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Transforming Collaboration through Strategy and Architecture...the white paper

Cisco Employee

For that last year, I've been spending a lot of time talking about Cisco Services' approach to developing holistic collaboration strategies and architectures.  Overall, the conversations have been great, filled with a lot of positive feedback.  So the thought occured to me that I should probably spend some time taking my presentation and the accompanying talking points and organize them into a white paper that could be shared with whoever was interested in reading about the topic.

I gathered up my various presentations and notes, set aside some signifcant blocks of time in my calendar and dedicated myself to completing the paper - which I eventually did over the course of a few long days (and some even longer nights).  After a couple rounds of internal peer review, I had my completed draft.

So off to marketing I went with hopes of having a polished, published version available to share with the world in just a matter of weeks.  Marketing's response:  "content looks great, we'll look to have this go through the publishing process in time for November."

"November?!", I said,  Wow, that was a reality check in Cisco publishing logistics I was not expecting.

I'm working some angles to see if we can get my paper moved up in the schedule, but needless to say I am looking at months, not weeks, before it gets published.  So while the world anxiously awaits, I figured I would provide a small preview.

One of the first things I discuss when speaking about collaboration is why it's different than other technology initiatives.  By focusing on the considerations that an organization must account for when evaluating collaboration initiatives, it creates an interactive dialogue that allows stakeholder from Business and IT to realize that they must both play an active role if they are going to develop a successful collaboration strategy.

If you're interested in the following passage from the paper, you'll most likely also be interesting in reading about why we consider a holistic architecture approach to be critical to any collaborative analysis and the steps we feel are crucial to developing a collaboration strategy which is both business AND technology relevant.  Enjoy:

Considerations for Collaboration

As a domain, Collaboration is unique in its potential to impact every employee, business partner and customer.  While recent advances in collaborative technologies have brought an increased awareness and focus to the discipline, it is important to recognize that the process of collaboration already exists within every enterprise, large and small.  Collaboration has been occurring long before personal computers, smartphones and video solutions entered the workplace.   However, today’s environment is providing an extraordinary opportunity to reevaluate and transform the ways in which enterprises collaborate.

Collaboration is much more than just technology.  Collaboration is more than a technical architecture, a solution, or product—it’s the transformational journey and experience that integrates people, processes, and technology.  Collaboration is the catalyst for evolving from simply using technology to re-thinking business; changing process; and adapting culture.  As a result, holistic collaboration strategy and architecture must account for and address not only the technology, but how solutions impact an organization’s process and culture.

Successful collaboration cannot be viewed as a ‘One Size Fits All’ proposition.  It becomes critical to evaluate and understand both internal (e.g., Executives, Sales, Knowledge Workers, etc.) and external (e.g., Customers, Suppliers, Vendors, etc.) roles in order to develop strategies and architectural solutions which meet those unique communication / collaboration requirements.  For example, a highly mobile sales force will likely have a very different collaboration profile than your typical desk-bound knowledge workers.  Additionally, understanding the complexities within a given industry vertical must also be considered.  For instance, collaborative solutions effective within Media and Entertainment enterprises may have minimal, if any, applicability within the heavily regulated world of Financial Services.

User adoption is the true indicator of collaboration success.  Unlike other technology based initiatives, simply deploying a collaboration solution does not signal success.  Successful collaboration relies on the ‘network effect’ which states that a product or service’s value increases as more people use it.  Before a collaboration initiative can deliver any value it must have active participants – the more people using, the more potential value.  However, without a clear alignment to business imperatives / objectives, collaborative technologies risk becoming isolated islands of functionally.  The result: deployed capabilities struggle to gain traction and adoption within the organization; anticipated benefits fall short of expectations; increased operational complexity and overhead for IT organizations.

****** Background Information about the  Collaboration Architecture Blog Series ******

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