Enterprises struggle with collaboration tools

Business Activity Monitoring or BAM technology can warn of impending problems and enable enterprises to take remedial action immediately, explains Chris Brakel, product manager, eBusiness, Microsoft Canada.

While collaboration and communication technologies are widely acknowledged to be beneficial within the enterprise, surprisingly, less than half of Canadian and US organizations have actually developed a strategy that they're happy with.

The findings stem from a recent survey conducted by Coleman Parkes where CIOs and IT directors across North America and Europe were polled on their companies' current digital collaboration strategies, in other words, how they've defined the use of unifying technologies to access data and people across the enterprise.

Forty-nine per cent of Canadian and 45 per cent of U.S. companies reported being currently satisfied with the impact of their collaboration and communication tools.

Traditional tools -- e-mail, Web portals, video conferencing -- are relatively well known and accepted within the enterprise, but not so for emerging unified communication methods, like enterprise search (archiving and accessing content across the enterprise) and presence (communicating with an individual via a single identity that's device independent).

Although communication habits have quite successfully influenced slight variances in technology, one barrier to adoption of digital collaboration is the fact that people's habits have yet to morph to work with new technology, said Jeff Kempiners, chief technology officer with Toronto-based IT consultancy firm Avanade Canada.

"We have not yet evolved our habits to fit the next generation of technology," he said, adding that would include online whiteboards, workspace-based collaborative platforms, and real-time document repositories.

Kempiners notes that such tools can and do exist today, but education around the technology is sorely lacking.

However, that can change, he said, as long as the "two forces conspiring against us" are overcome.

First, changing communication habits will require the user to overcome that initial period of discomfort. Second, new features in a digital collaborative environment must be compelling enough for the user to want to overcome that learning curve.

Other challenges to adoption are the perception of exorbitant prices, and that tools are so "forward and advanced" that they're unattainable, he said. "There is definitely a lack of understanding as to what some of the new and exciting features are and what they can bring to the business."

If there is interest in digital collaborative tools, a company should bite the price bullet and invest in tools it knows it can manage and trust. Otherwise users will seek tools that are unsecured and unsanctioned by the enterprise, said Cheryl McKinnon, director for collaborative content management with Waterloo, Ont.-based Open Text Corp., a content management solutions provider.

"These are the sort of things that bring risk to the organization because we don't know what kind of holes they're leaving in the corporate network."

And as with many new corporate initiatives, proponents almost always encounter internal pushback. "There's always a journey management component in that people fear change," said Kempiners.

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