June 30, 2013

Keys to Successful Employee Collaboration Initiatives

James Giese UWEBC Communications Director

halvorson“There’s been a fundamental change in the way the world works. With Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the challenge of disparate platforms—voice, data, and video—people want to be able to communicate and move seamlessly between various devices,” says Jason Owens, Manager IT Governance and Information Security, CDW Managed Services.

UWEBC member company CDW has recently been working on an initiative that they call “Cloud Collaboration.” Cloud Collaboration leverages various communications—VoIP, conferencing, IM, file sharing or blogs—to provide organizations the ability to more readily collaborate.

UWEBC discussed the keys to the successful implementation of employee collaboration communications with Owens and Michael Waisbrot, Senior Manager, Managed Services, CDW.

 “The cloud collaboration initiative allows IT to optimize technology, achieve return on investment more readily, and maintain competitive advantage,” said Waisbrot.

“People want to make decisions in real time. Effective employee collaboration can greatly increase productivity, and companies are unifying their communications to improve employee collaboration,” said Waisbrot, “Offering collaborative communication tools via the cloud allows organizations to activate these solutions quickly.”

Enterprise collaboration has been in place for more than twenty years in terms of team rooms and communication sharing. However, its impact on organizations has, in most cases, not justified the investment in it. The emergence of cloud-enabled collaboration holds considerable promise. However, there are several challenges/pitfalls that companies need to consider whem implementing a cloud collaboration initiative:

The work environment has changed.

There are now more geographically diverse employees and there are more mobile devices, and these trends are changing the nature of knowledge work.

There has been a massive acceleration of in terms of business decisions being made. But business decision making is still poorly supported in the enterprise. Organizations should understand how collaborative communications will benefit them and seek to leverage those advantages.

“The BYOD trend has exploded, sending a wave of personal devices into the workplace,” said Owens, “End users are demanding organizational access on personal devices—regardless of time, place or platform.” Connecting communications via the cloud offers a solution to these demands.

Getting maximum impact from cloud collaboration.

A key to getting the most impact from cloud collaboration is to understand your workforce and their workflows. Will the proposed collaboration solution be better than the current solution? Before a technology is implemented, an organization needs to have a culture that supports communication and collaboration.

For example, social business/collaborative systems such as Yammer enable employees to have conversations, post project status updates, form groups, and share documents; but these systems are only the tools for communication that should already be occurring.

Understand how employees work.

In most cases, it is much better to observe how people work and what tools they use, and then provide them with the necessary tools and support. Rolling out a collaboration platform without observing how people work is a formula for failure. Collaboration can’t be mandatory. Potential benefits of an enterprise collaboration platform should be aligned with individual needs as well as corporate ones. Self-provisioning and BYOD is great for productivity. No one knows better what they need for work than individual employees. The advantage of a cloud collaborative system is that enterprise collaborative tools can be more efficient than individual tools.

Ensuring adoption and avoiding abandonment.

How do you ensure that a cloud collaboration initiative will be adopted? It is easy to explain from the perspective of the workers. Are they using it to share ideas and ask questions? How does it fit into their current methods of getting work done? It is better to ask these questions before implementation. Enterprise collaboration platforms need to be aligned with the organization’s strategic goals at both the corporate and business-unit levels to be successful.

The initiative should be designed to simplify management—making staff messages available through one interface, all accessible on one device in real time.

Waisbrot said that cloud collaboration is benefical not only for large global organizations but also in enterprises with 500 to 1,000 employees, since these smaller enterprises often lack the necessary on-premise IT resources to optimize technology solutions.

“A cloud-based, unified communications solution offers the flexibility of the cloud, freeing up IT staff,” said Waisbrot. Making the solutions cloud-based shifts the burden of management to an external service provider.  “It is faster and easier to scale capacity and availability with centralized administration, cloud-based models,”  Waisbrot added.

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