Technologies that are over a decade old are hampering the way that knowledge workers collaborate but there is still a long way to go before firms are brought up to speed with 21st century IT…Knowledge workers are collaborating more extensively but their businesses are using technologies that are in some cases over 100 years old, impacting the efficiency and effectiveness of collaboration, according to new research. And it could spell disaster in the current economic crisis as firms look to save costs by making their business processes more efficient.The research, which was conducted by Forrester on behalf of Adobe, showed that while 81% of knowledge workers in Europe regularly collaborate with two or more colleagues in different time zones, they rely on the telephone and email to do so. And the shortcomings of these older technologies are increasingly being recognised as 70% are looking for better speed and efficiency to improve current collaboration methods.
However, knowledge workers themselves are in danger of being left behind the times as the report also highlighted that European knowledge workers are not ready to use emerging web 2.0 or enterprise 2.0 tools – current adoption rates are just 1% for wikis and 2% for blogs, for example. The report speculates a key factor could be that the younger generation, who are leading the way when it comes to utilising these technologies, has failed to penetrate a large majority of the current European workforce compared to the US and Asia.But rather than jump in at the deep end, the survey report suggests European knowledge organisations should take “evolutionary steps” towards web 2.0. “The survey data shows a marked propensity among knowledge workers to stick with what they know for team collaboration – email and attachments – despite the recognition of needed improvements and potentially better alternatives,” said Tim Walters, senior analyst at Forrester. “The challenge for the enterprise therefore is not just to provide improved collaboration solutions but also to support workers’ current work habits while transitioning them to new and constantly evolving ways of working.”The report suggests IT departments consider a ‘design for people’ approach to support the way European knowledge workers want to work by building upon their current email-based workflow. The goal is to bridge the gap between structured business processes and everyday disparate collaboration habits. “People’s work habits and preferences need to be a top consideration when planning any business and IT endeavour,” said Mark Wheeler, marketing director for Northern Europe at Adobe.The key areas of insight include:Technology enables, and complicates, team collaborationWhile knowledge workers in Europe favour the telephone and email for collaboration, they also express dissatisfaction with current collaborative methods and a desire to learn about alternatives. Because of the overwhelming need to collaborate with widely dispersed teams, European enterprise IT managers are faced with a range of tactical and strategic issues to support the needs of knowledge workers, including the challenge to secure the content and the need to act as a business partner by improving how knowledge workers collaborate effectively through the right technology for their needs.Information gathering is a sore spot for ad-hoc collaborationWhile real-time communication may be a preferred method of collaboration, the effort to compile responses and put the data to work often creates redundancies. Without technology to extract and synthesise data collected, making sense of the responses becomes largely a manual effort that creates extra busywork without adding value. Forrester concludes that IT departments must embrace email and phone-based data collection methods that include measurable, engaging approaches that work in these environments, such as surveys or forms that help compile data, not just collect it.The bar has been raised for communication qualityAs expectations for engaging communication experiences grow, European knowledge workers find themselves increasingly needing to create high-quality, persuasive communications. Nearly half of all European knowledge workers indicate that they need to create high impact content once a month or more but 87% of European knowledge workers experience problems with the default collaboration tools they are using today. Forrester suggests that IT organisations must adopt a ‘design for people’ approach to help European knowledge workers succeed while planning for change because needs are expected to shift as collaboration tools and the enterprise 2.0 mature.Security risk of current collaboration methods underestimatedThe study also reveals that knowledge worker habits in their collaboration efforts are not aligned with enterprise security concerns. This insight confirms findings from Forrester’s 2008 Security Forum Europe, which identified that delegates overwhelmingly chose “poor protection of information assets” and “employees acting in unauthorised ways” as the top two IT threats they will face in the coming year. As a result, IT departments need to educate knowledge workers of the security risks, find tools and processes that minimise exposure of sensitive information, and reduce security risk by aligning technology, processes and people. Analysts further suggest that enterprise IT departments that can focus on how European knowledge workers want to work will look to document-level security as the means to best protect sensitive information.Read the full report: