Trends in Collaboration Solution Success

Collaboration is a specific part of business and public sector operations, not just a new name for telephony. These trends are pointing the way towards a new and different future.

Seems that lots of vendors are using (or stretching) the term “collaboration” to describe their products. Here are a few that have recently been on my radar: SMART Technologies, IBM and the ET Group.

SMART got my attention with their Interactive Collaboration Assessment (ICA) tool. Any enterprise can use this tool to answer a series of questions about the current status of their collaboration technology investments, methods, culture and results. In return for the time spent to take the ICA, the participants get a “self-assessment” within the total population of ICA responses, providing immediate feedback on a collaboration effectiveness scale. This ICA tool is available to any business on-demand here.

SMART has a report available on its website about the results from over 1,500 enterprises that have used the ICA tool. I got pretty interested in the report and had several meetings with SMART on the topic. My enthusiasm must have been obvious, since SMART Technologies then retained me (my full disclosure) to prepare a white paper, “Effective Collaboration Multiplies Results,” about ICA and the reported results.

The data are compelling. While the customers do not report the actual dollar amounts of the returns on their investments, they do report on whether their investments in collaboration technologies met, exceeded or fell short of their expectations. They also report on how the returns compare to other investment options in their firms – better, about the same or lower. Worth a look.

IBM got on my radar with their availability announcement for IBM Connections 5, their social software for business product suite. According to an April 2014 press release, Connections leads in enterprise social software market share, as that market grew by 28% from 2012 to 2013 to $1.2 billion. IBM Connections also ranks in the Leaders quadrant in the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace and in the Forrester Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms.

The key point from my perspective is that IBM has, essentially, merged its Sametime Unified Communications and Collaboration product line into the IBM Connections suite. At IBM Connect 2014, their annual January customer event, the Sametime capabilities became Connections Chat and Connections Meetings. While these products will interoperate with PBXs and the telephone network, it seems pretty clear that IBM wants communication functions included in its collaboration suite rather than trying to replace legacy PBX systems.

Of course, IBM has to compete with the other leaders in this market, including Jive, Microsoft, and Zimbra, but IBM Connections is an increasingly rich platform on which enterprises can organize work, information and communications for their employees and external partners, suppliers and customers.

ET Group may not be familiar, but this Canadian firm is making a name for itself by creating collaboration ecosystems for clients. ET Group is a channel partner of SMART, Cisco and other collaboration technology suppliers, but is going beyond the basic role of an audio-video integrator (AVI) that resells video room system equipment. ET Group is part of the new breed of integrators that brings their clients advice on how to create significant value and change using collaborative methods and cultures, in combination with technologies.

As part of a recent Cisco Workplace Webinar Series, ET Group described how it helps customers match work environments to specific work categories (focus, collaboration, socializing and learning). Surprisingly, the benefits came in two dimensions:

• First, the benefits of increased collaboration effectiveness as described in the SMART Technologies data (see above).
• Second, the very measurable savings in real estate space. ET Group contrasts the traditional “floor plate” of one cubicle per employee with three other designs matched to patterns of work categories, collaboration requirements and mobility. In the extreme case, the “floor plate” supports almost three times as many employees — i.e. reduces space requirements per employee by about 67%.

This creates a very attractive combination of tangible space savings and high potential for gains in business efficiency and profitability.

This is an example of the role that systems integrators can and will play in the future of Unified Communications and Collaboration, as noted here in prior posts.

Collaboration is a specific part of business and public sector operations, not just a new name for telephony. These trends are pointing the way towards a new and different future.

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