Collaboration Goes From Planned to Pervasive


While the notion of a lone inventor creating a world-changing product is ingrained in the popular culture, the reality is most of the world’s great innovations have been the result of collaboration. Humans are social animals, and as such, they tend to do their best work when they can bounce ideas off the brains of others.


For most of recorded history, however, the efforts required to make it happen often meant some who could add value to a meeting were left out.            

That is now changing as collaboration moves from being planned to being pervasive – thanks to new technologies that ensure people can connect wherever they are, whenever they’re available and with whomever needs to be engaged in the conversation.                

It is all part of the so-called “collaboration economy,” which recognizes that to be effective and competitive, organizations must focus on their core strengths and competencies allowing internal and external resources to communicate more effectively in order to help the organization become high-performing.

Barriers to collaboration

So why are organizations having so much difficulty adapting to the collaboration economy? There are three key barriers:

  • Inconsistent connectivity – Due to the fragmentation and incompatibility of networks, it can be difficult to involve some collaborators in virtual meetings of all kinds. In many cases, key contributors may not be able to join meetings because they don’t have appropriate network access. While the ongoing digitization of communications promised to cut costs and simplify matters, the truth has often been just the opposite. And globalization adds another set of hurdles when potential collaborators fall outside a certain communications footprint due to local telecom policies.
  • Excessive complexity – Even when network issues are overcome, other communications challenges may arise. For instance, some potential participants may struggle to join calls, conferences or events because of the complexity of the entry and navigation process. Other factors that can become problems are difficulties with pre-event invitations or post-event follow-ups. When such issues cannot be handled with ease, frustration and lost productivity mount.
  • Unproductive meetings – Poor meetings are vexing to workers and a tremendous burden on the enterprise – misallocating resources and undermining productivity. Meeting performance is often hindered by time wasted trying to determine who is in a meeting due to a lack of visibility, technical issues when web presentations or other media cannot be effectively deployed, or a lack of best practices on how to run a meeting effectively. Extraordinary amounts of resources – most particularly, human capital – are tied up in meetings. That’s why poor meeting performance is such a drag on the overall business performance.

One reason many of these issues arise is that communications network management is outside many organizations’ core competencies. To save money or maintain internal control, they end up degrading collaboration and communications, which makes it more difficult to attract and keep top talent, impeding their ability to compete.

New realization

Given these demands, companies are realizing the need for a pervasive collaboration platform that enables high-performance work and dynamic interactions. Among the dimensions of such a platform are:

  • Intuitive, on-demand access –The collaboration platform has to be easy to access, navigate and use. If it’s intuitive and accessible, it encourages use and facilitates active participation.
  • Meeting management – To make meetings productive, organizations need the ability to track and control them. Ultimately, they also want to incorporate reporting tools and metrics that help measure performance.
  • Alerts and notifications –Alerting invited participants maximizes attendance and strengthens accountability.
  • Scalable and persistent capabilities – Organizations want the ability to scale up or down and incorporate different types of media. They also want to make content persistently available for those who cannot join a live meeting or event.
  • Advanced implementation and integration –Organizations must ensure they have the support needed to implement and integrate a unified communications platform. Since it is not their core competency, they will likely need reliable guidance to ensure their rollout, management and maintenance of the platform is handled in world-class fashion.

Their goal should be to facilitate the flow of ideas across boundaries, geographies and time. Total value equations should account for the vast, ongoing returns associated with purposeful meetings and interactions among knowledge workers. The payoffs for doing it right are counted in terms of productivity gains and profitability growth. 

Unleash the collective power

While the idea of the solo contributor doing amazing things has a certain romantic appeal, it doesn’t reflect reality. As the pace of business continues to increase, organizations cannot afford to allow work to happen in silos or believe collaboration adheres to a schedule.

With today’s communications platforms, it is possible to collaborate easily with anyone, anywhere, anytime.  In doing so, organizations can capitalize on the vast array of possible interactions that emerge in a collaborative economy, and unleash their collective power.

Rob Bellmar  is Senior Vice President of Conferencing and Collaboration at InterCall, a subsidiary of West Corporation and the world’s largest conferencing and collaboration services provider.  He can be reached at

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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