Working better together

While the pace of adoption is slow, organisations in the Middle East are realising that collaboration technologies, either standalone or integrated into existing applications, are the key to building stronger links with customers and partners, and encouraging their own personnel to maximize the company’s intellectual capacity

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Working better together Chadha: Companies should start small and controlled collaboration projects for a gradual deployment.
By  Keri Allan Published  March 10, 2013

Organisations are looking at better ways for employees to be able to share knowledge and collaborate on projects. An ever growing range of collaboration tools are coming to their rescue, helping to improve the connectedness of workers as well as capture and diffuse formal and informal knowledge. As Gavin Tay, research director at Gartner highlights, several technologies can be exploited to achieve this connectedness.

“Such prevalent ones include enterprise portals, social software, enterprise content management (ECM), unified communications and even email,” he says.

There is a range of different tools available such as dedicated collaboration solutions from Microsoft, IBM and Cisco to name but a few.

“These include Microsoft Sharepoint, which can be used on premise or as part of the Office 365 service, and both Huddle and Google Sites which are cloud based solutions. There is also IBM Notes/Domino, which can also be used on premise or as part of a hosted solution,” highlights Peter Chadha, chief executive and founder of independent strategic technology advisors DrPete.

Customers are clearly spoilt for choice. The most popular solutions and products tend to be the easiest to use, but the right fit for an organisation depends on various factors which typically apply for any solution selection and investment in a business. Popular features include simple tools that make knowledge sharing quicker and easier.

“Blogs are an excellent way to share knowledge from experts in the organisation, or the CEO to set the mission of the organisation,” highlights Ahmed Auda, business unit executive, IBM Middle East Software Group. “File sharing is also popular to reduce ‘mail jail’ with large attachments.”

One collaborative technology witnessing exponential growth in adoption is video.

“We are experiencing unprecedented levels of interest around our enterprise video solutions. You only have to look at the growth of YouTube usage to see how comfortable people now are with the video medium,” says Mohammad Naseriddin, regional director of Qumu MENA, a business video platform provider.

“Due to globalisation and as a result of international expansion goals, many Middle Eastern companies have grown tremendously in the past few years and a lot of those companies have multiple locations, not only within the Middle East region, but across the globe; this evolvement has resulted into their search for collaboration solutions to allow them to communicate internally,” he explains.

There is also an increasing creep towards including collaboration capabilities in other business applications such as content management, digital asset management, web analytics ERP, unified communications, business intelligence and user experience platforms, as companies aim to ‘socialise’ applications.

“CRM and ERP are becoming the core systems to manage an organisation’s business and customers. Due to this, it is natural that collaboration capabilities creep into these systems as extension capabilities to drive the business and customer management,” comments Atul Kamat, head of technology service delivery, eHosting DataFort.

“Salesforce is a great example of how to integrate and manage both social and business applications - particularly with its Chatter software. This allows teams not only to work together but to get market information about their clients or prospects from feeding through social network information,” notes Chadha.

“This market is also one that is highly fragmented and competitive,” adds Tay. “Many early market entrants have stagnated or been acquired. Additional vendor mergers and consolidations are expected as the marketplace continues to mature.”

Although interest is growing, many experts would say that — currently — collaboration solutions are not widely adopted in the Middle East, and there is significant scope for wider adoption as more businesses begin to understand the benefits and rewards of collaborative working.

The areas where adoption is currently high include governments and larger, often multinational, private organisations, with vendors citing clients in the Middle East including Cemex, BT, Vodafone, Mobile Doctors, Dow Chemical and Yahsat.

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