Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Collaboration, Communication and Business Processes: Why They're Connected and How to Get Them There, in 13 Sentences!

1. Every business relies on collaboration and communication to do business.

2. Almost all business collaboration and communication is supported by some form(s) of information technology (IT), whether e-mail, social media telephone or even fax.

3. To win consistently and thrive competitively, businesses need to be able to do the right things for customers, partners and prospects consistently and respond to changing requirements or conditions in a timely, agile fashion.

4. Ad hoc, inconsistent collaboration or communication practices make it unlikely to impossible for businesses to do what they need to do to win consistently or thrive competitively.

5. The key difference between collaboration and communication practices that help a business to win and those practices that don't are consistent business-driven processes implemented and enforced across all business-critical activities and actors.

6. Processes that are crafted, documented and enforced well and consistently help to ensure that all important actions contribute to satisfaction of customers, partners and prospects and business success.

7. At most businesses, critical processes are often inconsistently and poorly crafted, documented and/or enforced, when they exist, are documented or are enforced at all.

8. The businesses best able to capture, define, implement, enforce, integrate and manage critical processes are those best positioned to win and to thrive competitively.

9. A potentially powerful way to achieve these goals is to process-enable the collaboration and communication solutions upon which the business already relies and with which users are already familiar.

10. Fortunately, new IT tools are appearing that make it relatively easy for even non-technical business decision makers to capture, define, implement, enforce, integrate and manage business processes effectively and consistently, and to process-enable key collaboration and communication solutions.

11. Examples include Cordys, which offers cloud-based process and workflow management that integrates with Google's online office applications, and EnterpriseWizard, which combines cloud- or premise-based application building and process capture/creation with an unconditional money-back satisfaction guarantee.

12. Your business needs to begin by capturing, analyzing and optimizing all critical incumbent processes, evaluating and prioritizing key collaboration and communication solutions and mapping out how best to process-enable these -- preferably now if it hasn't already.

13. For more on this (and on EnterpriseWizard), read my recent Focus Brief at http://focus.com/c/B3E/; to discuss, feel free to drop me a line at mdortch@focus.com and/or at medortch@dortchonit.com.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Flash? No Problem: Three Work-Arounds for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch Users

As you may already know, I'm a big fan of almost all things Apple, especially and most recently my new iPad. As you may not know, I'm also a big fan of all the Adobe technologies with which I have experience, especially Flash. However, I am definitely NOT a big fan of how the two companies have been dealing with the lack of Flash support on Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices, two of which I own and use almost every day.

Partly out of frustration and largely to help other similarly frustrated users, I've collected and offer for your consideration three work-arounds -- one involving creative search engine use, one involving Web sites designed for mobile devices and users, and one involving a bit more risk. You can read about them in detail in a Brief I've just published at Focus.com under the same title as this blog post. Of course, as always, your thoughts welcome.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Unified Communications? How About UNBRIDLED Communications?

In the 1970s, companies bought a bunch of computer equipment -- when what they really wanted and needed was computing.

In the 1980s and 1990s, companies bought a bunch of networking equipment -- when what they really wanted was connectivity to business-critical technology resources.

More recently, many vendors are selling, and noteworthy numbers of companies are buying, stuff that's referred to as "unified communications."

With all due respect to those worthy sellers and buyers, I'd like to submit that "unified communications" is not really what users want or need.

As I see it, the term "unified communications" is focused a bit too tightly on the underlying enabling technologies, and not tightly enough on user and business goals and needs. No more than a cursory look at how business is evolving reveals a bit of useful detail about those goals and needs.

So, what does business want and need? I'm glad I asked. Here's one answer. Business wants and needs the ability to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time in the right form, anywhere and anytime, in ways that enable and sustain high levels of user productivity, constituent care and business success.

From this perspective, businesses and their users, I believe, need "unified communications" far less than they need unbridled communications -- anytime, anywhere and secure access to accurate, consistent, timely and actionable information.

It may be a minor semantic distinction, but I mean for it to speak to a larger difference in perceptual focus. For almost the entire 30 years and change I've been in the information technology analysis business, vendors have tended to focus more on what they have to sell than on what users need to accomplish. Vendors have gotten better in recent years, to be sure, but every time a new spin on technology appears, the initial focus all too often reminds me of a popular Talking Heads lyric -- "same as it ever was."

I think that vendors would sell more solutions in less time, and that users would see meaningful, measurable ROI faster and more consistently, if each focused more on users' needs and goals. Smart resellers and integrators are making fairly nice livings by basically doing nothing but this. It's time that more of those companies and the vendor companies that supply the building blocks of those solutions followed suit. And given the business criticality of agile, secure, flexible, integrated communication and collaboration, there may be no better place to pick up the pace of the transition than the market currently -- and soon formerly, I hope -- as "unified communications."

Shameless Self-Promotion Department: One of the things I see helping to move things closer to what users need and care about is that whole "cloud computing/software-as-a-service/SaaS" thing. In fact, two of the areas in which cloud-based and SaaS business solutions are seeing their most rapid growth are in collaboration and communication. But I worry that some IT people at some businesses may be sabotaging the adoption of such solutions, intentionally and/or otherwise.

I've posted a blog entry that goes into a bit more detail about my concerns, which you can read here. I'd like it very much if you'd offer your opinions about this in a discussion going on now at Focus.com. Or you can feel free to write to me directly at medortch@dortchonit.com with opinions on anything about which you care enough to write. Thanks in advance!