few small steps that enable organizations to achieve better performance and business returns in the long run. This was revealed in a recent study titled, "Meetings Around the World II: Charting the Course of Advanced Collaboration" conducted by Frost & Sullivan and sponsored by Verizon and Cisco.

The study explored how employees in businesses and governments use technology to collaborate and found organizations deploying more advanced Internet protocol (IP) collaboration tools - like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), instant messaging, audio, Web or video conferencing or immersive video for near life-like visual communications are seeing a higher return on their collaboration investment and perform better than their less collaborative peers.

Based on the study here are 10 steps organizations can take to make the most of their collaborative assets:

  • Invest in an IP foundation: The launch pad to the world of advanced collaboration rests on a capabilities-rich IP infrastructure. Flexible and expansive IP networks provide a foundation for a successful deployment of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools and should be equipped with on-demand bandwidth and classes of service to accommodate increased traffic loads and support a high-quality end-user experience. The study found IP networks are growing as a foundation for business operations, and collaboration has gone beyond traditional conferencing services to encompass more IP-based applications.
  • Establish a Benchmark for Collaborative Success: Survey stakeholders to understand their work needs and willingness to embrace change. How is business conducted today and how can UC&C empower employees by streamlining and improving business processes? Determine current and future requirements, and plan accordingly.
  • Focus on the End Goals: Avoid hype and examine what business problems must be resolved.  Then build a UC&C plan based on long-term and short-term goals. Carefully evaluate network, hardware and software options to validate their ability to meet current and future enterprise objectives. Make technology investment decisions that make the most of existing assets. 
  • Combine Ingredients to Create a Complete Experience: UC&C is a strategy - not a specific technology.  Effective collaboration is not just about data or video or voice or mobility, it is about how the tools are combined to create a collaborative experience that can reap the maximum benefits.
  • Create a Culture of Collaboration: Meetings Around the World II found an organization’s culture to be a key factor in collaboration capability; even more so than what the first Meetings Around the World study found. Technology is important, but it must be deployed in an organization that is open, with a decentralized decision-making structure. Top executives must be advocates for collaboration tools to promote their use among all employees. 
  • Listen to the Workforce: With current technologies, work has become an anytime, anywhere activity. In the study, 61 percent of respondents say they like to work from anywhere, yet only 47 percent indicated they have a formal telecommuting policy in place and less than a third say they telecommute at least once a week. Evaluate policies to promote efficiencies and productivity within the organization.  Morale may even rise in the process.
  • Big Leaps Often Begin with Baby Steps: Meetings Around the World II showed that organizations of all sizes can increase their return on collaboration investment and that adding progressively more advanced collaboration tools can lead to a correspondingly higher return. Educate users about instant messaging, desktop and mobile voice calls, and audio, Web and video conferencing technologies to achieve value. Consider hosted solutions as they allow an organization to ramp up quickly and scale the operation to changing needs.
  • Partner with the best: Partner with a solutions provider that can integrate multiple technology platforms for best success. Decide whether to manage UC&C in-house or to choose a managed services provider with the manpower, tools and processes to help provide consistent performance of UC&C applications.
  • Be Inclusive: Good collaboration goes beyond the organization. The Meetings Around the World II study found teams using UC&C tools can benefit from a "network effect" — a theory attributed to Robert Metcalfe, the co-inventor of Ethernet, that holds that the more users on a network, the more value is likely realized from it.  Extend a culture of collaboration to customers, suppliers and partners to help increase reach and returns on collaboration investment.
  • Mark Progress Along the Way: Build milestones to measure success. Identify internal benchmarks to determine the impact of UC&C on sales and marketing, finances, the corporate culture and end-user satisfaction, and make improvements as needed.