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Working Toward Working Together

Gartner analyst Betsy Burton noticed something unusual over the last six months: a significant uptick in the number of inquiries she was receiving from CIOs about collaboration. That seems odd, especially because collaboration software has been around ever since Lotus Notes was invented (and even earlier, if you count the demonized Authorware).

Burton started looking into why CIOs were working toward working together and found four fundamental shifts that are increasing the importance of—and interest in—collaboration. She outlines them in this Q&A.

Q: Collaboration has always been important within the enterprise. What's driving this new emphasis on the subject?

A: We're seeing four primary issues and two secondary issues put collaboration on the agenda of CIOs. First, there's an increased focus on external communication, with partners, suppliers, and other sourcing that may be in far-off places. Companies have intimate relations with partners, even though those partners may be in different locations.

Second, virtualization has increased dramatically, with employees either traveling to or working in remote locations. We talked to a company that has engineers in the U.S., Singapore, and Europe, and it was trying to find ways to be innovative and creative and still have them work together well. The company uses a Web conferencing tool that sits on the desktop of engineers, who can write on the whiteboard portion, so when someone from Singapore comes in, for instance, they can meet in that environment and keep dialogue open. It's a virtual watercooler. Virtualization is also being driven by the increase in mergers and acquisitions, where you have to work with the acquired company from a distance.

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