by Matt Kapko

Gartner Tells IT Executives How to Enable Enterprise Collaboration

May 13, 20148 mins
CIOCloud ComputingCollaboration Software

Gartner analysts encourage CIOs and other IT executives to think more broadly and holistically about a digital workplace driven by mobile, social, cloud data technologies.

LOS ANGELES — Collaboration is the essence of teamwork and probably the most important reason businesses build teams in the first place. Ironically, however, many companies struggle to embrace and enable collaboration among today’s digital workforce?

Analysts, CIOs and other IT executives at Gartner’s Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit last week discussed why businesses are failing to meet this challenge and offered advice on how to develop a more enriched digital workforce.

Enterprise Collaboration

“Because we have access to very good tools in our private lives we expect the same level of functionality and performance in business,” says Jeffrey Mann, a vice president of research at Gartner.

Workers are often disappointed by legacy applications that can drag down productivity and workflow. As a result, Mann says, many employees have stopped using these ineffective apps or at least avoid using them as much as possible.

These issues are ignored at every business’s peril, Mann says. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work. “What you’ll find is that disengaged employees will potentially be killing your business,” he says.

Content can become the “connecting tissue” between employers, customers and business goals, but if company data is not available at the right time in the right context it will slow down the machinery of an entire business, says Mann. “Just like oil, if it stays buried underground well there’s not going to be any value created from it.”

[Related: 8 Tips to Improve Mobile Collaboration]

Susan Landry, managing vice president of Gartner Research, reminds her colleagues that IT has been digitizing business since the dawn of computing. “We’ve been spending billions bringing things together, [but] our data and logic is scattered all over the place,” she says.

Experiment With Mobile, Social, Cloud and Data

Enterprise collaboration is being transformed by the nexus of mobile, social, cloud and data, says Monica Basso, a research vice president at Gartner. While the hurdles to success may be daunting, she encourages businesses to not be shy about experimenting with newer tools and resources.

“Collaboration can turn into something more contextualized and more impactful in terms of the business,” she says. “This new collaboration is going to be a differentiating factor for the competitiveness of your company going forward.”

Basso says four trends — mobile devices, BYOD, mobile apps and personal cloud storage/sharing services — are driving the adoption of mobile collaboration today.

By 2017, Gartner expects 3 billion new device units to be shipped annually, bringing the total installed base to more than 8 billion connected devices by then.

“Collaboration styles or apps that used to be available on PCs are going to be transferred or need to be transferred to the mobile environment,” she says.

[Related: How the Collaborative Economy Will Change the Way You Do Business]

IT Must Embrace Mobile Apps

Gartner’s latest research concludes that 60 percent of organizations have already deployed BYOD as an option to the more traditional corporate programs. The average adoption rate of BYOD smartphones in these organizations is at 33 percent while the average BYOD tablet adoption rate is at 47 percent, according to Gartner.

By 2020, 45 percent of all CIOs surveyed by Gartner said they expect to be supporting BYOD programs and only half of them are expected to still be running a corporate device program at all by then.

Mobile applications are driving collaboration and disrupting the market because they often take the user’s perspective into account first and foremost. “We think the mobile apps paradigms will have to be adopted by IT organizations in their systems,” Basso says.

“This is the new standard that consumer apps have set for the workplace, for individuals,” she adds. “For enterprise, it’s important to think about mobile apps as an enabler for a more accessible and easier access point to their employees.”

Within two years, Gartner projects more than 300 billion mobile apps a year will be downloaded from mobile app stores. “This is where the work is moving so mobile is becoming the primary access point for IT resources and solutions,” says Basso.

Don’t Block Cloud Storage Services

Some of the biggest organization tensions between IT and users today come from the prolific use of personal cloud file storage and sharing services at work. While these services make it easier for employees to find and share content, they also create a number of challenges like potentially creating an open door to bring corporate data into the wrong hands.

“Don’t try to block this. Try to exploit this phenomenon,” says Basso. “You shouldn’t deny the existence. This is what we see in many cases is that many companies ignore how many employees have installed Dropbox, for example.”

By 2016, Gartner expects every mobile device will be connected to at least five different cloud file storage or sharing apps. The number of mobile social users is expected to reach 2.5 billion by that time as well.

“Collaboration is enabled by technology, but collaboration is not just about technology,” Basso says. Organizations still need to identify and remove the roadblocks that are preventing a more collaborative environment from taking flight.

[Related: 15 Free Enterprise Collaboration Tools]

How Deutsche Bank Embraced Collaboration at Scale

When John Stepper began thinking about how to enable more effective collaboration among staff at Deutsche Bank five years ago, the complexities were daunting considering the financial institution employs more than 100,000 people in at least 70 countries.

“I saw the gap of what I was able to do at home on my phone for free and what I was able to do at work — that gap was growing,” says Stepper, managing director at Deutsche Bank. Previously failed attempts kept to the same pattern in which there would be early adoption and buzz followed by silence. “We didn’t really change very much. We certainly didn’t make a dent in how people worked,” he says.

Using Jive’s social collaboration software out of the box, Stepper said he and his team began developing of an enterprise social network in 2012 called myDB. “People didn’t want more tools & they wanted fewer of them and they wanted work to be simpler,” he says.

“This one stuck, this one actually made a difference,” he says. “Last month about 40,000 people used myDB” and the number of users and platforms myDB is replacing goes up every month.

With 40 percent of Deutsche Bank employees now using myDB, Stepper has solidified the seven elements most important to a successful enterprise collaboration strategy:

  1. Platform
  2. Commercial value
  3. Community managers
  4. Management engagement
  5. Advocate network
  6. Center of excellence
  7. Individual benefits

“The interesting part and the hard part is how do you take these things and apply them to your particular culture, your particular company,” he says. “Success also looks different at different times at different maturity levels. So what we thought was success two years ago wouldn’t nearly be enough now.”

While Stepper initially expected myDB to go viral, the project steadily gained interest and usage on an individual or team-by-team basis over time. The network has grown to 40,000 users but as many as 80,000 employees say they want to use it, so Stepper still has his work cut out for him.

“Part of the promised land is making work more fulfilling,” he says. “People hate work, it’s dehumanizing. That’s what we’ve made it. We don’t treat people like people. In the promised land, we have the opportunity to re-humanize work and make work more effective.”

No Short Cut to Collaboration

Businesses often struggle with collaboration because it can be so difficult to replicate at scale. Before myDB got off the ground, Stepper and his team experimented with 20 different ideas — four of which actually worked. There is no prescriptive way to implement these ideas other than trying a variety of fast, cheap experiments before quickly pruning down to the most effective solutions.

[Related: CIO Supports Video Calls to Preserve Employee Culture]

For myDB, the typical path to adoption begins with authenticating an account and then interacting with the service or tracking meaningful insights from the platform. “As much as vanity metrics aren’t science in terms of value, it’s like the first set of numbers that shows you’re relevant& and then you start talking about business testimonials and real money,” Stepper adds.

“If there are more than 10,000 people in India using our platform, even if that’s generally true, it’s not terribly useful because there could be 500 that are awesome at it,” he says.

3 Take-Away Tips From Gartner

Gartner’s Mann and Landry left attendees with three tips, or homework as they put it:

  1. Create and imagine a new digital story for your organization and determine three scenarios in which your organization could work radically different in a digital world.
  2. Identify parts of your infrastructure that must go. “Identify those parts that are hostile to a digital workforce,” says Mann.
  3. Identify the skills or talent you can afford to lose and those you need to develop.

Matt Kapko covers social media for Follow Matt on Twitter @mattkapko. Email him at Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.