Hardly a day passes without reference to today’s “globalized world” or its “borderless markets” as the justification for a particular business strategy. This type of connectedness plays a big part in building and extending a collaborative ecosystem that spans teams, departments and geographies. But to fully immerse a business in a connected, collaborative environment, it’s important to first understand what exactly connectedness is. 

At its core, connectedness refers to the depth of a company’s integration with the rest of its collaboration ecosystem. It contributes to a sense of solidarity and goes beyond ambition, urging organizations to ally, affiliate and grow the company through the right cooperative behavior.

With that in mind, here are my views on the five forces of collaboration that enable this sort of connectedness, and what companies need to be mindful of when integrating these forces into their business.

  1. Consumerization of IT. First, consider the consumerization of IT. Employees want the ability to work the same way they communicate in their personal lives – it’s easy and they’re familiar with it, so why not carry these tools over to their job? The danger here is that the tools most commonly used by consumers, such as free cloud services, are ripe with security holes when it comes to the enterprise. To boot, most IT departments are in the dark about unsanctioned applications being used internally. In a survey of nearly 4,000 information workers in the U.S. and U.K., 66 percent were found to use free file-sharing platforms. More than half do so without the knowledge of their IT departments. Security gaps aren’t the only concern. Ironically, consumer tools that are meant to make work easier often result in complex data silos. In fact, Forrester reported that nearly half of all information workers use between four and seven different collaboration tools to do their jobs, making collaboration all the more difficult. 

    If usability and collaboration are at the heart of this trend, then rolling out an enterprise solution that combines these qualities with a layer of security may be the answer. Then employees won’t feel compelled to bring in their own solutions. 

  2. 2. Rise of Extended Collaborative Ecosystems. Companies are being forced to look for innovations that reduce costs and inefficiencies, particularly when it comes to working with distributed teams. To this end, many legacy enterprise content management and document management system vendors seek partnerships in order to extend their functionality; however, this is often predicated on owning the customer and setting up walled gardens. For instance, with SharePoint 2010, the collaboration functionality can only be used by those who also have a SharePoint license. One way to eliminate such barriers is by applying Web 3.0 applications that allows users to access and extend collaboration capabilities in a secure environment, without compromising internal data protection policies or compliance and transparency mandates. 

    3. IP Protection, Security and Compliance. The ability to share and create a discussion around inspired moments, no matter where they occur, is a cornerstone of collaboration. The question lies in how to do that easily, without disrupting security and compliance or IP protection. Driven by the increased presence of consumer file-sharing services and BYOD in the workplace, these concerns have escalated to the boardroom. Now, organizations are focused on protecting their IP and other sensitive data from being uploaded on these applications or unauthorized devices, then shared, forwarded and copied without authorization. 

    Those in the boardroom can rest easy now – fixing this concern isn’t rocket science. A platform that conforms to enterprise security standards can adjust to permission levels for all users. It should also include extended security settings, like permissions, that control who can view and edit documents, forward links, make comments or upload new versions, as well as scrub sensitive information, like metadata, before any files are sent. In doing so, securely sharing information becomes less of an obstacle and more of a driving force for secure collaboration.  

    4. Big Data. Big data is sometimes dismissed as just another big buzzword, but it’s one of the driving forces behind collaboration. Two common characteristics are volume and velocity and, with the influx of inbound documents and flow of information, organizations have plenty of both. Email, for instance, takes up about 30 percent of employees’  time during the day. Considering this, many enterprises are reaching their tipping point at which they decide email is too time-consuming, and the multiple documents coming through take up far too much storage space within the corporate environment. The influx of data, including email, makes the need to organize massive amounts of data storage significant. 

    Massive amounts of data require a massive overhaul of the business’ search functionality. Search enables users to identify and locate relevant documents within their repository, making all relevant content available. Second, search helps prevent users from recreating documents that already exist. 

    Organizations need to harness the intelligence that is locked in these documents through semantic search and connect the right people to the right content, enabling a much more productive and efficient collaboration environment.

    5.  The Social Enterprise. Personal and business networks have become intertwined. As more social business platforms expose their APIs, it will become possible to integrate enterprise social network contacts into business collaboration platforms. To keep up with employees’ demand for usability, social business tools with content-aware platforms will blend –social network-like functionality with collaboration and knowledge management systems to create dynamic, secure collaborative ecosystems.

    This means communicating and sharing knowledge faster and easier within and across the business by connecting not just employees but also clients and partners. In empowering employees to easily find answers and connect with experts for better-informed decision-making, departmental and geographical barriers are bridged. And by easily aggregating and obtaining information that is relevant and important, overload is eliminated, with fewer emails to sort through. Each employee can keep a finger on the organizational pulse, using the platform to see what everyone's talking about and contribute to the conversation. This approach enables more innovation within the enterprise as ideas are shared and heard equally among employees of all levels and titles. 

The future looks bright where technology and relevance meet and expertise is uncovered, based on a reputation economy. This can all be done in an environment that is tailored to users’ individual workflow and preferences, while also meeting the security and IP requirements of the enterprise.  

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