If you still think work is a place you go, rather than something you do, it’s a sure sign you’re getting on in years. These days, with the right kind of attitude, aided by an Internet connection and a few software tools, you can do your work from wherever suits you best. And it needn’t be alone. In fact, collaboration is often expected. But the concept no longer has to entail being physically in the same room – you can be desks or even oceans away and still work on a project together in real time.
The immense popularity of websites that involve one form of collaboration or another – such as YouTube, Facebook and Myspace in Western countries; Mixi and NiChanneru in Japan; CyWorld in Korea; and QQ in China to name a few – have ensured it is ingrained in those just joining workforces around the globe. And in the business world, unified communication (UC) vendors are hoping their collaboration offerings achieve equivalent success to their consumer counterparts. Microsoft, Cisco and IBM, for example, have all launched online versions of their products.
But with IT decision making often left to those who learnt their trades in face-to-face meetings, the channel can face an uphill journey convincing them of the benefit of new collaboration offerings.
To begin with, channel partners have to articulate what collaboration means. No easy feat if the different vendor marketing strategies are anything to go by.
“There are a lot of different views about what constitutes collaboration and how you collaborate effectively,” Microsoft senior product marketing manager unified communications, Harold Melnick, said. “Our belief from a Microsoft perspective, is collaboration effectively means one-click or one-touch interaction with the applications that you use every day. The idea is if you are working within a particular application, you shouldn’t have to hunt around for the information you need.”
In contrast, Alcatel-Lucent pushes the idea of a ‘dynamic enterprise’ with four levels: Networks,people, processes and knowledge. For enterprise business group manager, Mark Buckley, one of the key elements is about connecting all the knowledge companies have.
“The key thing about collaboration is about connecting people,” he said.
IBM, meanwhile, focuses on three evolutionary stages of collaboration: The document-centric view of the world; the people-centric view; and community-centric collaboration, represented by social networking website-style collaboration.