Top Barriers to Collaboration and How to Overcome Them

An undeniably common trend these days is collaboration. Web collaboration, audio collaboration, document sharing, the list goes on. Everywhere you look collaboration tools are poised to assist us in project management, communicating with one another or sharing information.

Of course, collaboration isn’t a new concept. As humans, we’ve been developing collaboration techniques since the days of using grunts and finger points to get two hunters’ arrows into the same wildebeest. The arrows may be IPO’s now, and the wildebeest our competitor’s market edge, but collaboration is just as crucial as it ever was.
Just as collaboration is not new, neither are the barriers to collaboration that we are faced with every day. There are four common barriers that are easily identified:

1) DISTANCE – Our intended partners may be separated by distances of hundreds or thousands of miles. This barrier is probably the most easily understood, as well as the easiest to overcome.
Today, we have the ability to communicate over vast distances not only by voice, but also text, email and video without leaving our desk or even our home. Cell phones, tablets, web, VoIP and video are all merging together (and with the advent of uMobility technologies, practically interchangeable). Nearly ubiquitous device and network access means that we are more connected and capable of being in touch than ever before. At no time in history has distance been as little a consideration as it is now.

2) LANGUAGE and CULTURE – Being able to hear or even see someone a thousand miles away is all well and good, but doesn’t help much if neither of you understands the other’s language. This may be one of the most vexing barriers, because, whether it be software driven or people managed, simple translation cannot always help us navigate the differences inherent in a multicultural business.

New software such as Google Translate has made it possible to get extremely fast and reasonably accurate translations for common phrases, words, and sentences. Putting those in context and building the foundation of trust and understanding that is necessary for efficient collaboration may be something that takes years, however.

3) FUNCTION/EXPERTISE – Have you ever witnessed a discussion between your company’s CIO and Marketing Director about the pros and cons of a particular piece of technology or software? Not only may they not have any common ground for understanding, the terms and background training that each would expect from a peer may be completely absent.

Even though they’re speaking the same cultural language, they are not able to effectively collaborate because there is just too great of a gap between the viewpoints and knowledge base that the other takes for granted and necessary for their daily work.

4) ORGANIZATIONAL/BEAURACRATIC – Even if you are in the same building, floor or room, collaborating with someone of a different department or level might be difficult. Failing to make the shift from a bounded, within-group mindset to a boundary spanning, cross-group mindset can mean the demise of your chances to excel, both for your organization and personally.

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Organizational issues are some of the most difficult boundaries to remove. It’s the “unseen line” that many individuals and companies don’t even realize is there. If middle managers aren’t able to look up, and senior managers don’t bother to or are incapable of seeing down, mission-critical decisions are made without a clear understanding of the business impact. The same is true of managers who are unable to cross lateral departmental boundaries. The inability to understand the motivations and needs of other areas in the same organization, or feeling uncomfortable discussing current projects and initiatives with them can create a huge disconnect.

The ways in which we collaborate today are extensive and varied. With hosting and webinar style solutions practically ubiquitous, Microsoft’s Sharepoint and other document storage services are achieving enterprise maturity. Even comprehensive audio/video/web systems such as NEC’s Meeting Center are making their mark on the business world – learn more about the power of collaboration within UC.

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Unified Communications: Get big benefits for your Small Businesses

nec_unified_communications_1-resized-600As a member of the Small-to-medium business (SMB) sector,  you can benefit greatly from Unified Communications (UC), as it allows you to cost effectively utilize comprehensive solutions previously only affordable to large enterprises.  Smaller staff and fewer finances don’t have to inhibit your communications capabilities and being a growing organization shouldn’t stop you from gaining a competitive edge.  UC can help you do this while containing costs and simultaneously furthering your ability to execute and innovate.

Today’s UC offerings are continuously improving in order to enhance the business value of unified communications for SMBs.  As a small-to-medium business, your implementation of UC differs greatly from that of a larger organization.  With high priorities placed on an immediate payoff to your business and communication simplicity, SMBs should look for a provider who supplies enhanced platforms designed to deliver all UC applications from a single-server solution to shave cost and simplify deployment and management.    Here are a few things to keep in mind to determine if a UC provider is catering to your SMB needs:

1. Mobility facilitates better employee communications while enhancing and improving productivity no matter where work takes them.  As SMBs become progressively more mobile, look for UC providers to cater to your need for voice and data support.  Many UC providers are designing and, more importantly, pricing, mobile solutions to meet these criteria.

2. Standards-based software solutions allow use of industry standards servers and reduces capital expense. With these solutions, you have the option of utilizing multiple devices, which benefits smaller businesses by allowing them to easily implement various forms of communications for different workers within the organization.  Imagine the ease of communication with your choice of voice and video collaboration for geographically dispersed teams as well as softphones for your remote workers.

