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Enterprise Collaboration Technology Deployment Scenarios

Posted by on May 9, 2013

I’m seeing a few trends around how organizations are deploying enterprise collaboration platforms.  Typically one of four paths are taken which are: a unified solution, multiple solutions (not connected), an aggregator solution, or multiple solutions which are integrated together.  These are explained in more detail in the table below.

 What is itProsConsWhen it occurs
Unified solutionSingle platform across the entepriseIn most companies this is the ideal scenario. All of the employees will wok across a single platform which acts as the single source of truth for information. All employees have access to this central "collaborative operating system for the enterprise."Not all of the business units or departments are going to derive the same value from a single platform. Oftentimes a specific unit will know of another platform that better fits their needs or will want some customization that is not available, this can hurt adoption. The larger the company the harder it is to get everyone using a single collaboration platform. It's challenging for the organization as a whole to keep everyone happy and with such a low barrier to entry any business unit can beak off and deploy something else without needing the backing from corporate.When commitment exists across the enterprise and the necessary resources are in place for customization and integration. Integration of employee feedback and ideas as well as feature updates may be required regularly. The organization needs to have a plan in place for how to deal with rogue/side deployments that may arise. Somewhat frequent occurrence.
Multiple solutions (not connected)Multiple platforms acoss the enterpriseThis approach gives every department or business unit the ability to deploy something that best meets their needs. Each department essentially owns their own deployment and make the changes and customizations that are most relevant to them.With multiple platforms deployed across the enterprise larger silos can be created. Information and activity doesn't pass from one system to the other so complete organizational collaboration is still not possible. Oftentimes employees will work in one platform but may need access to someone or something in another platform that they can't get into.Typically this is seen when corporate level support is minimal or takes too long. In this situation business unit leaders take things into their own hands and deploy solutions which make sense for their respective business units. Seen frequently but is not something I would recommend.
Aggregator solutionsMultiple platforms acoss the enterprise, with a central aggregator platformThe ability to use multiple platforms is still an option but now the activity can be aggregated into a central environment that anyone and everyone can access. This approach is a bit of a combination of having a unified and multiple solution. Everyone can use what makes the most sense for them.These types of solutions don't really exist. Platforms do allow for integration into other systems but oftentimes this integration results in information being duplicated in mutliple places. Integration and aggregation is not the same thing and while many vendors can integrate well there is still a big gap around being able to bring together multiple collaboration environments (or several instances of the same platform) into one area. Organizations seeking to go down this path become a bit of a product company as they need to develop customized solutions to allow this to happen.If an organization has already been using multiple systems but wants to get the organization on the same page then this method can be used. The business units still use their own independent platforms but the activity and data is aggregated into a central platform that everyone can access. I haven't seen this happen much but am aware of some organizations who are attempting this.
Integration solutions (multiple solutions, connected)Multiple platforms across the enterprise that are integrated together but there is no aggregator.The ability to use multiple platforms is still an option but now the platforms can "speak" to each other and pull/push information from one to the other. There isn't a central platform which aggregates information.This approach typically doesn't work (or is difficult to make wok) in situations where an organization is using multiple instances of the same platorm in addition to other plaforms. The same content may also be present in more than one place as oftentimes the platforms simply "sync" together. Upgrades also become a challenge as complex integration's can make things difficult.This is perhaps the most common scenario and happens in many organizations where multiple platforms are being used and those platforms needs to "speak" to each other. I see this more often in larger enterprises. Oftentimes there isn't a central platform, instead each business unit uses what they want but the multiple platforms allow for communication and collaboration across them.

There is no perfect approach and as I mentioned I’ve seen all of these methods attempted.  The reality today is these deployments are not perfect and organizations do need to make some tough choices around how they want to approach these technology deployments.  This goes hand in hand with understanding the four types of enterprise collaboration deployments.  The best solution for your organization depends on where you see this initiative going in the long run and the kind of support you are willing to give it.

Hopefully this will provide some guidance or at least start some discussions around what your organization should be doing.


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