Enterprise collaboration – what does good look like?

Today we bring you a post by another Microsoft partner - attending the EHI Live 2012 event in November. This is what Simon Hudson from Cloud2 Ltd has to say...

Everyone seems to talk about collaboration, often in terms of it being a panacea for all ills, a cure for diabetes and a route to world peace (I’m sure you will forgive a little exaggeration), however these same commentators are quieter on what collaboration actually means (other than in terms of the services they sell) and what it looks like in day to day use.


We are often no different, touting the amazing things that can be done if you buy into the Microsoft technology stack and wrap our services and solutions around it. So, to redress that, this blog describes how we use it day to day. Extrapolate to your own teams and organisations at will.


Time: 7.30 am-ish


Awaken and, once eyes have cleared, grab smartphone and see if any interesting email has come in overnight – I still don't know why I do this. However if there is anything genuinely urgent we have an email protocol: ‘SOON:’  in the subject line means take  a look at this as a priority and get back to the sender today please. The team knows to use this (and our secret ‘Do it now!’ code) as a means of grabbing attention and we share the protocol with our clients. Outlook rules flag such messages amongst the email deluge.


Time: 8.30 am-ish


Review diary for meetings and activities for the day. Clear a few quick emails – delete is good, but we also drop emails into SharePoint via a linked email archive in Outlook or general notes and information into OneNote.


Time: 9am – 10am


Check who is online in the team using Lync presence. Probably I grab my headset and discuss issues and priorities with our technical director (who is 100 miles away) – if he hasn’t grabbed me the moment I appear online. Often he needs to show me something or I need to review the visual attractiveness of a widget (users are so much better at it than technical people) – which takes 1 click to raise the conversation to screen sharing in Lync. In parallel with this real-time conversation I am likely to make notes on the project/development in OneNote. All our OneNote books are stored in dedicated libraries in our SharePoint intranet, so they are available to other members of the team in almost real-time too – as I make notes I can see the ones he is making in the same page.


We line up a client call for a project for that afternoon – an Outlook calendar invitation is created and probably turned into a Lync meeting.


I want to discuss the project with our project manager, but can see from his presence that he’s in a call already and that he won’t be free until 15:00. I ping a quick IM to him saying can he spare me a few minutes in the next hour – he replies saying he can take ten minute break in an hour. I need too find a requirements document, which I do in under 60 seconds using the search in our SharePoint intranet – the document is tagged with a set of keywords (defined by our business taxonomy) which lets me filter the hundreds of possible projects documents to the one I want in 2 clicks. I tell him to review the document, sending him a link to it directly from Word.


After that it’s back to email clearing for 10 minutes. One is from a co-director – I can see from his status (shown in the email) that he is working on a Governance solution proposal for an acute trust.


Time: 10am – 11am


My calendar and phone both alert me to a client call. Quite a few clients are federated with us over Lync, but not this one, so it’s plain old telephone. However they do have access to our extranet, so we review a couple of options in a portal adoption and deployment document.


Since it’s a Word 2010 document and our extranet uses SharePoint we are both able to have the document open and edit it as we go along – I see the paragraph he is working on and get notified when there are changes to pull through. I reflect that this saved me a 3 hour train journey each way and the cost of a rail fare.


Time: 11am – 12am


The moment my meeting finishes our PM calls me on Lync. He saw I was free and we go over the document I asked him to look at, rapidly completing it. We set its status to Final and he emails it to the project manager at the client.


Back at my email I see that one of our policies is due to expire next month – the policy library has sent me an alert. I make a note to review it tomorrow.


A second email alert is for a proposal that needs to be reviewed before it goes out later this week. I review it, making notes and comments  and set it’s status to reviewed so the author can get it out early once my question have been addressed – I would have called but their Lync status in both the library and in SharePoint show they are off site today.


Time: 2pm – 4pm


I do pop out to see a local client. While there I am able to pull up their recent proposal and last meeting notes directly from our intranet, logging in securely from his desktop computer. They are still on Word 2003, so I open the document in the Office web app.



The rest of the day continues in much the same way.

Key benefits:


  1. We massively reduce our travel, avoiding battling through traffic to get to the office or client meetings except when needed. This is a saving of time, fuel and allows us to run with a smaller office space than our team would otherwise need.
  2. All our information is available on demand, easy to find (80 seconds or less) and shared across the teams. We suffer from neither lost nor duplicate information. Decisions are faster and better informed.
  3. Seeing the availability of colleagues eliminates telephone tag and reduces email. Communications are immediate where people are free, while interruptions are minimised. We can show as well as talk whenever we find we need to, avoiding scheduling follow up meetings in many cases.
  4. Simultaneous editing allows us to create and review documents in a fraction of the time of round-robin emails, so we can respond faster.
  5. We have no paper…

Imagine if you could do that…


The question of how to get to this exalted state of affairs remains… If I were a typical big enterprise client I expect I’d be thinking “Yeah well it’s OK for a small group of individuals but it will never work in a large organisation like mine.”


It’s true, big organisations are hard to change, irrespective of the potential benefit. But big organisations are full of smaller groups that are willing/desperate to make a change for the better. We suggest finding some motivated people in small cohesive groups and support them to get going with enterprise collaboration. Then use their evangelism, enthusiasm and experiences to drive adoption.


So big or small you can get started using the tools which are all available now.


Technologies used:


  • Email and calendar – Exchange server + Outlook
  • Real time collaboration – Lync (+Office & SharePoint)
  • Content creation – Office
  • Document and information management – SharePoint intranet and extranet
  • Collaboration – all the above



by Simon Hudson, Cloud2 Ltd


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