Cisco Canada Blog

Understanding Adoption Barriers to Collaboration, Part 2

May 6, 2015

This is the second post about adoption barriers, with both being part of my broader series titled Collaboration Insights. Overall, this is the fourth post in a five part series, where I’ve been examining issues and opportunities to help enterprises move forward with collaboration technologies.

No matter which way you turn, there are challenges, but vendors are doing a pretty good job of developing solutions that speak what businesses need from their teams, as well as how people are communicating with today’s technologies. There’s a lot of complexity for sure, but the biggest barriers are internal, both in terms of your culture and how you think about collaboration. The latter point is where this post picks up the thread.

Next steps – thinking boldly and differently

When you can position collaboration as an enabler for these kinds of business outcomes, it becomes very strategic.  Clearly, these are desirable outcomes for any business, but are difficult to measure, which is exactly the holdup with the collaboration concept. However, this difficulty won’t stop management from allocating resources to achieve these outcomes, and by demonstrating the strategic role that collaboration can play, the adoption barriers will become much lower. Not only that, but if IT can craft such a vision for collaboration, then IT will likely get to “own” it.

To do that, IT may have to think differently, and that’s the impetus for this series. If you believe that “owning” collaboration is the best way to drive adoption across the enterprise, then you better be able to deliver. Creating such a solution is not normally the forte of IT, so the onus then falls to the vendor community. If the path I’m advocating is new to you, then you might need to reconsider your existing vendor relationships.

Most vendors do not have organically-developed collaboration platforms; rather, they are an outgrowth from point applications they have been selling forever. Standalone applications are not the answer here, and if that’s their core DNA, you’ll need to carefully evaluate how well they understand your need for collaboration to drive business outcomes. Otherwise, to keep your business, they may try to make your needs conform to their offerings, but that’s the opposite of what your vision requires.

Another aspect of thinking differently pertains to how you would manage this. Presuming you have found the right vendor with the right solution, you may face internal operating constraints, especially for your network. If you’re accustomed to owning and managing your IT resources, you may expect the same for collaboration platforms.

Given the complexity of today’s technology – and considering the strategic benefits outlined above – you may also have to accept that your collaboration platform is better managed from the cloud, especially if your resources are being pared back. Now you start thinking in terms of the PaaS or IaaS model, where the ability to integrate various communications applications comes from offsite, but is still very much within your purview. Along with this comes a shift from Capex to Opex, which could actually make your vision easier to sell to management.

Now, this becomes a strategic IT consideration, where you leave the complexity to the vendor, and focus instead on making a tighter connection across the organization between your collaboration solution and how it can drive business outcomes. That may be a big leap from your current situation, and again, will impact the kind of vendor you’ll need to partner with.

You may think I’m asking a lot here, but the stakes are high, and the results are worth it for everyone involved. If this is what you believe collaboration can do for your business, then you have to make it strategic for management and you have to be strategic when considering the vendors.


Part 1 talked about seeing the whole as more than the sum of its parts when it comes to collaboration applications. This is not easy to do, and poses an adoption barrier for truly effective collaboration solution. As long as each application lives in its own domain, they will remain great point solutions, but not part of something bigger – something that’s strategic rather than tactical. The key take away from that post was for IT to make collaboration strategic, and doing so involves tying this to business outcomes. These are the results that management values, and their buy-in is necessary for this strategic vision.

This post builds on that by addressing the need to think differently. Status quo thinking is likely a key reason why collaboration solutions have had limited impact to date. Making communications easier is not enough to become strategic; collaboration needs to drive business outcomes and to sell that vision, IT needs to think differently. Of course this entails risk, but the upside is worth it, not just for the business but for IT’s future as well.

For clarity, please note that this Collaboration Insights series is sponsored by Cisco Canada, but the content is my own, and by design is vendor-neutral.

photo-002Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and strategy consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario. The consultancy’s primary focus is providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel regarding IP communications and disruptive technologies, such as VoIP, mobile broadband, contact centers, telepresence/video, unified communications, collaboration, SIP trunking, cloud communications, session border controllers, and social media.

He has been consulting about these technologies since 2001, and can be followed on his widely-read Analyst 2.0 Blog, along with regular commentary on Twitter and Linked in. In March 2014, Jon was named a Top 100 Tech Podcaster by, and other blog accolades can be found on his full bio on the JAA website.

Jon also contributes to other publishers and portals, such as UCStrategiesZiff Davis, ADTRANTechTargetand Internet Telephony Magazine; speaks regularly at industry events, and accepts public speaking invitations. He is frequently cited in both the trade press and mainstream business press, serves as an Advisor to several emerging tech/telecom companies, and also works with companies of all sizes to help monetize their patents and intellectual property.

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