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Evolving Your Enterprise's Collaboration Toolkit

Team collaboration tools and technologies have changed since the early days of what was called “enterprise social software.” Organizations have many options and need to find solutions that will meet their current and evolving demands.


Way back in 2010 I attended UBM’s Enterprise 2.0 conference, focusing on how enterprises were using social software tools to help workers collaborate and network together. I listened to an excellent presentation by The Real Story Group’s Tony Byrne, who explained how enterprise social software focused on “social dynamics at work,” emphasizing collaboration structured around projects, formalizing previously informal processes while helping workers discover, discuss, and brainstorm. This technology was about facilitating collaboration around projects, teams, and organizations, with the goal making it easier to access, organize, and filter information.


Another key aspect was communities of practice or interest organized around a particular topic, as well as user profiles; activity streams; networking to help find specific expertise; file sharing, repository services and versioning control; and access control to allow only specific individuals or groups to join a community. Initially, enterprise social was separate from unified communications, relying solely on textual communications, with separate user interfaces.


While this all sounds similar to today’s team collaboration solutions, there were some differences. Enterprise social software’s goal was to improve knowledge worker collaboration through the use of blogs, wikis, and social networks, focusing on communities and capturing and sharing institutional knowledge. Team collaboration, on the other hand, is less about general communities and more focused around specific projects on which teams and individuals are working.


Some of the initial enterprise social software products or services included IBM Connections, Jive Software, Salesforce Chatter, Oracle Beehive Workspace, Microsoft Yammer and SharePoint, Facebook, Google, Cisco Quad and Cisco Project Squared, which eventually became Cisco Spark.


Over time, the vendors and industry watchers realized that the term “social” was a non-starter for many businesses, which assumed that enterprise social software was essentially Facebook for businesses, making it easy for workers to share photos of their dogs, but not much else. To combat this perception, the industry started using the term “collaboration” rather than “social,” focusing on business outcomes rather than the networking aspect of social software. With an emphasis on sharing and collaborating, these tools focused on teams, rather than individuals. Some companies began adding collaboration capabilities including meetings, Web and video conferencing, desktop sharing, and other UC or real-time communication capabilities, as well as mobile access.


While enterprise social wasn’t taking over the world as some had expected, some of these products morphed to become more team collaboration-focused, as they already included many collaboration capabilities. At the same time, new products and services aimed directly at team collaboration were on the rise, initially focused on team messaging. With freemium or low-cost versions of the new team collaboration applications available, workers within organizations began using these technologies on their own, without the blessing or even knowledge of their IT departments. Different groups or departments within organizations were often using different collaboration solutions, limiting the usefulness of these tools within the greater enterprise. Without a comprehensive, enterprise-wide collaboration strategy, the utility and value of team collaboration solutions are limited.


This brings us to where we are today. We have a hodge-podge of what were formerly known as enterprise social software tools and the first generation of team messaging/collaboration tools, as well as today’s more modern team collaboration services. Each of these tools has something to offer, while addressing different audiences and use cases.


Many of the businesses that invested in these technologies are trying to figure out how to leverage them, as well as how best to migrate users, content, and workflows to a more modern collaboration solution.

At Enterprise Connect 2019, coming the week of March 18 to Orlando, Fla., I’ll be moderating a panel with representatives from Microsoft, 8x8, and RingCentral, to discuss how the existing and newer collaboration tools complement each other, how best to migrate to current solutions, how to encourage end-user adoption of the new team collaboration technologies, and how to overcome resistance if users are reluctant to give up their familiar tools. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of having multiple collaboration tools, how to best manage multiple tools, and what IT leaders and managers need to know in order to get the best results from these technologies. How can you ensure interoperability between different team collaboration providers and services? Do you need both Yammer and Microsoft Teams? How should you migrate users to newer team collaboration services? We’ll answer these and many more questions you may have.


I hope you’ll join us on Thursday morning, March 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. for the session “What’s in Your Enterprise’s Collaboration Toolkit?” to learn more about this important topic, and help your organization get the most from your collaboration solutions.

Register now using the code NJPOSTS to save $200 off the current rate, and don’t wait -- the Early Bird Rate ends this Friday, Feb. 22.

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BCStrategies is 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.