I write often about collaboration, and a common theme is how broadly this term is defined. This presents real challenges for decision makers as they try to determine its business value along with what form the underlying technology should take. When businesses make the transition from VoIP to Unified Collaboration, the expectations become more strategic, and the rationale needs to be more carefully considered. Rather than looking to reduce telephony costs with VoIP, UC seeks to impact the behavior of employees, especially for getting them to work more frequently and more productively in teams.
This post starts a new series where I’m going to examine the relationship – the connection, so to speak – between the concept of “being connected” and collaboration. Whatever form collaboration takes in your business, you can choose to evaluate its merits purely on a functional level, or more broadly in terms of how it enables other things. We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly connected by technology, and there really is much more to collaboration than simply making it easier for employees to communicate with each other.
The challenges of being connected
When we talk about being connected, it’s usually about person-to-person, and on that level, we’re almost saturated. If anything, we’re over-connected, and of course, that’s a big part of the problem collaboration is trying to address. We have too many emails, phone calls, texts, meeting requests, etc., and too much time is spent simply managing all of this instead of getting actual work done. Choice is not always a great thing, and most employees lack the tech savvy and/or discipline to properly manage all their inboxes.
If that wasn’t enough, the scope of being connected increases exponentially when smart endpoints enter the picture. This takes us into the realm of person-to-machine or machine-to-machine, a space that has been rapidly advancing on its own for many years. With the cloud, these worlds are now overlapping, and this takes connectedness to an entirely new level. Industry leaders like Cisco talk about how only 1% of endpoints are connected, and Gartner projects there to be 21 billion connected devices by 2020. Whatever numbers you care to use, we’re at the early stages of a massive increase for the scale of connecting people and endpoints via the cloud.
This, of course, takes into the broader discussion about IoT – Internet of Things – and that will be further addressed in a follow-on series. For this current series, the main point is that IoT greatly expands what it means to be connected, and that has implications for how collaboration provides business value. Over the next few posts, I’m going to cover five distinct aspects of being connected, and like a series of concentric circles, this will build out from a one-to-one scale to wider applications. Briefly, they are outlined below.
Connected people: this is the most fundamental layer, where person-to-person communication is the basis for any form of collaboration. In time, many of the steps related to collaboration will become automated, but for now UC will only have nominal value if it cannot address this effectively.
Connected teams: when moving on from everyday personal communication to collaboration, the needs shift to group-based work, where the demands for being connected are more complex. This is where UC really starts to earn its keep, especially in terms of providing multiple ways for teams to connect and engage.
Connected organizations: at this level, being connected has more to do with functions, departments, branch sites, external partners, etc. Personal communication is still important, but the value of collaboration here takes place at an organizational level.
Connected customers: when organizations are effectively connected – both internally and with other related organizations – the value of doing so rises to another level by connecting all this to customers. A well-connected organization is far better able to understand and meet the needs of today’s connected customers than one driven by silos.
Connected world: adding all this together, there’s a higher order of connectedness, especially as people and organizations work on a global basis. Technology is the real driver, especially the cloud, and this is where both IoT and collaboration solutions have a lot to do with making global connectedness relevant back through the above circles, right down to each of us as individuals.
What to expect next
For each of these, I’ll explain what being connected means in the context of collaboration, and how this strengthens the business case for UC. My intention is for decision-makers to look beyond the surface level benefits of UC, as there’s a bigger picture worth considering. These levels of connectedness may be difficult to quantify and/or monetize, but they provide business value in other ways.
As I often note, there’s a payoff for UC that is outside the world of IT, and the importance of that will be driven by executive management or owners. If being connected across these layers aligns with their vision for the business, then the namesake of this article will be validated, in which case, your push for UC will very likely succeed.
About the Author
Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and strategy consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario. The consultancy’s primary focus is providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel regarding IP communications and disruptive technologies. You can follow Jon’s everyday insights on his influential Analyst 2.0 blog and on Twitter.
Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ June 30, 2016 at 06:12PM