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Ghostbusters and New “Law of Collaboration”

October 31, 2007 - 1 Comment

In the sprit of Halloween, I thought about the classic Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis film, Ghostbusters, after apparently defeating the evil spirit”Gozer,” the character Winston Zedmore joyously declares:”We have the tools. We have the talent.” ghostbusters.gifIn an offbeat way, these comedians created a snapshot of many of the collaboration issues that businesses are dealing with in the area of Unified Communications and Web 2.0 social networking technologies. How do you marry the rich complex talent of your employees, partners and customers to solve a business challenge within the secure boundaries of your information and communication systems? To be more pointed, a significant challenge arises when you try to break down command and control business cultures to create agile enterprises that embrace inclusion, while maintaining the boundaries of privacy and security and adhering to ever-increasing industry regulations such as accounting reform (Sarbanes-Oxley), health care information privacy (HIPPA), and account data security (PCI). While”the wall” on Facebook is a great place to post messages, I am not sure most people want their dentist or banker posting private information in this emerging communications environment.The broad range of business-class unified communications -including IP telephony, messaging, presence, web and audio conferencing, email, contact center, CRM, business video and telepresence, and digital media systems -used among and across a range of device environments increasingly requires an open, yet secure way, to interoperate, even if such systems were not designed to work together.The process of Collaboration is, at its heart, about effectively improving team output, and particularly the behavioral and communications capabilities of those teams -whether they are made up of 2 or 2000 people. It requires a view about diversity in business that is not political, but rather, about the power of talent inclusion. Hence the underlying power of Unified Communications technology — which I see as the gearbox of Collaboration -requires a certain rethinking that spans both cultural and social mores.CulturebustersThe”Culturebusters” analog for Collaboration is a rich understanding that a diversity of talents and perspectives can improve a work product. At Cisco, many of our customers host and drive discussion forums about the efficacy and quality of our products. What was once reserved as a semi-annual set of ritual”Technical Advisory Boards” is now complemented by a real-time set of open discussion forums on our public website. Granted, it is not always pretty to get somewhat unvarnished input, but it makes for better products. As Harold Ramis says about Signourney Weaver after taking her through a polygraph early in Ghostbusters to verify a supernatural experience:”She’s telling the truth — or at least she thinks she is.”CommunicationsbustersWhat we are now learning is that lots of communications tools that were not designed to work together actually benefit the work experience if you can bring them together. Business video enabled in WebEx bundled with call control and presence is a phenomenal”mash-up.” We are effectively”crossing the streams” on the”proton packs” by bringing traditional and disparate communications and desktop messaging architectures together, and more significantly, in a mobile environment. The real next wave of communicationsbusters will come when we add even more speech recognition and visual input interfaces into unified communications, as I wrote about in a mobility blog about Gallaudet University last year. By allowing people with visual or hearing impairment to participate in our economy, we will be able to unlock the talent of more than 30 million Americans. That’s a lot of talent to include by not just depending on the keyboard or the keypad.Business advantage enabled by Collaboration, I would posit, is best advantaged by those systems that securely flatten layers of communication and support the most diverse, unification across networks, applications and devices. Here is Cohen’s”Law of Collaboration” (with a clear”assist” from Bob Metcalfe): the power of the collaborative business environment is the sum of communications tools that are integrated to support rich media communications times the number of platforms it supports.Now, who ya gonna call?

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  1. Great post! I loved the Ghostbuster analogy. I agree that collaboration, powered by unified communications, has an enormous potential. The more open and platform independent these tools are, the more powerful they are. It will be interesting to see what is possible when we can access our collaborative tools on a cell phone, TV set, or on a plane. One caveat IMO is that the user interface needs to be effective as well. These tools are only going to be used, and be effective if people are able to concentrate on the collaboration, rather than the tool.