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5/9/2006
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Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd
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Adam Gartenberg on the Standardization of Real Time Collaboration In The Enterprise

I spoke with an old friend, Adam Gartenberg, the Offering Manager, Real-time and Team Collaboration, IBM Workplace and Lotus Software. Along with world's longest job title, Adam is spending a lot of time with enterprise users of real time collaboration, and will be joining a panel at the upcoming Collaborative Technologies Conference 2006 on the topic of standardization.

I pointed out that standardization can be interpreted in two ways: use of officially endorsed standards, like SQL, or the adoption of a product across a company, like IT selecting Windows and rejecting OS X. Adam suggested that the latter meaning is generally what companies seeem to be up in the enterprise today, seeing the opportunity to decrease expenses related to IT and training. He pointed out that instant messaging and other lightweight collaboration tools seem to come into the enterprise through individual use, and can rapidly spread virally, without any official sanctioning. Adam suggested that only 25% of the companies involved in a recent survey have standardized on real time collaboration tools: three quarters of the enterprises either find benefit in allowing multiple web conferencing, IM, or other real time tools.
I asked if the benefits of allowing experimentation or perhaps the need for best-of-breed tools for specific functional areas might be part of this. Adam agreed, in part, but pointed out that some technologies -- notably, Lotus offerings -- provide a platform that allows for specialized modules to be created and deployed, so functional needs -- specific requirements for the sales team, for example -- could still be supported in a standardized offering.

I noted that new startups -- specifically Skype -- are the sort of technology that might sneak into the enterprise through individual users, and which could precipitate the cycle of standardization around VoIP. Adam said that was in fact happening, as companies are moving to take advantage of the cost savings in Internet-based voice communication.

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