The “Network Effect” and its Impact on Collaboration

A successful collaboration strategy promotes the grouping of applications, services, devices and content into “one” unified architecture to improve business processes and boost productivity. Cisco’s Collaboration portfolio has an end to end solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, an organization will not see the impact of their strategy until the user population adopts the technologies and puts the capabilities to use.

Successful collaboration relies on the “network effect”. I am not referring to network design… or how secure a network is… or how much bandwidth it has… or whether or not Quality of Service has been implemented. I am referring to a concept that the “value” of a product or service increases as more and more people use it. A perfect example of a product falling victim to the “network effect” is the telephone. The more people who own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. A user purchasing a telephone may not intend to create value for other users, but they do so regardless.

Before a collaboration offering can deliver, it must have active participants. If only individual employees adopt the deployed services, the true benefits will fall short of expectations and the capabilities of the solutions will diminish. This rings true for any collaboration technology, from Email, to Instant Messaging, to video communications, to conferencing, to content sharing.

How can a company ensure user adoption? It is crucial for organizations to position their collaboration strategy using a business-centric focus, allowing business requirements, not technology, dictate how the solutions are implemented. If a company implements collaboration tools without focusing on how they can address business objectives, the technologies risk becoming islands of functionality and the “network effect” will not be present.

Keep this in mind when communicating internally with your co-workers and externally with your partners and customers. Most have only scratched the surface of their collaboration potential given what they have deployed. Video communications, Social Media and the way we share content will have a huge impact on your company as you continue to grow. These are some of the newest features at our disposal, and they will become increasingly important as time goes on. You will interact with these tools, sell with these tools, engineer with these tools, teach with these tools and learn with these tools. At SMP, we even get healthier with these tools.

Some companies are embracing these technologies today…..some are not. That’s expected as collaboration does not have a “one size fits all” profile. A mobile workers profile will likely be different than an office workers profile. A younger workers profile will be different than an employee on the brink of retirement. Regardless, think about how these solutions can help you day in and day out. Review them. Adopt them. Use them. Watch them evolve.