In my previous post, I mentioned that I’d briefly describe four initiatives Cisco promotes to help customers bridge the adoption gap. Most of all, adoption needs to be factored in at all phases of the plan-manage-build collaboration investment lifecycle. The biggest mistake organizations can make is to treat adoption as an afterthought or process that naturally occurs without prompting when a collaboration solution goes live.
Bridging the adoption gap begins with lowering the barriers to customer investment in collaboration-focused IT services by expanding the role of “as-a-Service” collaboration consumption models. Here, cloud computing is the enabling technology, but beyond that, the story revolves around Cisco and partnered approaches to sourcing, provisioning, operating, and ultimately delivering collaboration services to end-customers. The shift to Collaboration-as-a-Service models enables end customers to avoid heavy up-front capital expense and instead pay as they consume collaboration services. This model also delegates service delivery to experts—Cisco and partners—incented to deliver high quality, cost-effective services through both formal service level agreements and market forces.
Second, extending collaboration to mobile, post-PC, and “BYOD” endpoints not only expands the population of collaboration-eligible platforms and participants, it can radically change existing business processes and enable entirely new ones. Converting collaboration to an any-time, any-where experience not only increases opportunities for adoption, it also enables organizations to take their business directly to their customers and stakeholders. We are also seeing some very interesting work in connecting collaboration processes and technologies to mission-critical enterprise applications and services. Here, imagine the possibilities of mobile device access to customer relationship management resources, or connecting employees, suppliers, partners, and other players to an organization’s ERP/supply chain data.
Third, change management programs can play a significant role in maximizing adoption of collaboration technologies and business processes. We offer collaboration change management services and have seen some dramatic results with customers. In one engagement, the customer came to us after discovering their company’s employee travel expenses ran twice as high as similar companies, despite previous investment in collaboration infrastructure. We discovered that the working level organization had not fully adopted the company’s collaboration resources due to both organizational culture, and perception that collaboration tools were for special occasions—like a stuffy living room that the kids were told not to play in. We helped the customer address these issues, and their travel expenses decreased to the degree that they went on to increase their investment in collaboration tools.
Finally, we strongly believe that you can’t manage and optimize collaboration adoption unless you measure it. Our services portfolio has long featured Collaboration Optimization Services, focused mainly on improving the technical performance of collaboration IT infrastructures. We’re now moving to build up our portfolio of more overtly end-user behavior-focused metrics and services. In particular, we are doing some fascinating R&D work with MIT on Organizational Network Analysis that mashes up end-user research with data generated by collaboration processes to map the communications and collaboration patterns. We’ve learned that different types of organizations exhibit distinct collaboration contours when we diagram them. An “innovation”-focused organization looks a lot different than a hierarchical one, as does a socially oriented one.
To sum up, adoption is one of the biggest, yet under-addressed issues in the collaboration space. We can no longer expect it to happen as a natural consequence of making collaboration resources available to end users. But we must keep adoption high on the agenda at all phases of the solution plan-build-manage cycle. Nothing is more important to maximizing the “R” in ROI.