We work today in a world of unparalleled teamwork. Think back 10 years: most organizational projects were completed by people that worked together in the same location. Now collaboration makes it possible for teams to work together across time zones and locations — communicating with partners internally and externally. Reaching out has never been so simple.
Technology has made such teamwork possible. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. The emergence of mobile and cloud computing have muddied the waters somewhat, making it far more difficult for IT departments to keep systems locked down and secure. So how do you take the confusion out of teamwork in our 24/7 connected world and make sure it delivers value for your organization?
Questions of Access and External Collaboration
Collaboration is the lifeblood of the way we do business today. A recently study by AIIM titled "Content Collaboration and Processing in a Cloud and Mobile World" (free) highlighted the fact that businesses have been keen to embrace teamwork. 93 percent of the executives surveyed said they believed internal collaboration was either "crucial" or "very important" to their business, while 59 percent felt that external collaboration was just as important and 89 percent went so far as to say that a formal collaboration system is key to their business infrastructure.
That collaboration was perceived to be so important is no surprise, but how much are organizations actually collaborating?
It makes sense to provide project teams and individuals in an organization with a specific place to brainstorm and pool their resources. It inspires innovative thinking and can propel a business forward. So when the first on site team and document sharing applications appeared, replacing legacy intranets and rolling out document collaboration organization wide, users were more than eager to set up dens for their project teams.
This sounds great in theory, but two growing collaboration requirements emerged and left organizations scratching their heads. The first was how to let users outside the firewall into the content sharing environment. The second was how to provide access to collaborative content from mobile devices and allow remote participation in review workflows.
When a new wave of consumer cloud based content sharing tools appeared — Dropbox, iCloud, Skydive, YouSendit and Google Drive — they seemed to answer employee's needs. They offered intuitive interfaces and familiarity to employees who had used them outside the workplace. Many of them had a mobile first credo, which solved both of the collaboration needs outlined above. Project teams quickly adopted these services to share and communicate ideas, often without the IT department’s knowledge.
Taking the Confusion out of Teamwork
Some on premises collaboration and ECM system suppliers responded by creating cloud only versions of their products or extending their on premises system into a hybrid cloud model.
Others allowed these new cloud collaboration services to synchronize with established on premises ECM systems. All of these different models have sown confusion and indecision among users looking to progress while at the same time keeping the system secure and under control.
The survey found that this rapid merging of collaborative and social tools has left many executives confused. Executives were particularly unsettled by external collaboration, with 71 percent feeling their organization has shortcomings as far as technical support placement for external teamwork.
Progress of cloud based file sync and share services has helped IT support for teamwork within and beyond the firewall take major strides. The ability to easily link these services with third parties, and the support by intuitive apps have aided this. But security issues linger — both on device security and connectivity with on site systems — with many still only reaching consumer grade security, which does nothing to safeguard your business system.
It's no use opting for a draconian approach to locking down systems. If organizations reject flexible, easy to use collaboration tools, users will fall back on their own devices and applications — which fall under the IT department's radar and leave the business system open to a potentially serious security risk.
Many companies saw the hybrid cloud as a possible solution. This path would extend their on site ECM or collaboration systems and offer an easier transition to the cloud than an all or nothing approach. Users’ log in classification, retention policies and workflows could be synchronized across cloud and mobile platforms. While this approach might make sense, organizations should consider a few points before jumping headlong into the decision.
Before Adopting the Hybrid Cloud
Before organizations decide to go down this road, they should carefully consider the following points:
- Know the areas of your business where collaboration is crucial. Make collaboration with external partners and third parties your focal point.
- Look carefully at the technical support provided. Take note of the capabilities and ease of use of many modern collaboration and ECM systems.
- Assess the support within your current collaboration or ECM system for external and mobile users. Make sure you have a plan in place for the future regarding secure cloud and hybrid cloud solutions.
- Understand that employees may be using consumer grade cloud based file share and sync offerings in the workplace. Consider introducing a supported business grade system, as a possible stop gap. Security options and user access controls are of paramount importance.
- If you search for a long term cloud collaboration solution, set your sights above basic content access on mobile devices. Instead look out for containerized security, capture and edit, review and annotate functions, and interoperability with back office processes.
- Note that a stand alone cloud collaboration and content management solution will add an additional repository to manage for user access, classification, taxonomy, retention and hold. The ability to align with on site systems would be useful here. Also, check out third party cloud extensions to on site systems, as well as stand alone cloud systems that provide a variety of connectors.
- Eschew developing in house mobile environments. Productized solutions from existing ECM, collaboration and process interface vendors, on-site or cloud, will be far easier to support across current and future mobile devices. You are also less likely to run into security issues.
Put the right tools in place to support teamwork in the organization or risk seeing the adoption of consumer grade solutions that are the bane of IT departments and put sensitive corporate data at risk. Your employees want to collaborate — give them the tools to do it efficiently.
About the Author
John Mancini is president of AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), independent information management analysts and a global community of information professionals. Read the collaboration research here.
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