Forrester released an interesting report on the state of collaboration software implementations in 2011. What they are saying is that most organizations still don't get real business value from these implementations, other than saving on travel. Disappointing isn't the word here.

Implementing Social Software

The report is called The State of Software Collaboration Implementations in 2011. It's based on the Forrester’s Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010 given to 2,403 IT executives and technology decision-makers located in Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US from small and medium-size (SMB) and enterprise companies.

According to Forrester, 42% of workers work outside the corporate firewall, either at home or on client sites. This drives the need for collaboration software. And as we all know, there are any number of point solutions or social software suites that can help.

They are of course still implementing solutions:

  • Team Workspaces and Web 2.0 toolsets
  • Real-time communications such as desktop video conferencing, instant messaging, web conferencing, etc..
  • Room-based video conferencing

And most organizations aren't doing much with their email environments other than what they currently support.


Finding Value in Implementations

So they are implementing solutions. But at the same time, the same organizations aren't seeing the real benefits of these implementations. When the biggest benefits they are seeing are related to reduced travel costs and improved corporate communications, something isn't right. 


The Right Tool at the Right Time

This is all more than a little disappointing considering we have been talking about the value of implementing collaboration tools for some time. Forrester tells us not to despair, that there is value to be found, if we look in the right place and offer the right tool at the right time.

The right place is within business processes. The right tool? Well that depends on what's needed at the time. Forrester suggests that organizations implement a suite of collaboration tools so that when the need arises for a particular tool it is there ready and waiting.

The report says that "facilitating flexible working styles requires giving workers a range of tools." But they aren't saying to just implement a suite willy nilly. They offer suggestions such as:

  • Map information worker processes to understand the challenges faces
  • Define the workflows that can best be supported by collaboration tools, then pick the software
  • Work with managers to define policies and procedures for using the tools implemented

Is a Suite Necessary?

Part of me thinks organizations should already be thinking this way. We should have been past the "reduces travel costs" as the top benefit at least six months ago. Analysts, vendors and consultants alike have been extolling the benefits of adding collaborative capabilities to business processes for quite awhile now.

So why aren't organizations doing it? Because it's hard. Implementing these technologies to promote better communications and reduce travel time are easy wins. This gets the tools in the door. But it's the next steps that are harder.

If all you can prove with the initial implementation are simple benefits, management probably isn't going to see the need to take it further. How do you establish ROI for collaboration tools integrated into business processes? That's the million dollar question. But it's the one you need to answer if you really want to take advantage of what this software has to offer.