“Is It Time To Become a Collaboration Technology Broker?”

May 14, 2014 - 4 Comments

It’s no coincidence that when choosing where to work, Type A personalities gravitate to organizations at the leading edge of their chosen field or that enable them to make a real difference. But gone are the days when you see “cell phone provided” in a job offer.  I don’t think I’ll choose my next employer based on what collaboration tools they provide, but I will make a point of measuring how seriously they take collaboration and how it fits into their operations. For me it will always be an important selection criterion.

They say “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”  I think people leave cultures that hinder them for ones that promise to set them free.

With so many disruptive technologies and deployment options, it can be difficult for IT teams to support broadening and challenging business needs. Increasingly, and often out of frustration around ‘Slow IT’, individual business units are acting as buying centers themselves; creating an issue of ‘shadow IT’.

Two things to watch out for with shadow IT

–  Tension or friction in the sourcing decision making process

–  Security or compliance issues because of insufficient oversight by IT

The recent Cisco/Intel study, “The Impact of Cloud on IT Consumption Models” reveals that business units are funding 44% of total IT spending globally. The research shows two key drivers behind this: the popularity of BYOD schemes and the general trend towards delivery of IT ‘as a service’.

Become a broker and deliver IT ‘as a service’

In this ‘world of many clouds’ how do you deploy IT ‘as a service’?  How do you enable ‘Fast IT’? Clearly, offering new and innovative services ‘off the shelf’ is a good target. But what strategy should you adopt? And what initial steps should you take?

There is not one, simple solution that would suit everyone. I think the secret of success is keeping the gap the smallest gap possible between the business strategy and what IT can make directly available. 

It is also very important to enable people to fill any gaps themselves, securely.  People really like cloud, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and mobile-based services. The tools are tailored for specific jobs and getting them is easy. In my mind, IT leaders need to look at ways they can once again become their business’s first port of call for applications and services and become a broker of IT services.

Consider how you can create the flexibility to choose the best and most suitable overall cloud platform for your organization. Look at how you can offer services on a tailored app-store basis for everyone.

Many organizations have hybrid environments, but they often have discrete applications that can lead to fractured business processes. Consider how to bring together the best of both worlds – existing on-premises solutions, and those available through the cloud as well from third parties.

Here at Cisco we believe in doing both. We believe in helping you to manage your collaboration services in an orchestrated fashion with IT and the network at the center.  This is why we are developing the world’s largest global Intercloud and pursuing our Cloud Fusion strategy around connecting clouds and enabling them to work better together

As for my collaboration toolbox here at Cisco, I think it is pretty good. I live in London, my boss is in Boston, and the rest of my team is spread out along an eight-hour time line – from Reading in the U.K. to sunny San Jose in California. We all work extremely effectively as a team. We use a mixture of on-premises and cloud-based services and an ever-expanding array of applications and devices supplied by Cisco or purchased ourselves.

What happens in your organization? How important is collaboration to you? How do you get hold of new tools – through IT or from the shadows?

I would love to hear how you address some of these challenges and how we can help you become a Collaboration Technology Broker…

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  1. Enterprise IT. Business units are increasingly asking for ‘more’ and going around IT to get it… which isn’t all bad but can lead to issues (security, reliability and support seen the most prevalent).
    I think IT needs to get proactive and source solutions and made them available on an ‘app store’ basis – to both satisfy users and also ensure a good set of available tools and make sure they are scalable, secure and reliable.

  2. Really interesting article and comment. But, Marcus, who do you think should become a Collaboration Technology Broker?
    System integrators?
    Service providers?
    Best regards
    Giorgio C.

  3. Thanks Tim.
    I often talk about 3 Collaboration Challenges:
    – Embed into the business
    – Extend across organization’s
    – Integrate cloud and on – premises
    …but I really like the ‘4 Cs of Collaboration’.

  4. Great article Marcus.

    I think in order for companies to collaborate effectively it helps to consider some of these key areas:-

    Culture – As you point out, one of the biggest barriers to collaboration is the organizational culture of a company. Collaboration aims to flatten, blur and decentralize “command and control” management styles. This can be intimidating to those companies (and managers) that favour a more power-based reporting structure.

    Coordination – The benefit of collaboration is to improve “surfacing” information across communities of interest. Previously such information might be locked away in personal inboxes, on individual hard-drives or, more alarmingly, stored in consumer-cloud services outside the control and governance of company IT departments. (Some great developments from Cisco teaming with Jive is this area.)

    Cooperation – In order to improve the adoption, companies need to encourage and empower employees in all parts of the organization to work together. The success of these new services are accelerated by senior managers acting as facilitators to encourage cooperation. Managers need to change themselves and encourage their teams to change with them, which requires the capacity to lead by example and let go, rather than to “command and control.”

    Connection – Many companies think of those employees that interact with people outside the organization as being limited to customer facing staff such as sales or customer support. Collaborative solutions provide the capability to develop relationships with external partners or customers beyond front line staff. Again, some great capabilities offered by Jabber Guest.

    Best regards,