Organisations need the cloud for unified comms and collaboration: report

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Organisations have set their sights set on the cloud for improving collaboration. So, migrating unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technologies to the cloud is key to making those tools available, so that today’s highly distributed organisations can be brought together.

That’s the claim from IT services company Dimension Data in its 2016 Connected Enterprise Report, which explores enterprise strategies and disruptive trends in the deployment of collaborative tools. The vendor surveyed 900 senior IT decision makers in organisations of 1,000+ employees in Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US.

According to the report, organisations are taking a very cautious approach to cloud deployment. One-third of IT leaders said that moving UC&C functions to the cloud is “critical”, and yet less than 25 per cent of respondents are currently using hosted collaboration services.

Dimension Data warns: “For most enterprises cloud-based collaboration is an objective rather than a current reality, with, on average, 75 per cent of collaboration applications are still deployed on-premise.

“This makes sense, since enterprises have traditionally purchased collaboration technology – whether it’s videoconferencing equipment, PBXs, instant messaging apps, or enterprise social software – as a capital investment, with the software and systems deployed on premise and managed via internal IT resources.”

The results are not surprising, and the caveat UCInsight would add from other recent research is that cloud technologies should be deployed primarily to increase agility and flexibility, rather than reduce costs – for the simple reason that cloud rarely does reduce costs, it merely dilutes and diffuses them.

Indeed, the report says: “Few enterprises view return on investment (ROI) as the main way they measure the success of their use of collaboration technology.”

More findings

Other findings are more interesting. These include the fact that only six per cent of cloud collaboration tools users are focused on the extended enterprise, meaning that more and more organisations see cloud collaboration tools as the best means of fostering internal collaboration.

This is vital because of another report finding. Respondents said that 65 per cent of employees work remotely at least some of the time, suggesting that IT departments need to focus far more of their efforts on enabling a more flexible definition of the enterprise, given that – for most – cloud is currently an ambition, not a reality.

“IT departments are used to buying collaboration technology for deployment on-premise, and this is how companies’ procurement processes are set up,” explains Brian Riggs, Principal Analyst for Enterprise Services at Ovum.

“Changing these processes takes time, and that’s partially what’s behind the slow transition to the cloud. The market is in the midst of a turning point. More and more companies are migrating collaboration software to the cloud, though for some it will be a years-long process.”

But that’s not the only finding of note. The report reveals that one in three organisations believe that increased sales is among the top three most important ways of measuring the success of collaboration projects.

The transformation agenda

Joe Manuele, Dimension Data Group Executive, Customer Experience and Collaboration Business Unit, says that, in total, the research confirms that cloud is now essential to digital transformation. “Whether internally managed servers running in a company-controlled data centre, or externally provided services that require little or no capital investment, cloud is the underlying platform that allows enterprises to deploy applications efficiently, affordably, and at scale.

“It’s little wonder that the top technology trends affecting most enterprise collaboration strategies are cloud related. Our research reveals that 51 per cent of organisations see moving to the cloud as the top trend affecting their collaboration strategy.”

But there are problems ahead, warns the company. “One out of every four IT departments measures the success of their collaboration projects by how well they’ve implemented the technology,” says the report. “This is a dangerous mindset, since the success of collaboration projects hinges as much on what comes after the technology is implemented as before.”

It warns: “If employees don’t use the collaboration tools – and use them effectively – then the organisation will neither benefit from the technology nor achieve ROI.” (And as we’ve already explored, ROI is a long way down the list of enterprise benchmarks for collaborative tools.)

“Related to this, 17 per cent of organisations haven’t implemented collaboration training programmes, and 16 per cent haven’t changed travel policies to encourage the use of videoconferencing and other collaboration tools,” adds the report. “This is a recipe for disaster for many companies looking to derive the maximum value of their use of collaboration technology.”

The UK dimension

Dimension Data has pulled out some UK-specific findings from the global research, and says that IT transformation is comparatively high on the agenda for UK companies. “British organisations are very advanced in their use of collaboration technology to drive operational and financial efficiencies, says the report, especially in comparison to their global peers,” it says.

However, most British organisations resemble their peers in – wrongly – measuring the success of a deployment by whether or not it went to plan.

But in other ways, British attitudes are different, says the report.

Distinct from enterprises worldwide, UK organisations tend to have offices, employees, partners, and customers dispersed throughout many countries and across regions. More, they see the IT department as “not only responsible for technology selection, but also for its transformational impact on the wider organisation”. UK enterprises also highlight the importance of cloud delivery much more frequently than their global peers, but adopt a more conservative approach to its deployment.

“Not only are British organisations more international,” says Dimension Data, “but they are also more likely to support truly global, as opposed to pan-regional, operations. As a result, British organisations are more likely to turn to collaboration technology to support complex multinational operations.”

Let’s hope those organisations learn the lessons from Dimension Data’s other findings!

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.