According to a report by Forrester, businesses are investing in collaboration tools, but are still trying to get the full range of benefits from them.
well as small and midsize businesses are investing in collaboration tools, but
beyond reducing travel expenses and improving corporate communications, they
aren't seeing a lot of benefits, according to a recent survey by Forrester
team workspaces, social tools like blogs and wikis, desktop video conferencing,
and unified communications solutions are among the most popular, the March 21
report said. However, of the 12 benefits of collaboration technology that
Forrester tracks, almost two-thirds of the businesses that are deploying such
technologies are seeing between zero and four benefits.
benefits, the two primary ones seen so far-reduced travel costs and enhanced
corporate communications-are easy to gauge, according to T.J. Keitt, the lead
analyst on the study. However, the real value of these tools will come when
they also improve such areas as time to market, innovation and partner
benefits are low-hanging fruit because they are easy to measure," Keitt said in
the study. "A review of travel expenditures pre- and post-deployment of a
collaboration tool can point to savings. Likewise, executives and the HR department using
blogs and wikis to disseminate information instead of shipping paper is simple
for the business to track. So it's easy
to see why the majority of businesses view these as the foremost benefits of
using collaboration technology."
To get beyond
those basic enhancements, Forrester suggests introducing a wide variety of collaboration
tools that can meet a growing range of business needs, and ensuring that those
tools meet the needs of employees. The study indicates that once a business
deploys four or five collaboration tools, there is a significant improvement in
the number of survey respondents who say their company is benefiting from the
it's important to have the tools on hand when employees need them.
business processes, the key is having the right tool at the right time," Keitt
wrote in the study. "For example, a project team might need instant messaging
for ad hoc communications, team workspaces for sharing documents and
co-authoring, and desktop videoconferencing for team meetings. So C&C pros
need to identify workers in dynamic business processes-like product
development-and provide them with a range of tools that provide options for how
Vendors see a
big market for collaboration technologies. Cisco Systems
officials say it could be as much
as a $30 billion opportunity. Cisco is among a wide range of vendors-the list
includes companies from Hewlett-Packard and IBM to Microsoft, Avaya
and Polycom-looking to gain greater
traction in the space.
Forrester's study, companies are buying the technologies. Now the trick is to wring
the most benefits from them, particularly in a world where more people are
working at least part of the time outside the office. About 43 percent of
information professionals work from multiple locations during a month, and 42
percent spend time working in locations outside of the corporate firewall,
including at home and at customer sites, according to Forrester.
"The number of
employees who need to communicate and collaborate with highly distributed teams
will only increase as telecommuting becomes more prevalent and businesses
emphasize collaborative interactions with partners and customers," Keitt said
in the report.
In a blog supporting the study
, he said there seems
to be a disconnect between the growing number of mobile workers and the low
percentage of businesses seeing improved innovation and time-to-market from
collaboration technologies. Some of that disconnect comes from businesses using
collaboration tools not necessarily to improve collaboration, but to reduce
costs-such as travel expenses-associated with collaboration, Keitt said.
some businesses deploy collaboration tools before creating a clear collaboration
strategy, and beyond reduced operational costs, it's difficult to measure the
benefits derived from the technologies.
going to need to get past these obstacles if they're to gain the true benefits
of collaboration technologies, he said in the report.
"The key for
broader collaboration technology adoption in the workforce is seamless
integration into business processes," Keitt said. "For example, this can mean
adding collaboration technologies to the product-lifecycle-management software
to allow product managers to track events and facilitate interactions with
engineers. Linking these tools will help improve metrics such as time-to-market
because workers will be able to find people and information in the context of