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Collaboration: The business opportunity of the decade

It’s clear from our conversations with customers around the world that we’re in the early stages of a fundamental shift in business. It’s the decade of collaboration. A time of flash communities and knowledge accidents. A time when video, virtualization, social media and mobility influence everything we do. And when employees from any remote corner of an organization can provide the spark for your next important innovation.

But only if you set the stage for collaboration.

Building a collaborative organization isn’t easy. It takes a transformative approach to culture, processes and technology—and an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. Do it and you will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver tangible results.

That’s why I recently partnered with my colleague, Ron Ricci, Cisco’s VP of Corporate Positioning, to write The Collaboration Imperative, a book that dives into the culture, process and technology dimensions of successful collaboration. It offers practical tips and strategies for making companies more collaborative and looks at how some of the world’s leading companies are sharpening their collaboration edge.

We also introduce some surprising facts. For example, did you know that….

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Collaboration with Scrap Lumber & Bailing Wire

I’ve always worked in creative environments with a lot of interdependent roles and processes – and big, unyielding deadlines. Twenty years ago (did I just type that?!), it was editors, writers, designers, artists, production teams, salespeople, prepress film houses, printers, and all of the rest involved in producing magazines. My role was at the intersection of the creative work and technical production. Sometimes it all happened as a meeting in one room, other aspects involved sneakernet, sending disks and film back and forth via couriers. Missing a print date cost big dollars. You didn’t miss the dates. Ever. 

Where's my sweater?Being a bit of a geek with a logical streak of an engineer’s daughter, I was always looking for ways to add structure and streamline processes. (This is not unlike trying to put a wet cat in a sweater.) I developed a successful, but perhaps unhealthy relationship with spreadsheets that I used to hold information – deadlines, story details, status, page counts, art files, page ratios. I dutifully maintained my trusty grids and could answer any question about any bit or piece along the way. But hand anyone else a printout and their eyes would cross and roll before they simply restated the question. The spreadsheets held data; I was the mechanism for sharing data – the user interface, so to speak.

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Towards A More Participatory Culture: Enterprise Q&A (Part 2)

In our earlier post, we explored growing interest in a new class of social application that AIIM calls “Enterprise Q&A”. We concluded that design and user experience were critically important. To deliver this type of application effectively, design practices had to accommodate the social dynamics that occur as people participate in various roles within “answer networks”. As organizations invest in social collaboration platforms, many of these systems will have, or will eventually include, an Enterprise Q&A capability. Design practices that prioritize user experience and social participation, not just Q&A automation, will likely deliver the best solution. While it seems to be straightforward design challenge (ask a question, get an answer), the cultural and social networking dynamics can be very nuanced. Those nuances are easily overlooked if solution providers implement Enterprise Q&A from a technological perspective.

Below are several strategy, design, and user experience considerations you might want to ask yourself if you are looking into this topic:

  • Where should the question get published to maximize the change of getting a applicable answer? While industry exuberance for activity streams makes it the likely candidate, is that always the proper mechanism?
  • If activity streams are leveraged, is posting a question into a stream cluttered with lots of other items vying for attention the right approach? Should we visually distinguish a question from other types of activity stream entries? What other filtering options should be considered so that questions receive the proper priority?
  • If posting a question into a stream is not always the best design decision, what other options should be considered? Should we decipher the meta-data associated with a question and map them to expertise tags of people and communities? If so, we can then define a notification process and ping those individuals and groups through different alerting options? Read More »

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Towards A More Participatory Culture: Enterprise Q&A (Part 1)

In October of 2011, AIIM (the Association for Information & Imaging Management, a non-profit research, community and educational association), published a survey-based report that examined social business and Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) trends. I had the good fortune to hear about the results first-hand when I co-presented with AIIM’s President, John Mancini, on a social networking panel at the Gilbane Conference held in Boston last November. John summarized the work and results of the study. One of the more interesting data points and trending analysis I found intriguing was a growing interest in a class of social application AIIM refers to as “Enterprise Q&A”.  Historically, when people ask what the common application use case scenarios are for E2.0, the most frequently cited examples have been: expertise location, online communities, and ideation (innovation).

Why the growing interest in Q&A applications? Perhaps because it’s a pain point all of us – from front-line worker to senior executive – can relate to in our everyday work experience. All of us can recall situations when we’ve had a question about something and have not been able to find an answer through the information and contacts at our disposal. We ask our colleagues. We send out e-mails. We might try discussion forums, knowledge-base applications, and of course – search engines.

“The question acts as a ‘social object’ that can mobilize networks, enable people to take on informal social roles, and help create social capital between participants in these answer networks.”

However, even if we are fortunate enough to find the content, the information may not be presented in a fashion that addresses our need. Sometimes the “question” is not easily resolved by locating content. Often, what people are asking for (indirectly) when they pose a question is to have a conversation with someone to “make sense” out of that issue (in addition to the content if it’s relevant). Read More »

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IT Managers Speak Out on Tablets in their Enterprises

It is no secret that alternative communication devices including tablets are taking a big chunk of the market away from what normally would be “PC territory”. Clearly the popularity of tablet form-factor devices is soaring.  The craze started in the consumer space and has definitely made waves in the enterprise market, too. If you do a search for “tablets in the enterprise” you’ll likely see north of 79 million results.

Cisco wanted to know what was top of mind for IT managers when it comes to tablet form-factor devices hitting their networks. So we asked them—1500 of them, from the US, UK, Canada, France, Spain, and Germany.

What were their thoughts on the “bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to work phenomena? Which country has the most security concerns? Which country leads in tablet requests from employees? How do they feel about issues like access to company applications?

This infographic shows some of the results that we found most intriguing; read our press release for more.

be sure to check out the press release for more details like these:

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