AIIM lede.jpgMost organizations see collaboration as crucial to their success, but nearly two-thirds of those organizations feel confused about the dovetailing of collaboration and social tools.

And while document and content sharing outside the firewall is considered a necessary evil, many onsite systems have been secured against access to outside systems, forcing business workers to rely on unsecured file sharing systems.

These results and more from recent AIIM research points to a C-Suite that favors collaboration, but puts many obstacles in the way to achieving it.

Collaboration Advantages

The research, which was carried out between Jan. 24 and Feb. 11 this year, is based on responses across 421 surveys returned from the global AIIM community. Entitled "Content Collaboration and Processing in a Cloud and Mobile World," it examined how enterprises are managing collaboration. Specifically, it looked at how they were dealing with two growing collaboration needs:

  • Linking external users into the content sharing environment
  • Enabling them to do this from their mobile devices.

If the results are broadly positive in the sense that they point to a business climate that is supportive of collaboration efforts and technology, they also show that many businesses have been forced to prohibit the use of third party systems like Dropbox, SkyDrive, i-Cloud, Google Drive and YouSendIt as workers attempt to overcome historic restrictions on reaching out beyond the firewall.

AIIM The Importance of Collaboration Outside the Enterprise.jpg

Looking at why collaboration was so important for organizations, three strategic drivers for improved collaboration were apparent:

  1. Better general productivity (47 percent),
  2. Better knowledge pooling (46 percent) and
  3. Connecting a dispersed workforce (36 percent).

Other issues, like speeding up review processes, responding to customers and building customer engagement, and project completions were also seen as important to overall productivity.

Historical Enterprise Collaboration

The current enterprise collaboration landscape is the result of a number of changes in technology over the past few years, the research says. The first generation of on-premises team-site and document sharing applications emerged and to some extent replaced the sharing function of intranets.

Smaller teams across the enterprise quickly took to the new and speedy sharing functionality as well as the ability to create workspaces where even the smallest teams could meet and work online.

The result was a massive proliferation of project sites while problems around sharing and collaboration appeared to be solved. However, like all unplanned IT, eventually it springs up and bites.

In this case, for CIOs, the problems should have been predictable enough given that they have existed since enterprises started storing information in repositories. That problem is governance.

Document libraries sprang up over night with little consideration about classification or lifecycle management. Structured records creation and destruction was forgotten about, as well as controls over who could see, access and share what documents.

CIOs jumped on this straight away introducing taxonomies, governance policies, compliance workflows even if the introduction of these control elements made these systems a little bit more complicated than they were originally.

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Cloud-Based Collaboration

A second generation of collaboration tools emerged as more enterprises started looking at cloud computing. These were simple to use and enabled sharing inside and outside the firewalls through a common access area in the cloud, or through synchronizing content between two computers or devices via the cloud.

Many of these file share and sync applications adopted a “mobile first” approach, thus addressing the two collaboration needs identified previously, notably external collaboration and collaboration using mobile devices.

Of course, any one that uses these tools will be aware of the amount of social elements that have been added over time like shared wikis or comment streams, but often without the agreement of the IT department.

In response to this, many on-premises collaboration , or enterprise content management (ECM) systems developed either cloud-only versions, or hybrid cloud models, with synchronization between the cloud and on-premises.

4 Collaboration Considerations

Given the range of models now available, the research aims to clear up some of the confusion around some of these models and point to the options that are currently available to users, while at the same time keeping security and governance firmly in focus.