While said in a different era, Ford's words are still relevant in today's globalised business world; together is better. Teams are a fundamental part of working life. They account for the vast majority of work done in organisations. Yet when a team is spread from San Jose to Shanghai, keeping that togetherness naturally becomes a far greater challenge.

Collaborative Challenge

Collaboration is more than a technical architecture, solution, or product. It is the experience that integrates people, processes, and technology. Much like Henry Ford, at Cisco we believe that by working together, people can achieve extraordinary things.

An organisational chart may show hierarchy, but it doesn't represent real business collaboration – how people actually interact inside, outside, and across the organisation. Finding ways to improve the connections between people and the information they need to share is critical to driving better business results.

As soon as there is distance involved many organisations, regardless of their size, will experience challenges around working successfully as a team. It is often not practical, productive or financially viable for team members to continually travel large geographical distances. Collaboration technologies can make a significant difference in overcoming this challenge.

Value of Video
In this constantly evolving technological world there are three key areas of innovation which are enhancing collaboration – video, mobile and cloud. High quality HD video is now available at very low cost allowing much smaller organisations to be able to participate in TelePresence meetings on an even footing – without the need for significant financial outlay.

One example of a new generation of TelePresence devices available from Cisco is the Ava 5000 video collaboration robot jointly developed with iRobot. It is controlled remotely via iPad and designed to enable remote workers to not just participate in meetings, but also to move around a building and collaborate with co-workers in areas that otherwise would be difficult, such as manufacturing floors. Additionally the robot can map out a building and then be programmed to arrive at a particular meeting area at a scheduled time without any intervention by the user.

The power and value of video collaboration to also connect with external groups should not be underestimated. If local expertise is not available, only 30 per cent of customer contacts are converted to eventual sales. However, when video collaboration with an expert is available, conversion exceeds 90 per cent1, recent research by Cisco found.

Cloud and Mobility
To collaborate, people need access to the best tools regardless of where they are or what device they are using; the cloud can facilitate this. The cloud is an accelerator for collaboration, with a recent Forbes Insight report finding 87 per cent of business leaders stating it enhances communications across boundaries and time zones2. Collaboration through the cloud can for example allow users to co-author, amend and comment on documents saved in the cloud simultaneously, which naturally speeds up the process of production.

Similarly, Forrester estimates that 56 per cent of US workers are located outside an office3, showing the importance of incorporating mobility into any collaboration structure. Employees are now able to use their personal or company-issued mobile devices as an extension of the enterprise network and applications. While this does naturally raise the issue of security, this can be easily overcome with correct policy-enforcement. The positive impact this can have on productivity should not be underestimated as it allows tools such as instant messaging, content sharing and web conferencing to take place wherever, whenever. Essentially, collaboration should be as simple and effective outside the organisation as it is within.

Smarter, Faster and More Effective
At Cisco we say "work is not a place you go – it's a thing you do". And indeed, today's workplace is defined by tasks and outcomes rather than locations. To be successful, organisations and individuals alike cannot be an island unto themselves – connections are key. The recent advances in collaborative technology mean that solutions are being fully embedded within an organisation's processes, making a significant business difference. Crucially, solutions are no longer simply helping employees communicate about their work, but creating new ways for employees to do their work regardless of distance, making collaboration smarter, faster and more effective.

  • Cisco, Work Your Way, 2011
  • Forbes Insight, Collaborating in the Cloud, 2011
  • Forrester, Provisioning a flexible workplace pushes the boundaries of IT and drives a search for outside help, 2012

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