Managing Collaboration In The Extended Enterprise

Organizations need to develop a balanced strategy to meet the demands of today's highly mobile workforce where collaboration extends beyond the office walls.

John Newton

August 28, 2015

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

The workplace is undergoing a substantial transformation. Workforce mobility is on the rise, bringing down organizational walls and extending collaboration beyond the physical office. Today’s workplace includes colleagues scattered across satellite and home offices, as well as work-on-the-road scenarios. Collaboration is also occurring between individuals and groups that don’t necessarily work for the same organization, including prospects, customers, contractors, even governments.

This extended enterprise has great benefits, particularly when it comes to marketing, product development and contracting. Contracts can be negotiated online from across the globe and customers can participate in new product development without traveling to user conferences. Enterprises also benefit by allowing people to work in a way that encourages the most engagement, anytime, anywhere, on any device. 

However, this extended enterprise presents organizational and technological issues. Current organizational models are unable to meet the growth of the digital activity and connections running inside and outside of organizational walls. In addition, connecting workers and information inside and outside the organization can put corporate assets at risk.

Four simple questions can help you maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the extended enterprise:

Who? You know your employees are collaborating with each other, but make sure you understand all of the relationships that exist. Cross-team collaboration within the organization is commonplace, but you may be surprised by other interactions.

Certainly the marketing department collaborates within the department, for example, but its members also likely collaborate with members of all other departments within your organization. They also may collaborate with contractors, partners and customers, people that are outside of your organization. Take note of the collaborators, as all of these different users require different access controls and permissions.

What? The answer to this question used to be simple; workers collaborate on documents. But it is now “content,” most of it is digital and growing rapidly. Research firm IDC has estimated that digital content will grow by 50x from 2010 to 2020. People now collaborate on videos, pictures, music and more. A content strategy should include all of this and technology solutions must recognize all different content formats.

Where? No longer is the firewall the boundary to an organization’s network; data and information are accessed from a number of different touch points, both within and outside physical and technological barriers. As such, information and business processes need to live both inside and outside of a firewall. You need to consider integration with local and non-local systems, and ensure information is being shared (and kept) in the right place. Identify the right systems to allow you to manage this effectively and securely without stifling collaboration.

How? Remote access, VPN, mobile devices and more further extend the network of the digital enterprise. And while technology can help organizations streamline their processes and activities, technology can overwhelm users. Most enterprise IT projects fail because users don’t adopt them.

Organizations must consider workers’ preferences on information access while ensuring the content is secure and managed in accordance with any compliance policies. They must control access and safeguard information with permissions and restrictions to determine what users can read and edit. And all of this needs to be flexible to allow for adaptability in case of unforeseen changes in the digital enterprise.

Collaboration within the workplace has changed, and today, organizations are extending their value chains and engaging more deeply with external collaborators. This has the potential to improve important business functions, but organizational models must keep up. The legacy approach does not serve modern enterprises that are not bound by the limits of IT infrastructure.

The extended enterprise requires a new approach that supports easy, controlled sharing of content and process both inside and outside the organization. Enterprises must evolve or be left behind.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights