Independent research conducted amongst IT managers has highlighted a series of growing problems surrounding collaboration within enterprise organisations. Whilst there is widespread adoption of collaboration technology there is significant doubt around its ability to enable cost savings and a lack of understanding around how to deploy and measure the use of collaboration tools.

The research shows that of all collaboration technologies, SharePoint is by far the most common. 92% of enterprise organisations using collaboration software use SharePoint and for over three-quarters of organisations (78%) SharePoint is the only collaboration technology that they use. But on average only 60% (3 in 5) of SharePoint sites are active; many organisations are clearly failing to maximise their SharePoint investment.

Furthermore, when looking more broadly at collaboration technology, IT managers are not confident about the benefits it brings. 59% believe that collaborative and content sharing applications will drive efficiency improvements within their enterprise but only 40% believe it will drive cost savings within their enterprise.

In my experience CIOs face a number of issues around collaboration:

  1. Information exists in multiple silos and is hard to share across the organisation
    2. ‘Bad information’ (i.e. data residing in silos) not only leads to poor decision making (there is no ‘big picture’) but is costly for the organisation (pulling data from various sources, poor search/retrieval capability, potential litigation on information loss etc)
    3. Distributed or virtual teams often have poorer productivity levels
    4. It is difficult to demonstrate ROI on existing SharePoint investment
    5. SharePoint upgrade/migration can lead to operational challenges if not implemented with specialist support

Too often the success of collaboration technology is a leap of faith for IT managers. Organisations need to take a long-term, planned approach to any collaborative project – but in particular to SharePoint. We know there are benefits to be gained but without measurement and structure, collaboration can never be proven to be a success. Subsequently, too many enterprise organisations rely on ‘gut feel’.

The research also found that just 17% of organisations using SharePoint buy the software through an IT service provider or systems integrator. For organisations which use SharePoint in combination with other collaboration tools, this number falls to just 7%. Worryingly, just 27% of IT managers feel that their organisations have the skills required to make collaboration happen to users’ satisfaction.

It is revealing to see that such a low proportion of organisations work with a third party – such as an IT services provider or systems integrator – to manage and integrate their collaboration tools. Within certain organisations there is clearly a need for outside help to deliver business benefits and to help deploy additional skill sets to the IT department. Adding a level of external consultancy around a major collaboration project can certainly help to deliver on objectives and prove return on investment.

A third party organisation can help companies to address their SharePoint issues in a number of ways. Firstly, from a cost reduction perspective, by conducting a rationalisation of multiple existing systems and moving to a single SharePoint platform. Secondly, from an operational perspective, by helping organisation to share and control information, comply with legal/regulatory requirements and work effectively in dispersed teams. Ultimately, this approach combines to ensure that organisations can successfully manage their business processes across the enterprise.