The days of traditional unified communications are fading into the past. People want to collaborate anywhere, anytime, without being tied to their desks. This compels IT to expand the workspace boundaries beyond the four walls of an office, while still somehow keeping data and identities secure.
Workstream collaboration is the new approach that offers a tantalizing solution to the “work from anywhere” conundrum. Yet, even this promising solution comes with its own set of challenges.
Workstream collaboration refers to an emerging segment of technology that’s focused on enabling a more productive workforce. These technologies deliver persistent conversational workspaces that allow users to collaborate in context from anywhere, on any device enabled with Wi-Fi.
While workstream collaboration promises to close the technology gaps that previously inhibited the “collaborate anywhere” movement, it also raises new issues related to compliance, governance and security.
The rules have changed and the flurry of new challenges that have ensued is testing even the most agile IT organizations.
Workstream collaboration got its start when small teams began adopting unapproved applications to fill gaps in traditional messaging and email tools. These apps were mostly used for internal conversations and document sharing — they generally didn’t extend beyond the walls of the organization.
The governance of these tools was ultimately determined by the teams that were using them. In most instances, self-governance worked well at first due to the limited size of the teams and the similarity of work done by team members.
While the original intent — to help colleagues communicate and collaborate more efficiently— was good, these applications were usually unknown to the larger organization. This means they were often not protected by the company’s security systems.
Each unknown app became a gaping security vulnerability that IT wasn’t even aware of. Hackers could easily exploit these security vulnerabilities to access unprotected company data. These unapproved, potentially dangerous apps eventually came to be categorized as shadow IT.
Though shadow IT ultimately puts businesses at risk, it’s a good indicator of end-user sentiment. When users feel that their company’s IT stack is lacking, they turn to shadow IT to help fill the gaps.
The presence of shadow IT helped businesses realize that they needed to rethink their collaboration strategies. Workstream collaboration rose to the forefront as the solution to this need.
The overall concept of workstream collaboration promised to solve everything that legacy applications failed to address. However, translating the concept into reality has not been as easy within the enterprise space as some thought it would be.
Among all the workstream collaboration tools, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Slack have emerged as some of the major players. These platforms streamline communication and collaboration, empowering teams to easily work together within a single tool.
The idea of taking voice, video, messaging and content into one workspace was a simple matter of execution for large players such as Cisco and Microsoft. Most of these features already existed somewhere in their product stack. They just needed to combine the existing features into a single app, which they could then market as “the next big thing.”
Adoption of both Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams within the enterprise took off like a rocket. Organizations were engrossed by the features and newfound usability, while Cisco and Microsoft opened each of their platforms for direct integrations.
The race was on to reach feature parity with Slack and capture its existing market share in the space. As the proof of concept started rolling out within organizations, the metaphorical snake reared its ugly head.
Questions around data security, compliance requirements, governance and manageability started to overshadow the feature richness and capabilities of the team applications. Organizational change management needed to happen within enterprises — and it often didn’t.
We soon discovered that, without truly engaging teams within the enterprise, IT had just added another messaging and meeting application to its unified communications catalog. Hence, these tools joined the collection of failed apps that increased IT overhead and created additional workstream paths for users.
As a concept, workstream collaboration has the potential to be transformative for your business. However, if you take a traditional approach and allow your IT department to treat it like any other application, failure might be inevitable.
Workstream collaboration cannot be just another application in the proverbial IT stack — it must provoke a fundamental shift in the way IT approaches collaboration. Success requires an understanding of user needs, a company-wide change management policy and a concerted push toward end-user adoption.
As IT professionals, it falls to us to understand what users need from their workplace technology and how we can best deliver new capabilities while balancing security concerns and business objectives. We must take off our IT hats and get in the trenches with the users to really understand what they do and why they do it. This is the only way to know if we’re delivering the tools they actually want. By giving them the right tools, we’ll be able to increase user productivity while curbing the use of shadow IT.
Convincing users to completely shift into a new workstream is no easy task. That’s why change management and adoption campaigns are so critical when onboarding new technology. Change management requires us to become intimate with business processes and workflows, to truly become part of the business — not just the IT guys.
No longer can we sit behind the counter handing down new tools. As modern IT professionals, it’s our duty to help users understand the technology, see its potential and move toward full adoption. Only then can we satisfy user demand while ensuring a consistent and secure workplace experience.
Ready to create a positive change in your organization? Our professional and managed collaboration services will help you optimize your workspace communications and give your employees the flexibility they crave.