Collaboration – A Multi-Vendor Approach?

This week my a.bridge adventures took me to the Savoy Hotel to speak at a Collaboration Technologies lunch hosted by Martin Dawes Solutions. A company based in Warrington, a town I know well having lived there until I was 13, in a village called Woolston. The school I went to there is now a centre of excellence for technology and art. Who Knew!

As usual I digress…

The conference was really interesting, full of technologists and heads of departments, and a lovely Ex-Cisco chap who really threw down his kid leather gauntlet and asked me the most challenging of questions… which was, “If you were advising a company on Collaboration tech, would you use one vendor’s end to end solution or pick bits from each vendor?’.

The truthful answer is I would pick the best bits (and business relevant bits) from all the vendors. For example I might steer away from recommending Cisco Quad to a company that is heavily reliant on document retention, and needs consistent document formatting across regions and lines of business. However I might think about recommending Quad if real time collaboration was a vital business component and process.

Of course everything depends on the quality of the network infrastructure.
What we seem to be calling the consumerisation of technology; Anytime, Anywhere Connectivity, Virtualisation, Cloud Services and Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), is having a giant impact on technologists. Every single business choice is dictated by whether the network can handle it. That’s why your IT department always say ‘No’ first…;-) Especially if you want to pick & mix vendor technologies, not to mention your legacy solutions.

By 2015 it is predicted (Gartner) that there will be a connected mobile device for every single person on the planet. That is a whopping 71billion. I dread to think how many devices and systems that will generate. We will be collaborating every waking second it seems, whether we like it or not. I wonder if we’ll have a new name for it by then?

Needless to say there are so many collaboration tools on the market now, all vying for a share of that gigantic pie, and to lock you in to their infrastructure. They mostly say that they are interoperable, use open standards and unified API’s. However picking and mixing technologies is easier said than done. There are some strategic alliances happening, EG Polycom and Microsoft Lync. However is the end-game really for the big vendors to keep you locked into one product / infrastructure end to end? I am afraid, despite protestations by vendors to the contrary, your answer might be a resounding yes.

Observationally some of the companies I have worked in over the years have enterprise grade single vendor solutions, however they don’t always meet the needs of the business. For example the last company I worked in was either using Google or Dropbox to collaborate on and share documents region to region. Meanwhile even though their IT department had created a policy to remove Skype from the desktop, everyone from senior management down was using it. Getting round the rule by calling the exe ‘NotSkype’. To be fair, the latter was used not because the enterprise technology wasn’t fit for the business purposes, but the process was incomprehensible to the business user. Either way the usage and adoption of the enterprise collaboration technology suite was less than 8% company wide. Meanwhile Google and Skpe were prolifically used. Needless to say I don’t have a U&A figure for this given corporate sensitivities.

Despite the challenges with the vendor pick and mix approach. I still think it’s worth pursuing to truly get solutions that the business need and want. And most importantly drive business efficiencies now and in the future. Especially as collaboration becomes more and more embedded in business process.

This collaboration stuff can truly transform the way we work and the way companies compete in the market place. So it’s essential that we are able to provide the right solutions that will fully enable. And that just might mean a multi-vendor approach.

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2 Responses to Collaboration – A Multi-Vendor Approach?

  1. admin says:

    Jason, interesting that finally there is that acknowledgement. I do think that the wider industry as a giant mountain to climb from a branding point of view. If you talk about VC to Joe Bloggs they don’t really know what you’re talking about. Talk about Skyping and they do. It’s almost become a verb; To Skype means to VC regardless of the tech used. I hear people using it as a verb when they are using enterprise grade tech or FaceTime. It’s a bit like Hoover became a Verb. Generally we don’t say we are going ‘to Dyson’, however we do say ‘hoover’ regardless of the brand we are actually using to vacuum. I would say that’s a worrying trend for vendors. Agree?

  2. Jason Ward says:

    Hi Linda,

    After attending this weeks Wainhouse Summit in Amsterdam, the MDS Head of Collaboration, Rohan Chaffey starts to show initial signs of a dramatic U-Turn in attitudes towards Skype…

    “time to stop putting our fingers in our ears and signing a little tune. Time to acknowledge that Skype is here to stay”

    What next?

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