Are you rather sceptical about the benefits of all these new fangled business collaboration tools, such as video conferencing, document sharing and in-house, business-oriented social media platforms? Perhaps you need to revise your opinions. A study, produced by Forbes Magazine and Cisco (admittedly a major provider of collaboration technologies) strongly suggests those organisation that have really embraced these technologies are reaping significant benefits - and not just internal efficiency gains.
The Forbes Insights study ‘Collaborating in the Cloud’ says: “Companies today are taking more steps to enable an ever more intimate degree of collaboration between internal groups as far-ranging as finance, R&D, supply chain, production, marketing, logistics and IT.” Significantly it adds: “Moreover, the most advanced among these are now pursuing competitive advantage beyond enterprise borders, seeking closer collaboration with customers, suppliers and other external groups.”
Increasingly these collaboration tools are being provided ‘from the cloud’. The report says that cloud computing “is surfacing as the medium most capable of successfully managing the revolution: quickly, efficiently, and in ways that can manifest dramatic benefits.”
With cloud-based implementations the software tools supporting collaboration are not owned by the user organisation and implemented on the user’s computing systems. Instead they are hosted on centralised servers and delivered as a service. This means that the user organisation does not have to make any upfront capital investment, worry about scaling the implementation as needs grow, or about having the capacity to handle peak demand.
Sixty-four percent of respondents to The Forbes Insights study said that cloud-based collaboration tools were accelerating business results. For those that the survey identified as ‘leaders’ - those organisations defined as making extensive use of at least 10 collaboration tools - in the adoption of these technologies, the figure rose to 82%.
One important fact to emerge from the survey was that “greater experience with cloud-based collaboration tools and strategies can lead to a significantly more positive view of their value.” Leaders consistently had a much more positive view of the benefits of the collaboration tools than those less committed to the technologies.
Ninety percent of leaders reported that the tools were enabling greater collaboration with customers and enabling new products and services. Eighty-four percent said they enabled greater collaboration with suppliers and partners.
The survey also highlighted the importance of cloud-based collaboration tools to sales and marketing. Respondents classified as leaders in the adoption of these tools said that sales and marketing were the main influencers in steering their adoption.
When one survey respondent, John Jackson, VP for global infrastructure with audio technology company D+M Global (owner of the Denon and Marantz brands among others), was asked “What advantages do you see from advanced collaboration tools?” he responded by saying: “There are so many it’s difficult to know where to start.”
The report included a comprehensive list of functions seen as being components of a comprehensive collaboration system:
• Incorporate video into meetings
• Enable meetings with remote participants and virtual teams
• Create internal communities and team workspaces
• Create flexible work areas/office space
• Collaborate with external organisations
• Consolidate communications infrastructure
• Extend telephony with video for visual communication and conferencing
• Access collaboration tools within business applications
• Enable mobile workers with access to collaboration capabilities “as if in the office”
• Enable remote workers with access to collaboration capabilities “as if in the office”
• Enable any device (“bring your own device” or BYOD)
• Locate and access remote experts in real time
• Enable desktop virtualisation (software resides on a remote server rather than the local device)
• Deliver large-scale visual communications and online training
• Provide multichannel customer service
• Monitor social media
Overwhelmingly the tide is shifting to collaboration tools in the cloud and with great results. Have you begun to use any of the aforementioned tools in unique and collaborative ways? If not, perhaps now is the time to dip your toe in the water.
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