European Enterprises Need to Rethink Their Collaboration Methods

Adobe Systems has announced the results of a European commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Adobe to gain insight into the nature, the methods and the perceived limitations of collaborative work among European knowledge workers. Study results show that despite the pervasive collaboration trend, current tools are not meeting knowledge workers' need to work efficiently, confidently and securely together in their efforts to produce high‐impact deliverables.

As part of the study, Forrester conducted 3,000 online interviews with qualified respondents in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The study finds an overwhelming 99 percent of respondents work collaboratively with others, and 81 percent work with two or more people in different time zones and geographical regions. However, knowledge workers are also acutely aware of the limitations of their collaboration methods. For example, 65 percent of respondents demand faster collection of information, 49 percent aim to reduce paper for information collection, and 44 percent request more engaging ways to collaborate.

"The survey data shows a marked propensity among knowledge workers to stick with what they know for team collaboration email and attachments despite the recognition of needed improvements and potentially better alternatives", said Tim Walters, senior analyst at Forrester. "The challenge for the enterprise therefore is not just to provide improved collaboration solutions but also to support workers' current work habits while transitioning them to new and constantly evolving ways of working."

The report suggests IT departments consider a "Design for People" approach to support the way European knowledge workers want to work by building upon their current e‐mail‐based workflow. The goal is to bridge the gap between structured business processes and everyday disparate collaboration habits.

"The study shows people's work habits and preferences need to be a top consideration when planning any business and IT endeavour", said Mark Wheeler, Marketing Director for Northern Europe at Adobe. "The opportunity for IT experts in Europe now is to select and develop enabling solutions to satisfy enterprises' business needs and meet knowledge workers' demands. We believe that collaboration tools are most effective when they allow users to work the way they want to without requiring everyone to adopt them to be successful."

The research study, conducted between August 4 and August 22, 2008, revealed the following insights:

Technology Enables, and Complicates, Team Collaboration
While knowledge workers in Europe favour the telephone and email for collaboration, they also express dissatisfaction with current collaborative methods and a desire to learn about alternatives. Because of the overwhelming need to collaborate with widely dispersed teams, European enterprise IT managers are faced with a range of tactical and strategic issues to support the needs of knowledge workers, including the challenge to secure the content and the need to act as a business partner by improving how knowledge workers collaborate effectively through the right technology for their needs.

Information Gathering is a Sore Spot for AdHoc Collaboration
While real-time communication may be a preferred method of collaboration, the effort to compile responses and put the data to work often creates redundancies. Without technology to extract and synthesize data collected, making sense of the responses becomes largely a manual effort that creates extra busywork without adding value. Forrester concludes that IT departments must embrace email and phone‐based data collection methods that include measurable, engaging approaches that work in these environments, such as surveys or forms that help compile data, not just collect it.

The Bar has been Raised for Communication Quality
As expectations for engaging communication experiences grow, European knowledge workers find themselves increasingly needing to create high-quality, persuasive communications. Nearly half (49 percent) of all European knowledge workers indicate that they need to create high‐impact content once a month or more. The study finds that 87 percent of European knowledge workers experience problems with the default collaboration tools they are using today. Forrester suggests that IT organizations must adopt a "Design for People" approach to help European knowledge workers succeed while planning for change because needs are expected to shift as collaboration tools and the Enterprise 2.0 mature.

Security Risk of Current Collaboration Methods Underestimated
The study also reveals that knowledge worker habits in their collaboration efforts are not aligned with enterprise security concerns. This insight confirms findings from Forrester's 2008 Security Forum Europe, which identified that delegates overwhelmingly chose "poor protection of information assets" and "employees acting in unauthorized ways" as the top two IT threats they will face in the coming year. Forrester concludes that as a result, IT departments need to educate knowledge workers of the security risks, find tools and processes that minimize exposure of sensitive information, and reduce security risk by aligning technology, processes and people. Analysts further suggest that enterprise IT departments that can focus on how European knowledge workers want to work will look to document‐level security as the means to best protect sensitive information.

The full report from Forrester is available to download from the Adobe website from Thursday 12th February.

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