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Why Collaboration Should Center Around Email

Employees have more ways to communicate, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer.

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Why Collaboration Should Center Around Email Almost 90% of companies use some form of social networking, whether it's an internal blog, an online forum, a wiki, or a hybrid platform such as Microsoft SharePoint, the InformationWeek Analytics Social Networking in the Enterprise Survey shows. However, a paltry 10% consider that effort a success. And we know one of the big reasons.

Only 26% of our survey respondents have direct email integration with their social systems. In other words, companies expect employees to break away from their email, check the "social" system, collaborate, and then go back to their email. Fuggedaboutit.

Collaboration technology presents the ultimate irony of the modern IT age. Hundreds of apps, platforms, and devices are designed to help us work together better. They all promise to make us more productive. Yet almost none of these tools plugs easily into the others.

Vendors touting "unified communications" haven't come close to solving this problem. All present their visions of how their platforms will revolutionize the worker's life, but fail to mention what they don't provide. Microsoft Lync has no iPhone or Android option. Cisco's unified communications suite offers limited Exchange integration. Avaya's new Flare doesn't support Microsoft Office. And none of them has sufficient plug-ins for the growing number of software-as-a-service collaboration options, such as Salesforce.com's Chatter.

The cloud vendors are no better, preferring to push their own visions as the only way to go. You're a big fan of Google enterprise email? Too bad, if you're a SharePoint or Notes shop. Google has integration tools for Outlook and Notes client software, but it doesn't include Notes databases or SharePoint sites.

It's time for a reset. IT organizations have 11 major choices today when it comes to technology-assisted communication and collaboration. Some are old and boring, like the phone and fax, while others--like telepresence rooms -- make you feel like a Jetson.

IT teams need to assess each based on whether they support six critical integration points, three interoperability benchmarks, and three user requirements. View this as a checklist for success--or a harbinger of the troubles ahead if they're ignored. And they all start with email.

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Alex Dunne
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Alex Dunne,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/16/2011 | 7:09:08 PM
re: Why Collaboration Should Center Around Email
I am a pretty heavy user of collaboration apps (Basecamp and Jive most notably, plus Dropbox, Backpack, and other lightweight systems). But I'll tell you what keeps me coming back to email: it's easy and mobile friendly. Logging into a site from a mobile browser is usually an exercise in frustration because systems like Jive are designed for desktop/laptop users. For me, that hurdle needs to be cleared.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2011 | 8:52:32 PM
re: Why Collaboration Should Center Around Email
Not only do companies need to figure out when it's appropriate for employees to be on what platforms, they also need to identify what information is best communicated--and how--on each platform. It's early days, and the social networking potential is incredible, but it's not a good idea to throw too much against the wall to see what sticks without a little forethought about how everything all sticks together.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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