In the first of this two part series, Ian Cook, explored the role that communication and collaboration technologies can play in harnessing ‘informal innovation’. In this second part, Logicalis UK MD, Tom Kelly, outlines the business and technology considerations that should guide the design of collaboration and communication infrastructure for harnessing innovation.
As Ian rightly pointed out, giving people access to the right collaboration and communication tools can deliver enormous organisational benefits.
Apart from giving people and business the ability to harness and act on innovative thinking, the right combination of tools and technologies, underpinned by a collaborative culture, can help to solve specific business challenges, streamline operations and drive productivity, improve third party and supplier working relationships, and reduce costs – all benefits that can play a vital role in strengthening competitiveness.
The key phrase, however, is ‘the right combination of tools and technologies’. Building a collaboration and communications infrastructure that delivers on its potential requires focus – a ‘pick and mix’ approach is doomed to failure.
Of course, every organisation is different, so there is not a single magic formula. It is, however, possible to identify a series of common success factors upon which designing an effective, integrated collaboration environment depends – and which hold the key to preparing effectively for the business imperatives of tomorrow:
- Quality of Service: CIOs need to ask themselves if they are ready to deliver the kind of quality of service that their users already expect - anytime, anyplace connectivity with uninterrupted access to networks, applications and data. The new standard is 100 percent reliability. It has to be, as Ian pointed out; 99.99% of those innovative ideas never see the light of day. Who are we to step in the way of the few that want to?
- Security: Multi-device, multi-channel communication brings security challenges as well as the benefits of more effective collaboration. Outsiders will bring wireless devices into the company’s network and inside users will take the network outside of the company’s domain. It is vital to put in place the tools and expertise required to secure networks equally well from the inside out and the outside in.
- Speed: If it’s a good idea for your organisation, the chances are someone else is having a similar idea at a competing business. So it’s vital to ensure that speedy decision-making and seamless collaboration are not held back by network speeds. Business networks need to handle ever-higher resolutions, volumes and user expectations - and the demand will only grow. Only careful planning can ensure that networks are consistently highly capable, reliable and fast.
- Wireless Access: Work is no longer a place, it’s an activity. Whether that spark of inspiration flares on the factory floor, in the canteen or at the far end of the warehouse, workers need the ability to capture it. So, employees increasingly need their workplace to effectively move around with them. A fast, reliable wireless connection isn't a bonus. Ensuring business people are constantly connected – with or without wires - is a commercial necessity.
- Multi-Device: As employees continue to communicate and collaborate with an ever-changing array of devices, so the challenges mount up. Companies can’t know every device people will choose to use in the workplace, yet the ability to allow people to “bring your own device” is a must to reduce email stress at work – so IT infrastructure must be ready to support them when, where and how they want to work.
- Consistent Experience Worldwide: People expect access to the same tools, technologies and standards of service wherever they happen to be in the world. That means building and supporting a unified global infrastructure so the company’s users can communicate in a variety of ways on a myriad of devices wherever they are in the world.
Those are the goals but, before they can be achieved, some fundamental issues must be addressed. Those issues we have explored in more detail here, but may include:
- Your current collaboration infrastructure is in place: The aim should be to put in place one single, integrated infrastructure platform – you can’t do that without understanding what you already have and how it might fit into a broader infrastructure.
- Your third party vendors and suppliers of the current infrastructure: As communication and collaboration solutions are made up of a number of different products, getting an understanding of who is providing these products and consolidating your suppliers will help reduce costs, but more importantly ensure that your solution is fully integrated.
- Your business culture’s ability to keep up with new collaboration solutions: Employees now more than ever expect to be able to communicate within the workplace in the same way that they do out of the workplace. Social media is a growing force, as is video on mobile devices. Indeed, Gartner predicted that “by 2014, refusing to communicate with customers via social channels will be as harmful as ignoring emails or phone calls is today.”
The point behind all those considerations is a simple one – a communication and collaboration infrastructure is ultimately only as good as the user experience it delivers. And the better the experience it delivers, the greater the opportunity to harness that ‘informal innovation’.