UC and Enterprise 2.0: United In the Pursuit of Hyper-Productivity
UC and Enteprrise 2.0 technologies will help larger organizations achieve the kind of hyper-productivity that their garage-housed competitors enjoy.
I was honored to receive an invitation to join a panel discussion at last week's Interop show in Las Vegas playfully titled "Unified Communications Meets Enterprise 2.0--Social Computing Love Fest or Battle Royale?" In this post, I'll recap one of my early hypotheses on the subject.As with most relationships, the converging of these two camps (yes, they will converge in the medium-term) will appear, at times, to be a complete love fest and, at others, a battle royale. Ultimately, though, the successful merger is assured by the fact that both camps share a common goal: UC and Enterprise 2.0 technologies both help enterprises achieve the kind of hyper-productivity that most successful start-ups enjoy. Most of us, at one point or another, worked for or closely with a start-up. Our tireless efforts were fueled by the recognition that we were able to accomplish a tremendous amount in very little time with extremely limited resources (thus hyper-productivity). How did we do it? Of course paranoia-fueled energy and often irrationally lofty goals were key factors. Beyond those, though, there were a number of things that our teams shared that many larger competitors did not. To oversimplify a bit, our hyper-productivity was enabled by:
1. Deep intimacy--We knew our team members extremely well, what made them tick and what ticked them off so we naturally fell into the high conflict, high respect conversations that workplace sociologists laud (Cory says, "I fundamentally disagree with that." Mike thinks, "Oh. He's right.") 2. Expertise knowledge--We understood what each member of the team was good at, i.e., who to turn to for help with certain problems ("Fingaz could do that in about 10 minutes.") 3. Availability awareness--Because we were frequently all co-located, often the same cramped room, we knew how to get a hold of people ("Hey Elam, when's Joe back?") 4. Access to organizational knowledge--The team's information assets, e.g., PPT decks, blocks of code, proposals, project plans, customer details, and their authors were somewhat limited and very accessible ("Colin, can you send me that deck with the killer slide that went over so well three weeks ago?") 5. Seamless collaboration--We could look over each others' shoulders or immediately find a white board whenever we needed to work a problem. ("John, you have a minute?")
Consider now the mid-sized or large organization where problems are solved by "virtual" teams that involve dozens of people along the way, many of whom are unfamiliar with each other (often not having had the benefit of ever shaking hands, let alone building meaningful interpersonal connections). Further complicating things, teams increasingly involve members from outside the walls of the organization, including partners, suppliers, agents and customers along the way. UC and Enterprise 2.0 technologies help these organizations approach hyper-productivity in a number of ways: 1. Reasonable intimacy--The use of video (especially immersive video such as telepresence) and technologies that help create ambient intimacy (e.g., micro-blogging) help us get to know our colleagues. To wit, consider the palpable closeness you feel to someone you meet after having followed them on Twitter or reading their blogs.
2. Expertise location--While any given person in a medium or large organization can't possibly know what each other person is capable of, technology can help us find the right person to solve a specific problem. Of course we're still working through a number of challenges here--most notably the accurate mapping of skills to resources--but next-generation directories are starting to emerge in leading-edge organizations that are wonderfully useful. 3. Availability approximation--The consistent use of presence (including meaningful away-messages) and scheduling software (e.g., the robust solutions used in call centers or basic ones such as group calendaring), help us understand when resources are available. 4. Pointers to organizational knowledge--The augmentation of knowledge and content management systems with searchable, emergent information systems (examples: wikis or tags and other hyperlinked content appended to files stored in document management systems) helps teams structure and more easily access information and its original authors.
5. Effective collaboration--Given that team members in larger organizations simply can't work in person as much as they'd like (a theory that appears to have become a law these days), the approximation of in-person collaboration is an absolute mandate. The quick question across the room (IM) can escalate to a one on one conversation (phone call, possibly with video) and often involves one person getting out of their chair to look over the other's shoulder (websharing) and eventually suggesting a whiteboarding session in the conference room (immersive video with duplexed web collaboration). Alas, I've not heard about the UC equivalent of a high-five, but no one really high-fives anymore, do they?
In a nutshell, both UC and Enteprrise 2.0 technologies will help larger organizations achieve the kind of hyper-productivity that their garage-housed competitors enjoy. Thus, the buyers of these technologies will force the suppliers to offer converged solution sets to ensure a seamless experience for end-users that is enterprise-ready (supports TCO, reliability, security, policy requirements, etc.). Of course, there will undoubtedly be some friction (if history is a guide, even deciding on definitions of key industry terms won't be easy) as the vendors come to grips with the relative strengths and weaknesses of their offerings. Further complicating things is the amount of innovation emerging from relatively young companies in the Enterprise 2.0 space. A parting thought: Consider the irony of the situation. To compete effectively with the start-ups (at least on product innovation), the larger suppliers will have to actually achieve the level of hyper-productivity that they're promising their customers.UC and Enteprrise 2.0 technologies will help larger organizations achieve the kind of hyper-productivity that their garage-housed competitors enjoy.