Those of you familiar with Tahoe Partners know that we are a Microsoft Business Critical SharePoint Partner, with a focus on delivering solutions that change the way people engage and collaborate. With that disclaimer made: I recently had the pleasure of participating in an informal roundtable discussion comprised of business and IT professionals, addressing the benefits and challenges of today’s collaboration environment – both within and outside of the workplace.
As you would expect, consensus was quickly reached on several key points:
- Collaboration (defined as tools, collaboration platforms and line-of-business solutions) has become a core IT portfolio asset of most large organizations
- Mobility and cloud-based deployments, as they relate to collaboration, are gaining significant momentum and will become commonplace in the near future
- Organizations are now exploring the integration of enterprise social solutions with their collaborative platforms, as well as their other enterprise application solutions
Having established that baseline, we explored the good, the bad and the ugly of today’s collaboration environment and the expectations of its user-community. Over the course of the discussion, we touched on everything from organizational culture to business process, user-expectations to structured systems versus collaboration solutions, and beyond. After much healthy debate, we focused on two primary themes regarding collaboration – User Experience, emphasized by the business-centric participants, and Data Reliability, driven by the IT participants.
User Experience – deploying collaborative solutions that match the expectations of the user community. That is, implementing business-centric solutions that match the power and simplicity of the technologies that today’s workforce uses in their everyday lives. People will adopt solutions that they enjoy – adoption drives engagement, and engagement drives innovation and productivity.
Data Reliability – providing (and managing) relevant, robust data within the context of the collaborative solution. While user experience is the catalyst for adoption, confidence in the information available is the cornerstone for producing real value with the collaborative solution. An ever increasing amount (and variety) of information is now made available across the extended enterprise. Structured (and protected) data is exposed and intermingled with unstructured data. Users hold more power than ever to interpret, combine, transform and communicate this data – ultimately turning it into information that enables the workforce, drives decisions, and fosters productivity and innovation.
While both areas present immediate challenges, and both are critical elements in the deployment of highly successful collaboration environments, Data Reliability was identified as the area that gave everyone the most heartburn.
Most organizations are thoughtful (if not diligent) in their use of security and infrastructure management solutions, simply because these tools are part of the everyday responsibilities of their IT organizations. However, these same companies found it much more difficult to successfully implement solutions and functions driven by, and dependent upon, continuous execution and management by their respective business communities. These types of solutions include governance automation and compliance functions (amongst others) provided by industry leaders such as AvePoint. To quote one participant, “internal business communities do not yet associate these types of responsibilities with their collaborative platforms.”
The reasons given and agreed upon by participants in this situation included:
- Business driven collaboration strategies are not clearly defined
- Business ownership and accountability for collaborative platforms, associated solutions and data are not clearly defined
- Governance of the data, business processes and user access is not clearly defined
- Compliance is not appropriately or effectively managed and reported
While the group did not reach a resolution on these issues (perhaps a bit out of scope for one evening’s discussion), some core insights emerged:
- Participants coalesced around a common understanding of the various challenges associated with deploying effective collaboration solutions
- They realized that their challenges and concerns were not unique to them but common across organizations
- Collaborative solutions can provide greater access to and extend the reach of data and information across the enterprise. However, access to the structured/ unstructured data can cause real issues if not appropriately managed
- Collaborative platforms allow for an effective avenue to more easily change and adapt business processes outside the norm of their existing enterprise applications
- IT can provide the enabling technology for establishing the collaborative environment, but the business community must own and drive accountability and business benefit
Personally, I couldn’t be more excited about the outcome of these discussions. Tahoe’s focus as an organization is to change the way people engage and collaborate. The challenges identified are truly the strengths of our services, and we’re looking forward to a busy 2014!