Despite the Hype, Collaboration Doesn't Begin or End with UC

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.

These days, the word of the business day is “collaboration.” With the number of globally dispersed teams growing by the week, it’s increasingly important to keep them connected, ensuring they can work together on projects and processes without losing time, or information. But while many vendors are touting real-time and unified communications as a way to help employees collaborate, companies shouldn’t forget that asynchronous collaboration tools are often the best for supporting knowledge workers in the information age.

Let’s face it—most work gets done offline, not on. Communication is necessary for collaboration, but communication is not collaboration, per se. Some people spend the majority of their time in meetings (God bless them), but the majority of knowledge workers toil alone within various productivity and business applications, then meet with their colleagues periodically to discuss the project(s) at hand. So a real collaboration application must support that mode of work, rather than simply promote real-time, or instant, communications.

Collaboration isn’t easy. It requires that employees be able to share and work on projects independently as needed, then search for, share and access the associated documentation into the future. It also requires that different departments interact, even if they’re geographically and organizationally disparate; knowledge workers must be able to get the problems they’re working on into the workflows of other knowledge workers in the organization. But because colleagues are working on their own projects, getting input from them in a timely manner requires automated, process-centric persistence.

Because people store information in ways that are meaningful to them, rather than to the rest of the organization, finding information can be extremely difficult—even when using social networking tools, which, for all their value, can be time-consuming and inefficient (co-workers may have access to information, but be unwilling or unable to divulge it, for instance). Aligning business process management (BPM) is challenging in a large organization with a single office; throw additional offices in other regions into the mix, and alignment can become highly inefficient as well. And when employees leave an organization, the information in their heads goes with them; the data stored on their PC hard drive is usually erased. As a result, employees end up recreating information again and again.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to enable collaboration is through a software platform that can ease BPM alignment, information search and retrieval, workflow and project management, document and content management, and communication with other departments, as well as constituents outside the organization. The software should also contain auditing capabilities to see whether someone is responding to requests, and rights management to lock down sensitive material and access.

For more on this topic, please join me for a Webinar Wednesday January 16. We’ll discuss the collaboration challenges facing enterprises today, and the best technologies to help overcome them, then wrap up with best-practices recommendations for selecting a collaboration solution that’s right for your organization.

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