Collaboration tools have tremendous strategic potential, but CIOs must separate the sizzle from the steak.
When collaboration and work-flow moved up to second place in our Top Trends Survey list of the most strategic tech- nologies late last year, it confirmed what CIOs and other IT executives had been telling us about the field's growing importance to their businesses. Now, with the Ziff Davis Enterprise 2008 Collaboration Survey, we've garnered data from more than 180 respondents on the reasons behind the technologies' increasing significance, which tools are making the greatest impact and how broadly they've been adopted.
We also tested some intriguing notions: How important are Web 2.0 technologies in the workplace, and are young workers pioneering their use there? We deliberately defined collaboration broadly, because the line between collaboration and communication is ultra-thin, and we included nearly 30 items under the collaboration umbrella-- from telephony and e-mail to prediction markets and social networks.
We discovered that about 80 percent of IT executives believe collaboration and workflow technologies deliver on their promise to boost productivity and decision-making, and half say they enable and even inspire strategies that were previously unattainable or unimaginable. But while some Web 2.0 technologies sizzle--chat and blogs are frequently used behind IT's back--older, more commonplace technologies and tools usually prove more useful for collaboration. IT executives may undervalue Web 2.0 tools--if the tools weren't helpful, they wouldn't be so widely used--while Web 2.0 fans often overlook other collaboration technologies.
As is so often the case with applications, the biggest obstacles to successful integration of collaboration tools into most companies are a resistant corporate culture and insufficient support--not problems with technology or security. Executives, it turns out, use few collaboration technologies, relying primarily on e-mail and telephony. Young people are quick to adopt new technologies, and they often lead the charge at work. But don't rely solely on young employees. More-seasoned employees do a better job sniffing out the applications that have the biggest business impact.