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Changing IT's role in today's collaboration environment

Employee collaboration habits have prompted new ways of working, and IT’s role has changed in the process.

Employees are embracing collaboration, remote working and bringing their own apps and services into workplaces and business processes. IT must get a handle on these trends or risk not only security, regulatory and cost issues, but control over the technology in an organization.

To do so, IT must evolve to focus on both the technology and business processes, said Melanie Turek, vice president of research at Frost & Sullivan, in a recent webinar that explored IT’s evolving role in UCC.

The biggest challenge facing IT, particularly in larger enterprises, is the number of collaboration apps that employees are using on their own. IT must determine which of these apps are used in the organization and how they fill a business need that IT is not addressing. Then IT must plan on how to get users off those apps and services and onto company-approved apps.

“There is a gap between what the business side wants and what IT wants,” Turek said. “The most successful companies bridge that gap.”

To bridge that gap, IT managers should team up with line-of-business (LOB) managers to understand end-user needs and create policies for the apps, services and devices allowed in an organization.

They should plan strategically about which apps employees can use. IT should whitelist approved apps, enable cloud-based access from any device with single sign-on, and establish rights based on a user’s role, location and status, Turek said.

LOB managers should help IT assess end-user needs, including where employees work and whether their work is collaborative. Assessing end-user needs helps IT determine which tools will fit those needs.

“You want to get as specific as you can,” she said. “A financial services organization is going to use something like video conferencing very differently from a healthcare organization.”

IT managers need a deeper understanding of their users’ business processes in order to support them.

“For so many years they focused on bits and bytes,” Turek said. “Now they have to learn about the business and industry, and how business processes work.”