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Collaboration Best Practices    [Date Added : 10/11/2003 ]
Market research firm Meta Group forecasts that by 2007, about 90 per cent of corporate users worldwide will be relying on collaboration tools, such as instant messaging, teamware and Web-conferencing, for business productivity.

Given the diversity of vendors and solutions, the Meta report Collaboration and the Evolution of the Enterprise notes that IT chiefs will have to select vendors based on long-term alignment with other technology investments. Failure to do so will create product overlap, increased burden on help desks and inefficiencies for end-users, Meta warns.

Meta suggests three major considerations for IT directors before they make their investments in collaborative services.

Infrastructure

Collaboration systems should ideally exploit a company's existing infrastructure, including directory, operating systems, security and databases, rather than require a new backbone.

"Traditionally, it has been acceptable for collaboration suites to have their own directory, but moving forward, proprietary collaboration directories will prove too costly," says Matt Cain, Meta's senior vice-president and industry analyst.

Cain also proposes the adoption of data exchange standards, such as extensible markup language (XML), simple object access protocol (SOAP), and session initiation protocol/SIP for instant messaging and presence leveraging extensions (SIP/SIMPLE), to facilitate access to multiple applications and databases.

This will help reduce coordination costs across the enterprise ecosystem, he says. For instance, a call center representative should be able to view from his messaging application team members who are online, and invite them to a shared workplace for immediate problem resolution. "The greatest return on investment will come when collaborative services are included in business applications and portals," he notes.

Operations

On the operations side, existing virus protection, content and spam filtering, and denial-of-service prevention measures should be supported by the collaboration solutions, says Mike Gotta, Meta's senior vice-president and director of Web and collaboration strategies.

Collaboration systems deployment must also conform to corporate policies for encryption, authentication and non-repudiation, particularly for extranet activities. "This is part of aligning with existing workflow practices," says Gotta.

Technical administration will also be eased if collaboration tools come with Web-based management modules that snap onto enterprise consoles without any customization.

Knowledge Management

Besides coordinating collaboration technology with corporate infrastructure investments and operational practices, following knowledge management disciplines is also a key consideration.

Elements of knowledge management include taxonomy generator and search engine. The former defines and compiles categories of corporate content for easy viewing, while the latter enables users to search for specific collaborative subject matter.

"Knowledge management affinity is crucial because collaboration services such as e-mail, instant messaging, Web-conferencing and teamware are potential sources of in-depth expertise and process-execution best practices," says Cain.




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