Mission impossible for collaboration

“We want to increase our international footprint with 300 new stores in the United States, Canada and Asia,” announced the managing director of a European retailer. That sounds ambitious, but it doesn’t end there: “in three months.”

Now this might seem a bit extreme or just a very unusual example, but it’s certainly not plucked out of thin air. Demands like this, which arise from mulling over business strategy, are what I think we often try to hide behind the hollow term ‘agility’. And – as I’m sure you’ve noticed – I haven’t used any ICT vocabulary such as IT, telecommunication or collaboration yet.

ICT services as a business enabler

Well, here they come. Huge and important business decisions like the one in this example entail a long list of demands. The project manager responsible could tell you a thing or two about this – they probably end up dreaming about the challenges they need to meet in the week ahead. Quickly rolling out the new branches’ telecommunications connection, for instance. Or providing the software for the checkouts, warehousing, planning, etc. at all the sites. Perhaps even providing collaboration services.

Can all this be achieved in three months? I imagine the faces of those who have just been given this task, or should I say mission impossible, as they exclaim “Is this a prank?”, “I need to see a psychiatrist.” and “It’s time for a new job.” – not necessarily in that order.

Limiting collaboration costs

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there’s another demand to add to the list – the roll-out can’t cost a fortune. After all, the business case has to be in the black, not bright red.

Quick, global and cost-effective – three wishes all at once – can it be done? My answer will hardly surprise you. Yes, if you miss out the fancy extras (no offense intended), it can – by using a standard cloud solution delivered to the different locations via a network that is also delivered as standard on a software-defined basis.

This cloud solution is already up and running, it just needs to be delivered and of course scaled – as is common practice for a cloud. But that’s the provider’s job. This on-demand model provides the retailer in this instance with additional cost transparency and reduces their investment risk because they only pay for the services used.

Giving users a real-time experience

So far, so good. We mustn’t forget, however, that unified communication & collaboration (UCC) solutions are the flagship of real-time applications. Out-of-sync communication caused by latency or bad sound quality takes some getting used to for us humans, who like to talk – including on the phone and in web conferences. Until our brains have evolved to a stage when they can piece out-of-sync sounds and images back together, we’ll have to rely on technology to do that for us (quality of service). In other words, the networks need to have the appropriate dimensions.

Collaboration from the cloud is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity for greenfield projects. Unfortunately, greenfield scenarios are few and far between in real life. In most cases, cloud collaboration tools are added into a pre-existing landscape to tap into new functions. This is where the fun task of integrating them begins. My co-workers have outlined cloud collaboration services in a short white paper. Examining a few case studies, they explain, among other things, how and where cloud services can be put to good use. You can access the white paper here.

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