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Extreme collaboration initiatives become more critical

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Today's corporate world is much more complex than it used to be, especially as cloud computing, mobility and services such as virtual offices continue to emerge. When these technologies combine, the workforce becomes much more dispersed, as employees can work from practically anywhere at any time. For this reason, organizations need to be sure they have "extreme collaboration" operating models to avoid problems with a disparate workforce.

This extreme collaboration concept was highlighted in a recent study by Gartner, which revealed the strategy can help large and small companies innovate in terms of communication, teamwork and overall relationships. Since collaboration is critical in today's business world, decision-makers need to consider an advanced approach.

"An [extreme collaboration] environment is essentially a virtual war room or crisis center, where people can come together to collaboratively work on a shared purpose," said Janelle Hill, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "This environment is available 24/7, thus enabling people to work when, where and how they need to in order to meet shared goals and outcomes."

Expanding communications
Gartner analysts said decision-makers need to take charge of the collaboration transformation by using unified communications applications, including video conferencing and instant messaging, to replace legacy tools like email and face-to-face meetings. While there are many reasons to take the plunge, the anytime availability of virtual solutions is among the most touted benefits, as individuals from around the world can connect with one another whenever they please.

The sooner organizations adopt virtual collaboration applications, the more quickly employees will learn how to use the tools. This experience is critical if firms want to stay ahead of the competition and improve the way individuals work, Gartner noted.

Businesses should also think about implementing mobile strategies, whether or not these plans include bring your own device (BYOD). As the consumerization of IT continues to disrupt enterprise operations, the inevitability of mobile plans should become more apparent. In other words, the faster a firm adopts a mobile initiative, the more likely it will succeed in the future.

In addition to leveraging advanced real-time communications, companies should think about using near-real-time solutions, Gartner asserted. In the past, this meant using email. In today's world, however, texting, Facebook status updates and even tweets can be used for extreme collaboration purposes.

"What makes it extreme is people's willingness to cross geographic, organizational, political, management boundaries, to pool their collective skills and resources to solve problems and move toward the attainment of a shared, ambitious goal," Hill said.

A separate report by IDC also highlighted the growing use of social software for collaboration practices, forecasting the enterprise market for social solutions to expand at a compound annual growth rate of more than 42 percent through 2016, when it will generate roughly $4.5 billion in revenue, up from $800 million in 2011.

VoIP services and other business phone systems will still be necessary tools in the coming years, largely because voice is such an important part of enterprise collaboration. Still, unified communications, which incorporates voice into a suite with a number of other solutions, will rapidly gain momentum. This will be especially true as social and mobile software continues to gain steam in the workplace.

As the business world matures and spreads around the globe, adopting an extreme collaboration strategy will be an effective way for firms to remain competitive - a critical aspect of guaranteeing longevity.