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Empowering the Collaboration Usage Profile


Someone collaborating over the laptop
Image: fizkes -
We are now at the fifth usage profile in our examination of enterprise communications requirements. So far, we have examined the usage profile for field sales and services roles, production roles, retail customer-facing roles, and information processing roles. Each usage profile review highlighted the unique communication requirements for the role and showed that those usage profiles are usually best served by communication functions built into or integrated with purpose-built software apps.
For this usage profile, let’s look at communication requirements for collaboration roles. While vendors would like every interaction to be collaborative — so they can sell you a collaboration product license — the term collaboration is more specific than that. Collaboration is often confused or conflated with social interaction, and there may well be an enterprise-wide need for social interactions, which will be addressed in the universal profile at the end of this series.
For the collaboration usage profile, we will stick with Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of collaborate: “to collaborate is to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” The term intellectual endeavor can be expanded to mean work that creates new ideas, policies, concepts, products, etc.
Who Fits in the Collaboration Usage Profile?
With this definition, you can easily see that there are very specific job titles that are definitely collaborative, which make up about 5% of the total workforce, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here is a list of such titles, showing the typical percentage of the workforce, by industry sectors:
  • Cross-industry: Marketing (<3%); IT Development (<5%)
  • Manufacturing: R&D Engineers (~15%)
  • Government: Policy Analyst, Legislator: (<10%)
  • Finance and Insurance: Offer Manager, Actuary: (<5%)
  • Retail: Buyers, Product Line Managers: (~5%)
  • Education: Research, Curriculum Design: (~10%)
  • Professional Services: Practice Development: (<3%)
Collaboration usage profile work is usually very important to an enterprise since the output of the collaborative processes will drive current and future revenue and will be key to maintaining enterprise competitiveness. Leaders of the collaboration groups, such as VP engineering/chief innovation officer, VP marketing/chief marketing officer, etc., almost always have a seat at the top executive table.
How Is Collaboration Usage Profile Work Performed?
Collaboration usage profile work, by definition, is performed by groups. One way to think of this is as an accordion. A group is formed (comes together) and takes on a specific challenge — a new marketing program, a building redesign, a new product — then separates into small or individual work activities. Then, the teams come together again (whether in person or by posting to their team’s content management system or workspace) to review the progress, such as in the stand-up sessions of agile software development. This separating out and coming together continues until the project goal is accomplished. Of course, individual contributors put in a lot of intensive work, such as designing, drafting, and analyzing, but it always flows into the team collaborative process.
Typical work activities in the collaboration usage profile include:
  • Creation of documents, code, designs, etc.
  • Interaction with external people for research input
  • Interaction with contractors for project work, creative elements
  • Use of project workspaces and tools
  • Meeting ad hoc, one-to-one to share, co-edit ideas, drafts, etc.
  • Tracking metrics such as speed to completion; quality; results produced
  • Minimizing time wasted in travel, but expects mobile connectivity when needed
  • Preference for onsite mobility via either Wi-Fi or cellular networks
Thus, the collaboration usage profile is very communication-intensive but not based on the voice telephony or the messaging or video features for which UCaaS is designed.
How Do Collaboration Workers Communicate in Their Workflows?
As suggested above, communication is usually via documents and content sharing.
Given the range of usage profiles and the importance enterprises place on them, vendors have provided a host of software products specifically designed for this group of workers. Cross-industry products such as Slack (now part of Salesforce), Atlassian Jira, Atlassian Confluence, Microsoft Teams, IBM Connections, Jive Software, and many others are a few leading examples. In addition, apps for specific roles include: WorkFront (now part of Adobe) for marketing collaboration space and Bentley, AutoDesk AutoCad, ProjectDox, and BlueBeam for engineering departments, including public works departments in local government. These are just a few, but there are many more.
An essential point is that team communication capabilities are built into every one of these collaboration software packages. Almost all of them have chat-based or message-based posting capabilities available for all users with options to define groups or teams based on roles, organization structure, or project assignments. Some packages even have built-in real-time communications tools, primarily for online meetings. Also, most of these collaboration software packages allow you to securely include participants from outside the enterprise, which is important given collaboration workgroups often include external contractors.
Our UniComm Consulting experience is that most collaboration-centric departments have minimal interest in the generic UCaaS collaboration tools since they are not customized to the specific collaborative workflows and are not tightly integrated into the content management and project-centric communications of the collaboration usage profile.
Further, most collaboration usage profile roles are working with mobile devices like tablets, smartphones, and laptops and use those devices for communications that go beyond the functionality of the role-specific collaboration software apps. Thus, we see many APIs and connectors between UCaaS and collaboration software apps such as Slack connectors for Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom. The connectors provide online meeting services as well as some options for telephony calling and for chat messaging.
In the past, these groups valued multi-line phones with hold, conferencing, and call waiting. However, the new software-based tools have shifted the real-time or near-real-time communications more to chat messaging with an escalation to a live call (often on cell phone) when needed.
What Is the Optimal Communications Support for Collaboration Users?
The optimal solution for the collaboration usage profile is usually a mobile-first approach that integrates voice and video communications with the collaboration software applications that these teams are using. This can be provided through integration via APIs or connectors to provide click-to-call or click-to-meet or can be provided on a side-by-side basis via on-screen computer apps or on-device mobile apps.
The tough message here is that it will usually be difficult, even impossible, to convert the collaboration worker from their specialized tools over to the more generic UCaaS offering, even when the UCaaS offering is specially configured. The purpose-built apps are just too customized to the collaboration process. Of course, there’s no harm in offering the UCaaS collaboration tools to this usage profile, but don’t be surprised if the adoption is minimal.
Bottom line, you should look at the collaboration usage profile groups and departments with your eyes wide open to the reality of their workflows. Don’t expect the UCaaS vendors’ marketing materials to be instantly embraced by these highly skilled teams. Rather, look for how you can enhance what they are doing and seek to be highly attuned to any gaps that exist in their communication beyond their groups to the enterprise at large or to their external counterparts.

BCStrategies logo

This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.


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