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Collaboration needed to improve competitiveness

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Technology has failed to improve the competitive positioning of global organisations.
This is one of the key findings in Dimension Data’s 2016 Connected Enterprise Report, released today.
The report provides an overview of the state of collaboration implementation strategies, and highlights trends and disruptions in enterprises across the globe. The findings are based on a study of 900 participants in 15 countries, and participants include IT directors, CIOs and line of business managers working in organisations with over 1 000 employees.
According to one in five organisations polled, collaboration technology had failed to improve their competitive positioning. However 87% of organisations said the use of collaboration technology had improved teamwork, and 88% of enterprises had accelerated decision making.
Jay Reddy, Dimension Data’s executive for customer experience and collaboration in Middle East and Africa, says that apart from improving employee productivity and teamwork, the research indicates that more organisations are turning to collaboration to drive new revenue and sales.
“Some 14% – the second highest number of respondents in the report – said improving sales is the top goal of their collaboration strategy, while one in three organisations said increased sales was among the three most important ways of measuring the success of their collaboration projects.”
“Enterprises have had varying degrees of success when it comes to the improvements that the use of collaboration technology was intended to provide,” explains Brian Riggs, principal analyst: Enterprise Services at research firm Ovum. “They’ve become adept at improving teamwork and productivity, partly because they can work directly with employees to make this happen. But leveraging collaboration to improve competitiveness or streamline business processes can be a lot more complicated. It involves larger changes to how the company does business, and its role within its industry. These changes can take significant time and effort to achieve.”
Top-line findings from the report found:
* Many enterprises have not included collaboration in their technology strategy, and nearly 40% of organisations don’t have a defined unified communication and collaboration strategy. However, with the remaining 60% that do have a strategy, line of business (LoB) managers and other non-IT executives have a pivotal role in defining and executing their company’s collaboration strategy – 89% of research participants. An increasing number of LoBs – one in four organisations – are also taking responsibility to pay for and implement the solutions as well, without express consent of IT.
* Enterprises rely on collaboration to drive sales and new revenue. Increasing sales is the most important collaboration strategy at 14% of enterprises, second only to increased productivity, which is most important to 19%. Organisations are turning to collaboration to improve sales, with 14% – the second highest number of respondents – saying improving sales is the top goal of their collaboration strategy. And one in three organisations say increased sales is among the top three most important ways of measuring the success of their collaboration projects.
* Few enterprises view return on investment as the main way they measure the success of their use of collaboration technology. Only 4% use return on investment (ROI) as the primary method of determining whether their deployment of new collaboration technologies has been a success. A demonstrable ROI is the least relied on method that organisations use to gauge the success of their use of collaboration technology. Only 4% of organisations measure success by calculating ROI, whereas employee productivity data, user uptake data, and cost savings data are much more common ways to justify their investments in collaboration technology. This is problematic because ROI is an important way of justifying any kind of technology investment.
* Not enough focus on what happens after the technology is deployed. A quarter of organisations focus more on the successful implementation of collaboration technology, rather than how it’s used and adopted. One out of every four IT departments measure the success of their collaboration projects by how well they’ve implemented the technology. This is a rather dangerous mindset, since the success of collaboration projects hinges as much on what comes after the technology is implemented as before. If employees don’t use the collaboration tool – and use them effectively – then organisations will neither benefit from the technology nor achieve an ROI on it. Related to this, 17% of organisations haven’t implemented collaboration training programmes, and 16% haven’t changed travel policies to encourage the use of videoconferencing and other collaboration tools. This is a recipe for disaster for many organisations looking to derive maximum value of their use of collaboration technology.
* Collaboration improves enterprises’ ability to interact with customers, and 81% of enterprises say collaboration has enhanced their ability to engage with customers and improve customer service. Collaboration technology has a wide range of uses in customer engagement scenarios. Rich communications leveraging technology lets businesses interact with clients in the manner and on the device they prefer. And it improves how contact agents work together and with others in the enterprise to resolve customer issues. However, very few – only 2% of enterprises – identify customer service improvements as the topmost goal of the collaboration strategy. The implication is that better customer experience is an accidental rather than pre-planned outcome for many organisations implementing collaboration technology.
* Collaboration accelerates decision-making, but many organisations fail to leverage it to improve their competitive position; and 88% of enterprises say collaboration has improved the decision-making process in their organisations. Enterprises have also become very adept at leveraging collaboration technology to make their employees more productive, with 84% saying collaboration has improved the productivity of individual employees. But many struggle to leverage collaboration to compete in their respective industries, with 20% of organisations saying their use of collaboration technology has failed to improve their competitive positioning.
* Cloud-based collaboration is a strategic goal for many enterprises, but it will take some time to achieve. Nearly one in three IT departments see moving unified communication and collaboration to the cloud as the most important technology trend affecting their collaboration strategy.  However, organisations are taking a very cautious approach to the cloud, with only 20% to 25% currently relying on hosted collaboration services. This isn’t expected to grow significantly in the next 12 months as enterprises carefully and deliberately execute on their cloud strategies.
* LoBs have a prominent role in deciding which collaboration technology to use. Almost 60% of lines of business (LoBs) have their own budget – independent of IT – to purchase collaboration technology. And 57% have staff within the department to both implement and support collaboration technology. Selecting, purchasing, and implementing collaboration technology are no longer just the IT department’s responsibilities. At many enterprises, IT need to work hand-in-hand with LoBs that not only understand what they seek to gain from collaboration but are also capable of purchasing and supporting the technology.