What’s at Stake with Owning Collaboration (IT Toolbox Blogs)

My last post introduced a notion you may not associate with collaboration – ownership. In the world of hardware, ownership is clear with a physical asset and an amortization timetable. The world of software puts this on a slippery slope where there are models both for outright ownership and lease-based subscription. As the cloud gains dominance, the latter takes hold, especially as organizations move to a more virtualized environment. Where ownership once was a point of pride and a marker of control over what’s important to the business, these same virtues can become a liability rather than an asset.

Today, ownership matters less to IT, and in many cases this is in fact the desired state. As resources keep scaling back, IT comes up against limits where keeping pace with technology isn’t feasible, and there simply are better ways to add value. Whether concerned with job security or just having a more manageable workload, IT will happily pass up this type of control. This may be a welcome development, but it also creates a void, or even a power vacuum.

Who should own collaboration?

When it comes to collaboration – and by extension UC – there certainly are ownership avenues for IT, depending on being both willing and able. Failing that, however, all bets are off, especially with cloud- based options where there are numerous paths to UC. The fluid nature of collaboration makes this a bit of a Wild West scenario, since nobody starts out owning it, and anyone can use it.

For most businesses, this will be unchartered territory, and my focus in this series is to help businesses recognize the various scenarios, as well as possible strategies to mitigate the associated risks. Given the many forms collaboration can take, by taking a passive approach and leaving this to others, IT could well create a situation that makes a few people more productive at the expense of a higher performing organization.

At the heart of this issue is the fact that when left to their own devices, workers will use the collaboration applications that make them most productive. What makes UC different – especially UCaaS and other cloud-based variants – is the ability for employees to access applications on their own without going through IT. Since IT pays for the services provided to employees, they have the right to control access. However, many UC applications can be accessed by employees directly from the cloud at no cost, and that creates a major disconnect with IT.

The collaboration scenario nobody wants

This can lead to a Tower of Babel scenario where everyone does their own thing, but ultimately nobody can communicate with each other. Personal productivity may well improve, but there’s no additive benefit for the organization. The disconnect means that IT cannot impose best practices and standardized applications to get all employees on the same page with UC. Furthermore, it becomes difficult for IT to convey the benefits of UC so employees see the upside of working this way – not just in terms of richer collaboration, but also how UC applications work better than the consumer-grade applications they’re using from the public Internet.

Ultimately, ownership with collaboration will fall to those who are best able to measure it and substantiate the business value. My last post addressed three assumptions about conventional forms of ownership, and as this series continues, I’ll examine the business implications. As those assumptions indicated, today’s cloud world fundamentally challenges both who can provide collaboration technologies, along with who is in the best position to own it. Part of the challenge around ownership is that the terms has two meanings. 

First is the literal – conventional – meaning where ownership resides with the party paying for the technology. However, there is also the more colloquial meaning where “owning” the technology has more to do with who knows best how to access it, manage it, measure it, and use it. When so many collaboration applications are free, or can be paid for directly by a line of business, this definition of ownership carries a lot of weight, especially with today’s tech-savvy digital natives.

Over the next three posts, I’m going to assess the implications for three stakeholders most invested in collaboration – IT, employees and LOBs, and the channel. Each has a distinct set of needs around collaboration technology, and with the rules seemingly changing in real time, there is a lot in play. To be fair, this isn’t a winner-take-all scenario where only one stakeholder owns collaboration, and in fact, the best outcome will be a shared one where these parties take a collaborative approach in writing a new set of rules that work in 2017.


About the Author

JonJon 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 JAA’s Analyst Blog and on Twitter.

VoIP; collaboration; collaboration ownership

Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ February 27, 2017 at 05:12PM