Collaboration is all about enabling diverse and distributed team members, both inside and outside your organization to effectively communicate, share information, and work toward a common goal. The benefits of collaboration show up as:

  • Productivity gains
  • Better and faster decision making
  • Improved communication and teamwork
  • The ability for remote and virtual team members to take part meaningfully

Before investing in new collaboration technology, it pays to take a moment and define your goals: What do you want collaboration to deliver, and to whom?

I’m not talking about departmental or point-to-point focused  goals that will address only an immediate need (like deploying video endpoints to several offices to enable better team interaction for a particular group, say an engineering team). I am talking about looking beyond that.

What benefits do want your organization as a whole to derive from collaboration? Be bold and think big. Now, at this planning stage, is the time to do so. What do you want provide for employees at all levels, across all devices and endpoints, in all locations?

Why is this question so important? Today, effective collaboration uses a collection of tools, applications, and devices that span the ways we communicate. It’s voice, video, web conferencing, virtual meeting rooms, instant messaging, social media, document sharing, and more. Your collaboration approach should promote effective communication where, when, and how it is  needed. It should work in the boardroom, on the road, and across geographies. And it must do so in a secure, flexible, and easy-to-use way.

Many of the devices and applications available today claim to deliver “collaboration.” And they usually do, if you take a very limited view of collaboration that focuses only on one team or task.  But rushing to make a purchase that addresses only one collaboration need can be counterproductive in the long run.

Likewise, cobbling together a collaboration solution from multiple “limited scope” collaboration tools  introduces complexity and sets up barriers. You now have multiple products to learn–each with a different look, feel, and functionality–and the need to switch from one to the other depending on who you are trying to collaborate with.  The result: User frustration! Complexity and incompatibility can prevent efficient collaboration — ensuring that collaboration investments go under-used.

To help you, here are the top three themes that customers bring up in planning. A collaboration solution should deliver the following:

  • Intuitive user experience with consistent design and features across platforms, endpoints, and devices.
  • Availability everywhere: from browser to boardroom; inside and outside the firewall; and delivered from data center, cloud, or both.
  • Simple management and easy integration with your existing applications, workflows, and the network.

To be sure that you can deliver on all three key tenets, look to the collaboration core infrastructure—the foundation—and verify that it is in place to support your overall goals.

This collaboration core infrastructure is, of course, built on product components. But more important, it is an integrated architectural approach to address your collaboration needs. It involves the way that the component products were designed and, more critically, how they work together. To meet your needs, you need a collaboration core infrastructure that delivers consistency and the best possible experience across the full spectrum of products in your environment.

Learn more about Cisco’s collaboration core infrastructure approach in the Collaboration Core Infrastructure: Empower Your Collaboration Experience white paper.


Michael Murphy

No Longer with Cisco