Team Collaboration: Where Does Your Enterprise Fit In?

As my colleague Eric Krapf, No Jitter publisher and Enterprise Connect GM, mentioned in one of his recent EC blog posts, the weight of the UC&C industry appears to be behind team collaboration as an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, development.

Whether you classify this transition as evolutionary or revolutionary, it's a big deal, marking, as it does, the next big shift in the way knowledge workers convene virtually for everything from idle chitchat to crucial decision making. In his post, Eric pointed to 21st Century Fox, which, as we learned during this year's Enterprise Summit at Enterprise Connect, considers Slack the center of its communications universe for 25,000 users across 90 countries (read related article, "Why Anything but Cloud Communications?"). Slack, along with Zoom for video conferencing and Okta for identity management, enables the collaborative culture desired, naturally, by such a media conglomerate.

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A Channel for Asking Anything

That kind of setup may smack of more of the revolutionary than evolutionary, but rest assured 21st Century Fox didn't make the Slack decision lightly. IT studied several products and the choice turned out inevitable based on usage, EVP & CIO John Herbert said. After tracking how often its teams used Slack and for what purposes, the company decided "going all in" was the appropriate decision, he said.

Every single employee has a Slack account, and 21st Century Fox probably has another 20,000 external people that get involved in the creative process, making collaboration critical, Herbert said. Team collaboration has redefined the collaborative process, and the company has seen all sorts of use cases pop up, he added.

As one example, he noted the overwhelming response to an "Ask Me Anything" session the chairman opened on Slack. Hundreds of people actively participated, asking her questions and making suggestions, he added. As this example shows, executives on down have embraced Slack as a means of communicating and collaborating across the enterprise, Herbert said.

21st Century Fox makes a great example of enterprise adoption, but it's not the only company that's committed to team collaboration, of course. In fact, in that same enterprise panel at Enterprise Connect the other three participants gave a nod to the importance of team collaboration capabilities, as well.

Shifting Patterns

At a smaller, but no less critical scale, for example, stands Structural Group, a global engineering firm with 3,500 employees. During the panel discussion, CIO Jason Kasch shared how team collaboration shifted the pattern of communications across the company, which at one point supported a variety of tools allowing different user constituencies to collaborate -- among them the GroupMe chat app, Microsoft Yammer, an Oracle app, and Slack. "But the one thing that was missing was a central contact point" -- that one place where all the people in your organization, and the information about them, live. "Here's where their offices are, their phone numbers, their texting accounts," Kasch said.

Without that sort of central repository, employees had a hard time reaching each other if they weren't using the same collaboration tool, Kasch said. "So if I wanted to talk to Tom, Sally, and Mary, in three different countries, and they weren't all on the same platform, ... I didn't have the ability to single point and click to start a video conference or a conversation immediately" -- a potential liability on a job site.

The thing is, Structural Group hadn't realized just how much of a problem having disparate collaboration tools was causing until it collapsed its environment onto one platform for communications -- cloud-based RingCentral Office. "But the minute we launched RingCentral and gave everybody access to this thing called Glip [for team collaboration], everyone started migrating all of their conversations to this platform so they could simply converse with everybody else in the company."

Final Destination?

Stories such as these are what make team collaboration seem like the inevitable destination for enterprise communications and collaboration. But with many companies still finding other apps perfectly capable for handling their communication and collaboration needs of today, some will arrive more quickly than others.

On that note, I'll share one last bit of perspective from that same EC enterprise IT panel, from Ron Sattan, VP & CIO Americas at Mott MacDonald, a global design engineering firm that's built its productivity and communications strategy on the Microsoft Office 365 portfolio. Recalling Mott MacDonald's move to Office 365 years ago, Sattan noted how Yammer, for social networking, was the first capability the company rolled out as it looked to address a knowledge-sharing pain point. "By releasing Yammer, and creating Yammer channels for all of our different disciplines and practices in the business, we had allowed people who never would have communicated before to suddenly start communicating," he said.

And then came Lync, the UC platform that has since become Skype for Business, and that "changed the world for us again," said Sattan, calling out the addition of screen sharing to enhance the collaboration experience. Today the company is about halfway through migrating its 16,000 users from on-premises to the cloud version of Skype for Business for UC, he said. And now comes along Teams, presenting another "massive change" with the convergence all those previous capabilities into one interface. As excited as Sattan said he is about the opportunity represented in Teams, the change requires serious exploration, and so, he added, Mott MacDonald isn't fully committed to Teams... yet.

It's all about the evolution.

Where is your enterprise on team collaboration, a la Slack, Teams, or what have you? To help us better understand the state of adoption within the enterprise, No Jitter is conducting its second-annual survey on team collaboration. Please take a few moments of your time to take the survey, here, then watch No Jitter where we'll be sharing insights gleaned.

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