Sunday, December 7, 2008

Collaboration Technologies Are Fundamentally Changing How We Work

Everywhere we look we see new technologies. Wikis and blogs, Google, SharePoint, LinkedIn and a thousand of their cousins represent in some ways the maturation of social networking technologies originally pointed primarily at younger generations. Paired with that maturation is the development of sophisticated IT tools, so sophisticated that anyone can use them. Together these two trends result in an environment that breeds collaboration, the effects of which are far-reaching.

Web based collaboration sites have enlarged the number of people who can participate in any given project. The only delimiter, it seems, is how early (or late) you are willing to set your alarm clock. As a result, projects now include participants from around the globe. In addition, a move towards increased cross-functional engagements is expanding the knowledge base of FM’s to include Human Resources, IT, and other functional areas.

The improved quality and affordability of video conferencing is making it easier to build human connections that develop trust. Today, high-definition sound and image systems are available for as little as US$30,000. Even top of the market systems, such as Cisco’s Telepresence, make sense in today’s tight economic climate. A US$300,000 room can pay for itself in less than a year given high travel costs. Add to these cost savings additional productivity, improved morale, and reduced carbon footprint of the business and you have a very strong case to support the investment. The proof of course, is in how the market votes, and it is voting. In March, 2008 International Data Corporation (IDC) projected the global telepresence market would grow to more than 8,000 systems and US$1.7 billion by 2012. In August Cisco announced that its telepresence business had quintupled over the previous year. IDC has since hedged its projection in light of the global economic downturn, but spending in this category is still on a sharp upward climb while other IT sector spending is slowing. But you don’t have to shell out US$300,000 to access this sophisticated technology. Cisco has now partnered with AT&T and British Telecom to make high end technology solutions affordable for smaller users. The communications companies own the equipment and end users pay a small monthly fee of approximately US$10,000 per system, opening the door to virtually all.

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