A whole new world of collaboration tools now exists, from workspaces like Box.net, Huddle and Central Desktop to customer-powered support communities like Get Satisfaction. In the enterprise, the convergence of cloud computing, more empowered employees and on-demand infrastructure is driving adoption of these technologies. Let’s look at how each is shaping the future of high-impact collaboration in the enterprise, and with it, new innovations.
The Human Cloud
As Mathew recently said, the human cloud is the capability of a company to get the best talent available regardless of location. With the advent of mobile technology, “flashmobs” and bee “swarms” to accomplish a problem will be more commonplace. An example of this would be responding to a PR crisis: Instead of taking the time to convert a conference room to a “physical war room,” a marketing executive can connect with the resources inside and outside the company (executive team, bloggers, call center, media consultants) to create a “swarm” to extinguish a PR spark before it becomes a media firestorm.
The human cloud is also a catalyst for companies to generate maximum value from existing resources. The Deloitte Center for the Edge recently published the 2010 Shift Index, which rigorously documents a long-term performance deterioration of 75 percent in return-on-assets (ROA) across 15 industries in the U.S. since 1970, despite productivity gains. According to the Shift Index, “the solution lies in empowering passionate employees, those who feel truly engaged with their work and constantly push the performance envelope, by accelerating institutional innovation and driving corporate growth.”
Collaborative cultures are now embracing the passion of the whole employee, creating work environments for them to use their devices, home office and professional networks to support the context for creating competitive advantage for the company.
Empowering workers in the human cloud, giving them a choice of devices and leveraging social networks for collaboration is necessary, but not sufficient enough to create truly high-impact collaboration. Different levels of “generational trust” between seniors, boomers, Gen Y and the Millennial Generation create a “digital divide” that can pose a significant barrier to collaboration. Research conducted by David Coleman, Managing Director of Collaborative Strategies, finds the biggest barriers to collaboration are not technology problems but are related to people and process. He has created a framework that illustrates different levels of competence, trust, age and web:
Source: Collaborative Strategies
Companies can act on these findings and create initiatives and social metrics designed to accelerate the progression of digital exiles, digital immigrants and digital natives to digital workers.
On-Demand Infrastructure and Applications
Businesses can now leverage on-demand infrastructure and applications to support nearly every aspect of their operations. Service providers can securely host multiple tenants of one application on one server, which boosts their server utilization rates, cuts administrative costs and lowers server cost per tenant. The resulting efficiencies and cost savings can be passed through to customers using a mesh business model.
At the same time, corporate IT departments are freed from the hassles of traditional deployments, software maintenance and upgrades, and concerns about scalability and reliability. IT can help business units source innovative applications when they need them and avoid getting bogged down with day-to-day maintenance and support. This frees IT up to focus on more value-added activities while being more responsive to changing business needs.
In many cases, these on-demand solutions can be integrated with existing enterprise IT investments. For example, social-media oriented, on-demand collaboration tools can be integrated with Microsoft SharePoint (which offers less-than-optimal collaboration functionality) for an improved user experience that makes employees and external partners more productive, effective and inspired to innovate to establish competitive advantage.
One example of a company turning these ideas into applicable business solutions is Intuit, who developed an innovation management tool called Brainstorm. To read a case study of this process, check out the full report.
Image source: flickr user ChrisL_AK
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