IT Must Provide Enterprise Collaboration Tools Employees Will Use

Businesses are under pressure to enable collaboration beyond the corporate firewall as workers increasingly need to connect with remote colleagues as well as business partners, suppliers and consultants. The challenge to IT departments is that many employees are turning to email and consumer-grade file-sharing services to get their work done and exposing the enterprise to risk in the process.

Tue, March 27, 2012

CIO — Emerging technologies, like cloud computing, and the economic turmoil of the past five years have put tremendous pressure on businesses to transform their business processes to make them leaner, more efficient and more competitive. Increased collaboration between geographically dispersed workers and with business partners has become the norm. But the unwieldiness of many enterprise collaboration tools has led many workers to turn to insecure collaboration channels like email and consumer-grade file sharing services.

"Over the past 24 months, we've seen that companies are now growing again after the economic meltdown," says Fahim Siddiqui, chief product officer at IntraLinks, a provider of cloud-based enterprise collaboration tools that was born in the financial services space. "There is more and more of a need and a desire to collaborate flexibly with business partners. Companies that are growing don't rush off to hire 20 new employees. They find a partner in the value chain who can be more flexible and conduct work for them. As soon as that happens, there is a critical need to exchange information."

A Need for Enterprise Collaboration

Globally, 46 percent of companies feel a need to share critical business information with partners, including suppliers and consultants, according to a February 2012 survey of IT decision makers conducted by Harris Interactive. And yet, 68 percent of companies still use email to exchange files inside or outside the company and 59 percent of companies have experienced issues when trying to exchange large files inside or outside the company.

Many companies have collaboration tools in place—Microsoft SharePoint is the de facto standard in the U.S. But SharePoint was not designed with collaboration beyond the firewall in mind and enabling it is tricky at best.

"Every big company has a collaborative ecosystem of some form already," says Daniel Von Weihe, co-founder and vice president of product marketing at SkyDox, an enterprise-grade cloud file-sharing and collaboration platform. "Typically it's glued together by the email system. What's been happening over the past few years is that these systems just haven't kept up with the explosion of consumer-oriented collaboration technologies. The pressure is constantly mounting to take advantage of these technologies. Most of the traditional ecosystems that have been built just don't have the capability or capacity to work easily when your group works with people outside the corporate firewall. SharePoint can be set up to allow for access for people who may be part of the collaborative group but not within the firewall. But business users find that it is so difficult to get user names and passwords provisioned for people outside the firewall that they give up."

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