Collaboration technology enables leaner, more innovative businesses
After the focus during the first two or three years of this decade being squarely on how to cut costs and reduce overheads, the past few years have seen organisations keen to reinvent themselves as stronger, more effective and more innovative on top of this slimline model, writes Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton.
The view of the "team", which traditionally took a hierarchical, stove-piped perspective on the organisation, with each functional area acting largely autonomously to deliver its respective objectives, is evolving into a more horizontal perspective. Here groups of people from across the organisation come together to share their knowledge and experience to develop new and innovative ideas and opportunities.
In "lean" organisations, individuals are likely to work on multiple projects at once, with different groups of people. At the same time, teams are more transient certain people may only be involved for a short time, and they need to be brought up to speed quickly, contribute their input, share their knowledge and move on.
The improved communication network that a collaborative working environment creates can enable an organisation to make better use of its resources, facilitating reuse of work done elsewhere within the organisation. This might mean reducing duplication of effort where the output of a project or task can be exploited elsewhere, or building upon previous work in a new project.
Collaboration technologies can also reduce an organisation's overheads. For example, integrated instant messaging in a CRM application can reduce phone call costs, and videoconferencing capabilities used for a team meeting may mean travel cost and time savings where participants are widely distributed.
By providing different methods of communication to suit different situations, and combining voice-based communication with desktop or device-based applications, such as application sharing or whiteboarding, technology can enable collaborative working in a distributed environment that enables people to achieve almost as much as if they were in the same room.
The collaboration software market is made up of suppliers of many sizes and from many different backgrounds. Whether one alternative is better than another depends entirely on your specific requirements. However, the ease with which these offerings can be implemented together and integrated to deliver a seamless experience should influence your selection.
The greatest obstacle to implementing a seamless collaborative environment is the limited availability, maturity and use of standards to support the integration, interoperability, and sharing of data between the various services.