Focus on content collaboration strategies

Content collaboration platforms can enable businesses to create an agile and modern digital workplace

The workplace is transforming with the introduction of new ways of working, altered relationships between employers and employees, and changing staff demographics. 

To help IT departments exploit these changes, researcher Gartner advocates a digital workplace strategy to promote employee agility and engagement by creating a more consumerised work environment.

Such a strategy gives employees more of a say over the direction of their organisation’s IT. This often leads to a wider range of work styles, a stronger focus on mobility, more flexible security models and more customer-oriented service models – all of which promotes employee engagement and agility.

In terms of technology, implementing a digital workplace strategy requires a portfolio of digital workplace IT services. This portfolio should be based on a collection of business-centric definitions and value statements that highlight what the business will receive from each service. 

A survey conducted in the third quarter of 2017 with 167 Gartner research circle members – a Gartner-managed panel of IT and business professionals – found that the respondents expect their most important digital workplace topics for 2018 to include integrating content, collaboration and insight technologies into a coherent digital workplace platform; common and emerging IT services to offer in a digital workplace; and opening up digital workplace services to external participants.

By 2020, 80% of large and mid-size organisations in mature regions will have deployed at least a content collaboration platform (CCP) product to implement a content productivity and collaboration strategy. CCPs enable content-centric productivity and collaboration for individuals and teams, inside or outside an organisation, who can access documents from anywhere on any device. They can also work collaboratively with their peers on those documents and share documents and complete processes rapidly.

These collaboration platforms originated from the enterprise file synchronisation and sharing (EFSS) market, which emerged in 2010 and evolved through commoditisation, forcing suppliers to expand their value propositions. From their initial focus on EFSS, offerings were expanded with specialised capabilities to support content-driven collaboration for individuals and teams, secure external collaboration, lightweight content management and file-centric workflows. In addition, these products increasingly acquired a platform character, adding application programming interfaces (APIs) to access the associated content repository, connectors to external repositories, user interface (UI) customisation and modelling tools. CCPs also offer support for IT management and administration, as well as security, analytics and governance capabilities. They are the cornerstones of document-centric capability.

With CCPs, user experiences are modernised with consumerised UIs and easy-to-use apps. Efficiency improves through the elimination of paper from traditional processes and the enabling of real-time collaboration for teams, including mobile workforces.

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IT chiefs should make implementing the digital workplace core to their company’s digitisation strategy, says analyst Gartner.

A CCP constitutes a platform of content-related services, repository and interfaces that you should consider to implement a full or partial content services strategy, depending on the extent of your organisation’s requirements. CCPs are especially adept at addressing content strategies that focus on file sharing, content collaboration and lightweight workflow requirements. They provide a content repository, connectors to federate external content repositories, and a range of APIs that extend available functions, applications and access to content and that enable the building of applications.

Core functionalities of a CCP include mobile access to content repositories, file synchronisation and sharing, and file search across repositories. In addition, they support collaborative document creation, teamwork, lightweight content management and workflow automation, natively or through integration with third-party tools. Deployments can be in public, hybrid or private clouds, or on-premise.

Broadening the digital workplace

Organisations often find it difficult to define an approach to building and implementing a digital workplace programme, given the many variables, actors and implications. They also struggle to prioritise projects that enable a progressive transformation of the workplace without serious disruption.

Application leaders should consider CCPs core components of a broad digital workplace programme. Specifically these services should be included in a portfolio of digital workplace IT services that offers different levels of functionality, customisation and support for different use cases and scenarios.

However, choosing and implementing a CCP can present challenges in terms of cost, fostering user adoption (where consumer services are already in use) and increased fragmentation with a new content repository. Gartner therefore recommends an incremental approach, starting with a cloud office initiative – the reason being that use of a cloud office suite is becoming unavoidable for many organisations. A cloud office suite is relatively easy to deploy incrementally, and it can deliver quick and visible benefits.

Two major CCP products – Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive – are part of a cloud office suite. They can be used without additional investment. Other CCP products are also worth considering, depending on the use case. Organisations normally consider using CCPs in individual productivity and team collaboration scenarios to enable modern and agile work environments. Increasingly, they extend beyond productivity and collaboration to lightweight content management, document workflow and governance. Although the picture across the market is inconsistent, many CCPs now offer structured management for documents and support basic content services implementation capabilities. 

Affordability of CCPs

A CCP is often more affordable than either a traditional content management system or a modern content services platform (the average ratio is one to five). This enables easier cost justification and investment returns. However, the total cost of ownership of a new CCP system may be higher than the visible licensing or subscription costs, as there are also costs for content migrations, integrations and additional maintenance, which are not negligible.

Cloud office suites are increasingly part of this picture. Out of these, Microsoft Office 365 is notable for including both a CCP (OneDrive) and a content services platform (SharePoint), which are enhanced by other tools in the suite, such as Teams. A cloud office suite may appeal to application leaders who want to consolidate multiple content and collaboration systems, including recently deployed CCPs. The economic benefits are a strong reason to consider a radical consolidation using a single, centralised cloud office suite. However, even with a centralised platform, a single supplier and attractive economics, complex use cases and business requirements remain to be addressed. 

This article is based on the Gartner report, “Give content collaboration platforms a bigger role in your content services strategy”.

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