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Updated: August 7, 2011 17:44 IST

Enterprise collaboration and its potential

D. Murali
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In www.aditi.com, what I find at the time of writing is the announcement of ‘E-Social Summit’ on July 21, in London, co-hosted by the company along with Microsoft and Rackspace. “The ability to engage across B2B, B2C & C2B channels is more and more mission critical for enterprise businesses. IT and infrastructure can obstruct operations and marketing, or it can enable groundbreaking strategies and streamline growth through scalability. Join other CIOs, CMOs and CEOs to discover how IT empowers marketing and collaboration,” reads the summit page.

On a related note, elsewhere in the site is a section on ‘enterprise collaboration,’ where Aditi says that companies cannot be competitive without effective collaboration; and that, to be successful, companies need to collaborate at multiple levels, ranging from long-term strategic collaboration, to weekly and monthly tactical collaboration, to detailed day-to-day operational collaboration and real-time communications.

During a recent interaction with Business Line, Pradeep Rathinam, CEO, Aditi Technologies, US (http://bit.ly/F4TPradeepR), reminded that ‘enterprise collaboration’ is an emerging space, and so having clarity regarding the destination and conviction around the steps required to get there is a tough challenge. We took our conversation forward over the email.

Excerpts from the interview.

Why is enterprise collaboration getting a lot of attention these days? What are the factors contributing to its popularity?

Take the case of my team in Bangalore. They would prefer working from home or a café and avoid the traffic, have Facebook and LinkedIn open for 18 hours and have over 280 conversations per day. If you think of this and extrapolate it to an enterprise, we do not have any choice but to adapt our work style to our lifestyle. Over 70 per cent of my team is under 30 and nearly 50 per cent have never seen each other. Without a solid collaboration and communication infrastructure, we would simply stop functioning within 90 minutes. And this is fairly indicative of all companies. So, while the strategic imperatives around process, workflow and access to content are well documented, these ground truths are pushing us to get connected intensely.

Do enterprises begin with clear expectations when launching collaboration initiatives?

Yes and no. Enterprise collaboration roadmaps are often drawn up to address current set of problems like fixing access, increasing productivity, etc. That is level 1 and is a fairly static solution. Some forward-looking enterprises spend as much time on user experience, design for extending features and apps, and they see far more success.

But the most difficult frontier is to design for 3 years out. By then, who knows, you will have 5 facebooks and 10X bandwidth, triggering all sorts of use cases you can’t plan for today. Can you possibly plan for it? The trick is to think of this space in 30-month refresh cycles and get your user community hooked in, just like LinkedIn does. It is one of the most difficult but one of the most critical problems to solve.

Would you like to discuss the typical and special challenges faced by solution providers like Aditi when implementing enterprise collaboration?

It is an emerging space, so having clarity regarding the destination and conviction around the steps required to get there is a tough challenge. We encourage customers to think of collaboration initiatives in terms of a multiple step function and help them understand and prepare for the challenges at each stage.

The one challenge we face most often is resistance to change. When we speak of, or demonstrate, a Facebook-like collaboration platform for the enterprise, CIOs love it. But when it comes to implementing it, cultures, policies, and infrastructure water the vision down.

The other challenge we face is around the sheer speed of change and innovation happening in this space. Once you have translated Facebook/LinkedIn into an enterprise context, in comes Google+ and the user experience bar gets raised notches. Before you are done implementing presence and chat, Skype-enabled video chat is what everyone wants.

Is there a maturity map for enterprise collaboration?

Yes. There are several business- and technology-oriented maps for collaboration maturity. We have developed a hybrid maturity model, specially designed for mid-size enterprises to think through and plan for an integrated collaboration, content, BI and communication journey. It is a fairly comprehensive model with all kinds of surveys, flowcharts, algorithms and statistical models, checklists and best practices. But as a concept, it is fairly simple – think through the journey as a step function and win small battles every day. We come in with the platform and implementation arsenal so that the customer can focus on the destiny and have a blueprint to get there.

**

InterviewsInsights.blogspot.com

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