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Over the course
of this five-part series, I’ve talked about the value of collaboration for
making enterprises more successful and the role played by communications
technologies to make this possible. Conversely, I’ve also looked at the
challenges facing IT to fully leverage today’s collaboration solutions along
with how the dynamics of enterprises act as inhibitors against these
The nature of
large enterprises and collaboration technologies are each complex in their own
ways, and IT must manage both, and that brings us to the final post in my
Collaboration Insights series. Vendors offering collaboration solutions are
really just one piece of the puzzle that IT needs to pull together into an
On a broader
scale, IT has to sell the virtues of collaboration across the organization. Not
only does management need to be sold on the business case, but employees need
to buy into the personal productivity benefits, plus line of business managers
need to buy into this as a better way to drive team-based results.
understand how daunting this can be, consider present day realities. I could
write many posts along this track, but will touch on one common example here –
Shadow IT. Despite best intentions to serve the overall needs of the
enterprise, IT often runs up against gaps that simply cannot be filled, either
at all or on a timely basis. These are the conditions that give rise to Shadow
IT, and while this can lead to effective solutions, they don’t always align
well with enterprise-wide priorities such as collaboration.
certainly is merit for innovation coming from anywhere inside the organization,
Shadow IT initiatives within a specific department or business unit can
undermine IT’s efforts to serve the business as a whole. Rather than leave this
unchecked, IT can take a more inclusive approach to welcome these forms of
innovation and look for opportunities to make them part of an enterprise-wide
The key here is
to clarify that Shadow IT projects are condoned, but that IT wants to be
informed throughout the process. This approach actually empowers both parties;
namely validating Shadow IT as a conduit for innovation, and positioning
enterprise IT as being more engaging and less controlling.
puts IT in the role of a leader rather than a follower, making it easier to
step up and own collaboration. Strategically, IT is in the best position to do
this, since collaboration should be a horizontal solution for everyone, not
just a specific department or line of business. My last post touched on this in terms of making collaboration strategic,
and I’ll now extend that for IT to have a vision to drive this strategy.
Creating a collaboration vision
By nature, each LOB has its own agenda and corporate targets
to achieve. Regardless of how independent LOBs may be, there will always be a
need to work together – to collaborate – with a common objective. Just like how
employees must work together, things become more challenging when the numbers
grow. Two LOBs may not require much help, but when several LOBs must pool
resources, ideas, data, etc., they really need a common platform. This scenario
goes well beyond what Shadow IT can address, and serves as a prime example of
the enterprise-wide collaboration vision that IT needs to both create and own.
The real value-add here comes from IT showing how this
vision makes it easier for LOBs to collaborate, as well as for individual
employees. While LOBs need to operate independently, they must also see how the
whole is greater than the sum of its parts for making the business more
successful. This is the power of seamless collaboration, where the platform is
easy for everyone to use and does not get in the way of achieving shared
For IT to sell this vision convincingly, they need to choose
collaboration technology partners that have the same vision and understand how
to support it. That’s where IT has some of homework to
do, but when that piece is covered, IT will be empowered, knowing that they can
deliver this capability enterprise-wide.
Not only does this bring LOBs closer together, building
consensus on how best to collaborate – without threatening their internal
workings – but it diminishes the need for Shadow IT initiatives that conflict
with or undermine collaboration solutions. That’s a winning approach for IT to
own collaboration and play a more strategic role as the business comes to rely
more on technology-driven trends to drive growth.
J Arnold & Associates is an Independent Technology Research and Analyst, helping businesses understand the strategic value of communications technology as they adapt to the digital transformation of work
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