3. Video & web collaboration can add a whole new, affordable dimension to your business communication.  What’s more is it provides smaller organizations with a cost-effective, premises-based tool to simplify internal information sharing among employees with the added benefit of easy information distribution with partners, suppliers and customers as well.  In a recent report,IDC noted the importance of SMBs controlling costs and reported that 45% currently use conferencing technology.

Click here to learn what steps NEC has taken to accommodate the growing business needs of the SMB market.

Investing in Unified Communications? Consider this before you do.

nec_reliability_scalability-resized-600When considering an investment in Unified Communications (UC) or enterprise communications in general, the first questions that come to mind are:  is it reliable?  Is It secure?  Does it offer business process enabling features through open standards?  After all, in today’s competitive environment, communications are a business critical component of your organization’s success.  Before making a decision about which system you’ll invest in, what steps do you take in evaluating its attributes?

Here’s a look at how some of the experts do it:

To start, systems are put through a series of rigorous proprietary tests to evaluate security and resiliency.  In resiliency testing, vulnerable scenarios are created by subjecting communications platforms to various analyses and scans as well as a complex set of exploits designed to determine product capabilities or applications.

Now that the surface has been scratched, let’s look at some of the test in more detail.

Failover

With so many of today’s businesses spread over multiple locations, a favorable system is one with architecture that is highly scalable, reliable and flexible. So what does that mean?  Communications servers should be able to easily handle up to 16 calls per second with no failures.  In order to do so, they require the ability to detect when a destination party is unavailable across the network and be configured to follow a failover path through the PSTN.  The path is designed to automatically switch calls to another server without a noticeable interruption in service.

Load Testing

Load testing is designed to show system resiliency over a protracted period of time by achieving a high number of completed calls when traffic is generated across a system.  For example, let’s examine a configuration of a system that’s set up with 6,000 SIP end points with 60 concurrent calls, while generating 100,000 Busy Hour Call Attempts (BHCA) over several days.  In this scenario, you could expect a system to average close to 30 call completions per second for an average over 100,000 calls per hour and totaling over 2.4M calls per day.  Simple, right?  Until testing adds registered users at a rate of about 1 user per second.  This is how they reallydetermine if the system offers true high availability.

 

Standards Compatibility

There are also tests to evaluate standards based compatibility with protocols like SOAP and SIP.  Standards testing offers a methodical approach and review of a system’s capabilities.

 

In the next section, we’ll look at security considerations.

Enterprise Communications in Virtualized Environments

phones_cloudWith all the talk of cloud computing and software as a service of late, many IT organizations are wondering how communications can be deployed realistically in these models.  This discussion inevitably leads to the topic of virtualization.

Among the highest-impact issues in IT today, virtualization allows multiple applications to run on virtual machines within one or more physical host servers. A hypervisor – from vendors such as VMware, Microsoft or others – allocates server resources for all virtual machines running on it. Virtualization has long been used in data centers to consolidate the number of physical servers, better utilize existing hardware, and improve application availability.

 

Centralizing applications in data centers and leveraging virtualization technology to minimize associated costs and complexities has for several years been a trend among IT departments of both enterprises and mid-sized organizations. Adding communications to virtualized environments brings complexity and special requirements that not every enterprise communications provider can deliver today.

NEC has verified that UNIVERGE Sphericall, the pure software-based communications platform, runs in both VMware® ESXi and Microsoft® Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 virtualized environments to deliver voice and unified communications services in various cloud and hosted scenarios.

Some potential use cases for software-based communications in virtualization include:

  • Customers with virtualization initiatives to reduce data center costs and server “sprawl”
  • Disaster recovery scenarios running virtualized instances in carrier hosted environment, or private cloud infrastructure.
  • Implementing additional media service resources such as voicemail, auto attendant, music-on-hold and/or call recording using Sphericall virtualization
  • Hosted provider scaling a single, large server with multiple instances of Sphericall where each instance is tied to a particular customer site
  • Small or remote offices desiring to hosted multiple applications on a single machine

Stay Con-NEC-ted with the Unified Campus

unified-campus-resized-600Educational campuses increasingly face new challenges every year as they open their doors to a new group of students that expect more in the way of a technologically advanced institution.  The complexity of the infrastructure to support these demands requires scalability, reliability, and security that are beyond reproach.  NEC, a leading provider and integrator of advanced IT and communication solutions, is poised to provide just what your campus needs to deliver on the ever growing demands faced in the educational environment.

NEC’s Unified Campus Demo provides a look into the simplicity, performance, and reliability of NEC ‘s solutions that are capable of delivering the availability and quality of service that educational institutions require.

Key benefits of building a Unified Campus are:

  • Communication and collaboration among students, faculty and staff via unified communications
  • Creating a safer learning environment through effective emergency communications
  • Achieve pervasive, secure access to university information through the use of efficient, virtualized data center solutions, as well as OpenFlow-based virtual data networks
  • Leveraging campus information to create new fundraising and revenue streams with business intelligence solutions

Learn more about the NEC Unified Campus and what it can do for your organization.