BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
One of the biggest challenges facing IT as collaboration offerings increasingly become cloud-based is balancing priorities with line-of-business needs. While cloud offerings translate into more choices, they include options that fall beyond the purview of IT, which can create a conflicting set of business collaboration strategies that may not serve the greater needs of the business very well.
Both IT organizations and lines of business (LOB) within the organization have distinct responsibilities to manage, and it's a difficult balance to strike. The following summary compares the priorities and business collaboration strategies of each stakeholder group when it comes to collaboration offerings.
Collaboration priorities and drivers for IT
When evaluating and selecting new collaboration technology, IT has four main drivers that focus on the business goals of achieving return on investment and maintaining security and regulatory requirements.
- Reducing the overall cost of applications. When IT deploys collaboration technology, one benefit is to eliminate the use of duplicate services across various LOBs that make the overall cost of collaboration more expensive.
- Optimizing network resources. A centralized model for collaboration allows IT visibility across the entire network to ensure an efficient use of bandwidth. This provides the control needed to actively manage network use and prioritize traffic, so real-time application performance isn't compromised.
- Providing a consistent user experience. Employees will collaborate more effectively when they're using the same tools and the same interfaces. A consistent user experience is critical for any collaboration deployment, and IT is in the best position to provide that.
- Protecting privacy and data security. Security becomes much harder for IT when lines of business or individual workers resort to using cloud-based, consumer-grade applications. They simply aren't built for these requirements, especially for vertical sectors with specific compliance requirements.
Collaboration priorities and drivers for LOBs
Business collaboration strategies for LOBs are focused on a department's internal needs, rather than overall organizational needs. Lines of business have three drivers that motivate them to seek out their own collaboration apps.
- Specific line-of-business requirements. With the cloud, lines of business have many options to source offerings that cater to their particular needs. These options will be optimized for specific processes, applications, terminologies or languages that would otherwise require costly customization if based on a general-purpose platform deployed by IT.
- Support specific business objectives. The collaboration capabilities needed to support LOBs are driven by an individual team's success metrics. But adopting collaboration tools for specific team needs reinforces the silo mentality IT is trying to move away from by deploying collaboration to support the entire organization.
- Collaboration tools are needed right away. In many cases, LOBs will go with a cloud-based offering that seems to meet their needs without seeking input from IT. Cost is often not a concern, because they have their own budgets, whereas cost is a real constraint for IT. When speed of deployment is the issue, LOBs will be more inclined to take their own course, rather than wait for IT to respond and work around their schedule.
Reining in conflicting business collaboration strategies
Just from these select points, it should be clear that some natural tensions exist between IT and LOBs. When priorities clash over collaboration, LOBs will likely make their own moves if viable options exist. As such, IT must pick its battles. Rather than trying to prevent these siloed deployment scenarios, IT should take a more cooperative stance.
The key here is to inform LOBs of the potential drawbacks of deploying their own apps and make them aware of IT's responsibilities to serve the broader organization. While it's understandable why an LOB would deploy collaboration independently, IT can still provide some guidance on best practices for how to be more mindful to support IT's broader needs.