Collaboration technology has maximum impact when it addresses your top business priorities. Below are eight of the most common areas where collaboration solutions -- like video and web conferencing, customer care, social software, unified communications, messaging and mobile applications -- are delivering results.
1. Enable Virtual Teams
Today's virtual teams are often ad hoc and fluid in nature, with groups coming together to complete a project and then disbanding as quickly as they formed. Before the advent of collaborative technologies, these individuals could not have found each other easily and might not even have known the others existed. But with new tools, they can tap pockets of knowledge instantly. Teams may meet every day for two weeks and then never again. Or they may meet once a month for six months, collaborating in communities and forums between those sessions.
2. Increase Mobile Workforce Productivity
Work has become what you do, not where you go. Over the next five years, most industries will move away from a location-centric work environment to a dispersed mobile world where employees are situated in the locations where they work best. How do you maximize the productivity of mobile workers while controlling costs and ensuring security? It's a tall order that requires new ways of thinking about how you provide corporate IT services.
3. Improve Organizational Communication and Alignment
Remember when a memo was all you needed to reach the people in your organization? This one-size-fits-all approach is long gone. Leaders and managers must use all available channels to reach their increasingly dispersed workforce. Information spreads fast through online communities and social networks. This instantaneous messaging can work for or against you. You need to communicate core business objectives and rapidly changing information, yet avoid the costly mistakes of overlooking channels of communication or using the wrong method at the wrong time.
4. Expand Into New Markets
Collaboration presents the opportunity to find and engage new customers around the world. Virtual, video, mobile and social technologies open up entirely new market segments previously out of reach. Businesses that once depended on physical distribution can reach new or broader audiences.
5. Enhance Customer Interactions
Every customer interaction is a chance to enhance or hurt your brand. With loyalty a fickle commodity, businesses must keep the conversation fresh while analyzing what's being said in the most influential communities. The way you handle customer interactions is more critical than ever to the future of your organization. Collaboration allows customer-service representatives to work from anywhere. And social media monitoring helps companies listen to what customers are saying and respond quickly to their feedback.
6. Enhance Green Operations
Large enterprises face extreme pressure to operate in more sustainable ways. With energy costs on the rise, regulatory requirements increasing and concern for the planet ranking high among consumers' priorities, a green strategy is essential. Companies are judged every day on their commitment to protect the environment, and collaboration solutions offer a path to achieve the goal. Plus, it's the right thing to do.
7. Increase Intercompany Collaboration
In a highly connected marketplace, businesses need to collaborate externally with partners, suppliers, vendors, investors and customers. A manufacturer may source materials from a partner in one country, assemble products in another country and sell to buyers in yet another. Each part of the supply chain requires communication between companies. The key is to enable them with the same tools that you have inside your own company.
8. Transform Your Industry
Collaboration pioneers already have made radical improvements across all kinds of industries by reinventing how business gets done. Highly personalized banking, telemedicine, distance learning and distributed research and development are just a few examples of what's possible today. Like the Internet before it, collaboration has the potential to transform every industry. It's a question of who gets there first.
Adapted from The Collaboration Imperative by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese. Published by Cisco Systems.