A global survey on collaboration technologies, conducted by New York City-based Kelton Research for technology services provider Avanade Inc., reveals which tools are most widely used and which ones are considered essential for business.
The survey, based on interviews with 538 C-level executives, IT decision-makers and business unit heads from 17 countries in February 2010, includes 35 respondents from Canada and 104 from the U.S.
When asked which collaboration and social media technologies employees are allowed to access or use for business purposes, 80 per cent Canadian respondents said employees can use instant messaging, 40 per cent allow online communities (which includes forums and discussion boards) and 29 per cent allow the use of wikis.
Seventy seven per cent consider teleconferencing or conference calls essential, followed by corporate portal/intranet/online team sites (57 per cent), instant messaging (49 per cent), videoconferencing (31 per cent), online communities (17 per cent), blogs or microblogging on Twitter or Yammer (17 per cent) and Wikis (6 per cent).
The most difficult type of collaboration to achieve is cross-department, according to 40 per cent of Canadians surveyed. Collaboration across all employee levels ranked second at 29 per cent and collaboration across geographic regions came third at 23 per cent.
The main problems Canadian executives have with communications and collaboration tools are security and privacy-related issues (49 per cent), the lack of human element (40 per cent) and that the tools are either too overwhelming or have too many options available (29 per cent).
Canadians are nearly split on how communications and collaboration tools are used within their companies. Sixty per cent consider them “emerging, newer technologies,” while 40 per cent see the tools are “widely used, entrenched and older technologies that have been around for a while.”
And the use of communications and collaborations tools in Canadian companies is expected to grow, with 80 per cent expecting either a small or significant increase in the next year. Twenty per cent anticipate either a small decrease or no change at all.
Jeff Kempiners, account group executive for Avanade Canada, found the Canadian emphasis on shared network drives most surprising, having expected most companies would have moved to enterprise document management systems or portal-based based collaboration systems.
“This is not a good thing … that means to me they have not yet embraced all of the other technologies that perform the same function but also give you additional compliance, additional security, logging and tracking [and] search capabilities,” he said.
Canadians are “kind of old-school” with collaboration, said Kempiners. “If I had to sum it up, we are behind,” he said. Canadians have that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of mentality and this isn’t a wise point of view when dealing disruptive technologies, he said.
“If you are just dealing with the natural evolution of technology, that may be a very pragmatic position to take, but when you start getting into actual disruptive technologies, which I would argue that today’s collaboration tools are … you cannot sit back,” he said.
There has also been “a phenomenal increase in pressure to innovate, both globally as well as within Canada,” said Kempiners. The survey found 35 per cent of Canadians feel pressure to innovate and grow, 14 per cent pressured to save money and 54 per cent experiencing equal pressure to do both.
Avanade’s previous market survey conducted in September 2009 found only six per cent of Canadian reporting pressure to innovate, which reflects a shift from cost-cutting to innovating IT, he said. “Now we need to innovate IT in order to get more for what we are spending because we need to re-enable the business,” he said.
Eighty three per cent of Canadian respondents agreed that enterprise-wide collaboration is more important than individual specialization for success, with only 17 per cent agreeing that the reverse is true.
A similar study conducted by Info-Tech Research Group Inc. in January 2010 also found that enterprise collaboration is more important than individual collaboration, said Tim Hickernell, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.
Info-Tech’s study, based on a survey of 168 executive and non-executive clients across North America, Europe and Australia, also found 75 per cent of companies planning to increase their use of communication collaboration technologies in the next year, he said.
But Hickernell finds the popularity of instant messaging a little high. “We didn’t find at all that instant messaging was being used as much as they did in their survey,” he said. The emphasis on innovation is also “somewhat high,” he said. “We didn’t see innovation rate nearly as high on our list of drivers,” he said.
Hickernell said he questions the findings of Avanade’s study because the target audience is management. “I think some of these numbers are biased by the perception of what management would like to think about the use of collaboration tools. If they are not asking actual workers comprising the teams, they aren’t getting an accurate picture,” he said.
Info-Tech’s survey found that content management was the most important tool in a collaboration platform, said Hickernell. Real time communication ranked second and e-mail third, he said. “Most collaboration platforms are about enabling teams to collaborate around content,” he said.
Hickernell finds more opportunity and interest in Web conferencing in Canada than the U.S. because of the “distributed nature of the population.” This is particularly true for government and education, he said.