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Culture in the Core of Enterprise Collaboration

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 02, 2009
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  • Author: pradhana
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  • Filed under: Business Analysis

By Claudio Castelli, Senior Analyst

Cisco has announced several new and enhanced software applications for instant messaging, email, social networking, videoconferencing and software collaboration, including document and video sharing. Some of these new products will compete directly with similar products offered by partners such as Microsoft and IBM.

Having a comprehensive collaboration strategy will help Cisco to enable new possibilities for enterprises and create increasing demand for collaboration services, including video. It is unsurprising that Cisco is pushing to have everything video-enabled to accelerate the refresh of enterprises’ network infrastructure, which is still its core business.

However, cultural issues and behaviour dynamics suggest that video will have less appeal in some markets than others. This is reflected in different cultural preferences across the region. In some Asian countries, people will be less inclined to use video communication and will prefer true face-to-face meetings or more traditional forms of communication. For example, our research with SMEs shows that SMEs expect personal video collaboration to be four times more common in Australia than in Japan in the next two years.

Culture is important but behavioural changes will be the challenge

Cisco’s collaboration strategy focuses on three main points: technology, process and culture. We were pleased to see Cisco highlighting culture as an important factor in the collaboration story, especially in Asia-Pacific where countries and companies are highly diverse. In our view, culture is a key factor in building the business case for collaboration. Increased collaboration will translate into business benefits according to the profile, culture and social character of each enterprise. Not every company will value collaboration to the same degree.

We see three main factors defining the corporate culture. The first is the nature of the business – a bank is normally different to a hospital or a government agency. The second is how a company is managed. Two banks in the same country may have different corporate cultures. This is normally defined by the CEO and the management team, and the CIO generally has a more supporting role providing the tools and applications that the business requires – although some also have a higher influence in the business.

Last, but perhaps most important, is the difference between country cultures. Countries have different labour regulations, privacy rules, personal habits and historical backgrounds that will also define how much people will want to collaborate and partake in video conferencing. It is still unclear how Cisco will address all these cultural factors and deliver its strategy. We expect its partners will play a major role, and Cisco will need to shift its focus slightly from technology to business process consulting when selecting partners.

In addition, Cisco can’t avoid the issue of user behaviour. Telepresence is helping to introduce many people to collaboration services. The life-size and high-definition qualities of telepresence offer users the same feeling as a real meeting. Perhaps this is the main reason for its success. On the other hand, to get the most out of the full range of realtime collaboration tools users will need to decide between different applications and manage their presence status in a dynamic way. This will require behavioural change, which is normally the hardest part of the processes. Furthermore, companies will need to work on best practices around the management of presence information, and solutions will initially rely on users’ input. Cisco will have to back its partners in supporting end users with training and educational processes. /PR-Ovum

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