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11/21/2006
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Reader Feedback About Conferencing, Collaboration

I have spent the last four months blogging on Collaboration Loop, sharing my thoughts on various aspects of conferencing and collaboration.  Two of my blogs, How Users View Collaborative Conferencing and Why People Don’t Collaborate have hit nerves.  Therefore, in this blog I will respond to your many comments.

First, thank you to Ken Molay for his agreement that the vendors are not doing enough to raise public awareness of the value of collaboration.  He mentioned that WebEx and Citrix seem to be getting the message out to broader channels, but is most disappointed with Microsoft, as they appear to view web conferencing as an afterthought to the big vision of Unified Communications and Collaboration.  Ken  sent us to a Flash demo provided by Vyew that shows real scenarios for business and pleasure use of software. 

Since Ken provided his response, one big media event has helped the conferencing and collaboration market: the announcement by Cisco of their telepresence offering.  Now I hope the rest of the vendors in the industry (audio, web, and video) will contact every writer of an article about Cisco and show them the value of writing more about all aspects of conferencing and collaboration. 

Richard Line writes a wonderful newsletter called VCInsight that covers a variety of business announcements and, more importantly, applications about conferencing and collaboration.  Let’s all work to take this information to the next level so collaboration is of interest to and desired by the masses.

Peter Stewart chimed in that it would be great to see more advertising, but we must remember who makes the key buying decisions for conferencing and collaboration.  Peter believes it is procurement, IT or a division head.  I disagree when Peter states that TV, radio, and print are not applicable as channels for collaborative conferencing purchases.  I think all channels are fair game and know many “C” level people who have told me they learned about a particular technology while watching TV, listening to the radio, or from print ads.  Perhaps now is the time for the industry to band together, much like was done in the “Get Milk” campaigns to brand the conferencing and collaboration industry to get the word out to everyone, business and consumer, of the value of these technologies to make our lives easier.  A dear departed friend, Jules DeVigne, a Polycom executive, was a staunch believer in this approach and I believe it is time to resurrect his idea and pursue it with gusto.  I suggest this be done through the not-for-profit industry association for conferencing and collaboration, known as IMCCA.

Claudius Walter agrees that using a good collaboration tool requires a cultural change within an organization and that managing this change is the challenge each organization faces.  I couldn’t agree more that members of the management team of an organization need to be the ones driving the overall adoption and usage of collaboration tools, but it is important they clearly understand the business benefits these tools offer and the amount of time involved to get the tools assimilated into an organization and viewed as a day-to-day necessity.

Luis Solis states that combining the right culture and the appropriate tools can yield remarkable results.  He made the point that Europe knows how and wants to collaborate, but distrusts technology; in contrast, he feels the US loves technology, but neither knows how nor really wants to collaborate.  Obviously, these are broad statements, but perhaps we need to get the two groups together so each learns from one another.

Vic Nishi is right.  I never stated that collaboration tools fail to provide value, nor did I say that corporate culture and leadership was not critical to the success of deploying a collaborative solution.  Rather, I believe that even with a clear understanding of the benefits that arise from using collaborative tools and with senior management support and leadership, individuals aren’t leaving the familiarity and convenience of what they already know to embrace something new because they are too busy, the tools they already have work well enough for them, and they don’t think about collaboration or have the time to learn how to use it.  

Vic couldn’t have said it better, "We need to find ways to provide users with collaborative benefits when they need it, where they need it, within the context of the task that they are working on, and as part of the technological environment in which they are already familiar."

So, who wants to jump on the bandwagon to make collaboration as familiar and easy to understand and use as milk?  Isn’t time we in the industry paved the way to making the technologies something ALL users value and want.  If you wish to explore this idea further, send me an email at AnnEaron@aol.com.

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