Staying ahead in today’s competitive markets requires a lot more than improving efficiency of existing organizational processes. It requires a smooth continuum of market intelligence, plus a distributed ability to analyze and act upon it. Above all, this must become the always-on new normal. It’s the essence of agility.

Once the domain of software development teams, agile practices are becoming part of business culture. Agile moves ideas from inception to innovation very quickly.

“Every company striving to become agile must think in terms of three kinds of drivers of change: the ‘operating environment’ that might radically reshape their business environment; ‘strategic responsiveness,’ or the soft levers they can pull in response; and the ‘organizational flexibility’ that invariably affects their capacity to respond quickly.”PwC

What does applying agile principles look like in the real world? Ask Golin, a global public relations and marketing communications firm. Golin found collaboration technologies the key to not only cut design review and approval time by 50% but also to speed decision making.

“Clients tell us that we’re extremely nimble and flexible,” says Farrah Cox, executive director at Golin. “As other agencies catch up, we need to take two steps ahead. Tools like Cisco Spark help us stay out in front.”

Moving your organization toward agility requires two broad must-haves:

  • First, the essential technological elements.
  • Second, the environment and tools to use these elements for enabling people to collaborate and work together.

The technological elements of collaboration are the cornerstones of agile business. These are mobility, high-quality video, end-to-end security, and a choice of delivery models (cloud, on premises, or hybrid of the two). Without this strong foundation, your tools and applications will fail to deliver.

A recent Dimension Data survey of 900 enterprise respondents corroborates this. Dimension Data reports: “Collaboration is fast becoming the key that unlocks many of the productivity, agility, and business process improvements at the heart of organizations’ digital transformation initiatives. It requires changes to how employees work, how managers make decisions, and how firmly entrenched business processes can be modified and ultimately improved.”

Mobility and smart devices embody a new world of collaboration consumption. Unlike any devices before them, mobile devices are becoming central to our lives – both at home and at work. Most professionals use two to three devices during a day, and sometimes up to six, in their daily work and personal lives.

With mobile, cloud, web, and social networks now interwoven into the conduct of daily business, it is easy to extend conversations through a combination of devices and platforms, wherever we are and no matter with whom we’re collaborating.

“Mobility and cloud computing are two pillars of growth that have brought about significant changes in the ICT industry,” says Audrey William, head of research for Frost & Sullivan’s Australian and New Zealand ICT practice.

Gartner estimates that by 2018, 50% of team coordination and communication will occur via mobile group collaboration apps.

High-Quality Video
Fully interactive collaborative experiences integrate voice, video, and web content. Provide your teams with the freedom to be productive from anywhere, on any device, and interact how they’d like. And save costs.

The new breed of simple, accessible, high-definition video conferencing has ushered in a new era of face-to-face collaboration over distance. From one-on-ones to team meetings, candidate interviews, training sessions, sales presentations – nearly any meeting you can do in person, you can do over video, and equally effectively.

The global video conferencing market will grow to $6.4 billion by 2020, up from $3.3 billion in 2014, according to Research and Markets analysts.

End-to-End Security
Collaboration tools seldom work if people don’t trust that their information and conversations are secure. End-to-end security is paramount. People need the freedom to innovate without fear of a security breach. Robust security must span your data center, cloud, and edge environments. Equally important, you must gain consistent protection for apps and data, as well as eliminate vulnerabilities and gaps. Building end-to-end encryption into the fabric of collaboration platforms is becoming a critical need to satisfy customer requirements. According to Gartner, by 2020:

  • 60% of digital businesses will suffer major service failures due to the inability of IT security teams to manage digital risk.
  • 60% of enterprise information security budgets will be allocated for rapid detection and response approaches, up from less than 30% in 2016.

Choice of Delivery Models
Cloud is revolutionizing the way we work; how we develop, deploy, buy, sell, and engage. The move to cloud can help save costs while providing extraordinary flexibility of operations and scale. But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. On-premises deployments may better support different business needs, depending on your organization.

Hybrid deployments represent a great stepping-stone to eventual cloud deployments. In hybrid deployments, you might first migrate some services to a private cloud and others to the public cloud.

In the end, the deployment decision comes down to the services your organization needs. What makes these options so valuable is that they provide choice. You identify the solution that fits your business need.

With so much talk about deploy-where-you-like, what are the rules? Simply put: Collaborative tools must be available in every deployment mode and easily combined with the other modes. As an example, cloud-based tools must work seamlessly with on-prem or private cloud implementations. It’s critical to make sure your employees, customers, partners stay connected — no matter how mobile they are.

It’s no wonder that Collaboration-as-a-Service (CaaS) is emerging and set to hold. Infrastructure, platforms, and software are all viable on-demand “as-a-service” options today.

Collaborative tools must be available in every deployment mode and easily combined with the other modes.

This approach allows you to focus on core business, reduce overall total cost of ownership, and find smart ways to refresh aging infrastructure. Study after study supports this trend:

  • By 2020, over 50% of all new applications developed on platform-as-a-service (PaaS) will be IoT-centric, disrupting conventional architecture practices. (Forbes)
  • The global software-as-a-service market will grow to $67B in 2018 from $49B in 2015, attaining a CAGR of 8.14%. (Forbes)
  • 82% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy; hybrid cloud adoption rose from 58% to 71% year over year from 2015 to 2016. (RightScale)

Bringing it All Together: A World Class User Experience
The integration of essential collaboration tools into this single next-generation platform provides the ideal base upon which to build agile processes. As your workforce becomes more virtual and more mobile, the smartest move is to combine voice, video, messaging, and collaborative workspaces to provide a world-class user experience. It should be a single, simple, and seamless experience, no matter the device or user’s location and no matter how you’ve deployed.

Most important, this platform gives the ownership of extending collaboration applications back to you rather than to vendors of the collaboration technology. The hard part for vendors is creating a platform that is open, scalable, and easy to program. Only those elements put agility within your reach.The technology must support all the current and future needs of competitive enterprises at Internet scale, irrespective of geography, size, line of business, or industry.

The cornerstones of agile collaboration are easy to understand by themselves. The challenges are two-fold: To leverage the latest advances in each of those technological elements and to bring them together into a single whole that amplifies the overall benefit.

The Time is Now
It is time to scan all the collaboration tools and technologies in which you’ve invested. Are your current tools:

  • Helping you achieve your business goals?
  • Enabling your teams to innovate?
  • Increasing productivity?

Most important, are they helping you be agile?

“Collaboration isn’t just about the technology,” writes Dimension Data. “For organizations, it’s a strategy that affects almost every part of the business – from developing products and responding to competitors, to making decisions and interacting with customers. For employees, collaboration represents the promise of an easier, more productive way of working with colleagues and business partners who might be on the other side of the city, country, continent, or world.”

Consider your focus. Whether it’s higher business returns or lower expenses, better employee productivity or improved customer and partner engagement, it’s time to take stock. It’s time to look closely at whether you have the right foundation and key pillars for collaboration. And are they working together to make you agile?

If not, it’s time to act – starting with the foundation.

This post is the third in a four-part series.
Read the first two posts:
Collaboration: The Foundation of the Agile Business
The Way We Work is Changing


Smita Dave

Sr Marketing Manager

Collaboration Solutions Marketing