What to Expect
By J. Scott Tapp
March 29, 2010
A major challenge in successful collaboration is the consumerization of IT and the ever-increasing expectations of employees when it comes to the technology they use at work. A solid understanding of those expectations is the first thing a company should look for in a provider of managed collaboration services.
Why? Because no matter how elegantly constructed the collaboration system your provider builds, it won't deliver the goods unless your users want to use it. Sure, there are any number of systems integrators who can string together collaboration applications and make them available to your employees-but making them available and making them as easy to use as a stapler or a tape dispenser are two entirely different things.
Simply put, successful collaboration providers approach their work from the user's point of view.
A Complex Landscape, A Unified System
There are eight key application areas that make up the business collaboration landscape today. Four are considered asynchronous communication: M & Presence, Team Workspace, eMail & Calendaring, and Community and Social Software. Four are in the synchronous communication category-Audio, Video & Web Conferencing, and Large Meetings & Events. Unfortunately, these fall into different silos within large organizations. And for employees, they look different, they work different and support comes from different places in the organization.
Providers are available who will host certain collaboration applications, but the end result is a point solution that doesn't address the real challenge. The perfect managed services provider is someone who can manage the integration of current and future collaboration applications into a unified system. For example, you might find someone who can implement a hosted team workspace system for your enterprise, but what about the tie between hosted team workspaces and social software? How do you integrate instant messaging with video conferencing? Does your vendor demonstrate the ability to handle 1 to n, integrating the full picture of collaboration as it exists today and as it becomes richer in the future?
A Respect for Existing Investments
In selecting a managed services provider for collaboration, you should also look for someone who won't throw the baby out with the bathwater-who respects your existing investments and can make use of what you already have through flexible deployment models that suit your needs. Here are some other key characteristics to look for when choosing a managed services provider that is right for you:
- An ability to stay on top of multiple products and multiple upgrade cycles while keeping a cohesive collaboration system for the user. The provider should manage multiple vendor upgrade cycles with ease and ensure updates don't break existing links.
- The skills to create a standardized platform that is future-proof-able to accommodate new technologies as they become available. Your vendor should keep abreast of new trends-the impact of Forceware, for example, high-definition video conferencing, and social software inside the enterprise-and advise you on how to navigate them all successfully.
- Techniques that encourage user adoption of the collaboration system. For example, the vendor should understand each employee's experience with collaboration tools and build tutorial materials accordingly.
Indeed, a collaboration system should be easy to use in every aspect, and that includes making it easy for employees to find tutorials easily as they learn to use the system. "How do I get my people to actually use the stuff?" Let that be your first question to a potential managed services provider-and then watch your productivity increase with an innovative collaboration system that works the way your people want it to.
J. Scott Tapp
Executive VP, Sales and Marketing