New tools, leap-frogging and BYOD fuel surge in enterprise collaboration

A chat with Simon Farr, BT expert on innovation. BT are Gold Sponsors at Ovum Industry Congress Europe, taking place in Amsterdam on 2nd October.

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What’s new in enterprise collaboration?

I think we’ve finally reached an inflection point where companies are moving from dabbling with these technologies to really deploying them.  Everyone has been trying to be as agile as possible to meet economic pressures, and they’re realising that the latest tools for communications and collaborative working are powerful ways to make that happen.  This has been going on for a while, but now the user community is really pushing.  People are using these tools in their everyday lives and if the technology isn’t available officially, they’re going to find a way around the rules.

Who’s setting best practice?

There’s no one standout; different companies are doing different things well.  We see some industries, for example, taking a more aggressive stance than others in adoption of specific tools.  We’ve worked with a lot of banks who are strong, early adopters of video.  Telepresence has been very widespread in FMCG, and now that’s proliferating down to desktops.  Oil and gas companies, we’ve found, are keen on all sorts of collaborative technologies because of their need for expert opinion, fast, in some pretty inaccessible regions.

So what’s holding corporations back?

Challenges like security. Particularly when we see an increasing BYOD environment; an individual’s collaboration tool of choice is often not what’s officially sanctioned.  That immediately sets off alarm bells.  It’s not practical for most corporations to ban employees’ own devices.  Instead, they need to focus on controlling data on those devices.  How to protect it, how to wipe it if it’s lost.  Then there’s tech support, network traffic management, standards & operability.  The key is to pick the right time in your IT refresh and investment cycle, so you can have optimal impact for the least cost.

Economic challenges have held back investment for many.  How big a problem is that?

Actually, it can be an advantage.  We’re seeing some organisations leapfrog right over the development stages of these technologies.  Take Microsoft Lync, for example.  Those platforms are getting to a more mature place, able to support scale.  Organisations can do a straight swap for their old pbx.  New BYOD strategies can really extend computing power; super-productive employees are often likely to have the latest kit.

So what’s a CIO’s top priority?

Picking the right partners for your journey.  You need to think about legacy, desktop, messaging, mobility, cloud strategies.  Collaboration isn’t just about one aspect of technology, it’s everything.  Underpinned by strong and robust infrastructure, that’s guaranteed to be secure.  That’s a lot to consider.  You must pick vendors and technologies that work well together, and deliver to an integrated strategy.

How can BT help?

With our Quick Start methodology, we can come in, do a fast audit and get to practical, pragmatic recommendations.  We’re vendor agnostic, and work across most regions and sectors, so we can identify the right partners and technologies for your specific needs.  Then, if you want a complete service, we can deploy and operate the plan for you.

Meet Simon at the Movenpick Hotel, Amsterdam, after his presentation at 15:55 on Effective business collaboration in an “own device” age

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