Unified Communications Featured Article

Will ESNs Provide the Missing Productivity Link for Global Work Teams?

August 21, 2013
By TMCnet Special Guest
Craig Malloy, CEO, Bloomfire -

Like it or not, the remote workforce concept is here to stay. Business travel spending continues to decline 4-5% per year, and cheaper web conferencing and cloud-based workflow tools are getting better all the time. 

Most top-level executives believe that the collision of these trends is a net positive for the expense sheet. While true, I believe it has a negative impact on the bottom line when you consider the affect on team productivity.  

When I was CEO of LifeSize, we built affordable global video communications products with the intent of bringing distributed teams closer together.  We conducted ROI studies and customer surveys, both of which told us we were delivering significant value. However, while advances to video communications with products like LifeSize does make global teams feel more connected, it can’t replace the water cooler conversations and asides that are the results of sharing an office.  

So what’s the missing link? It’s the “glue” provided by the hundreds or thousands of human interactions in between the conference calls that provide context and knowledge sharing – things that Internet Protocol, HD video and project management software cannot provide.  Without this glue, team members spend up to 1/3 of their day just looking for information to help them make decisions and do their jobs.

Many IT professionals and line-of-business leaders involved with enterprise collaboration over the past decade have simply given up on the possibility of technology tools fostering the finer dimensions of human relations. But if you are one of them, let me suggest you look at Gartner’s recent coverage of a rapidly evolving category of software called Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs). As a hybrid of communication, storage, workflow and activity streaming technologies, Gartner predicts that ESNs will not only put an exponent on the productivity gains from prior generations of collaboration tools, but it will help global companies come much closer to emulating rich human interactions.

Below are three interesting findings from Gartner’s 2013 Predicts report:

  • ESNs will become the primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to carrying out work.
  • Over the next five years, three key feature sets (social, mobile and gamification) will fuse into one large, predominant superset.
  • End users seldom need or come into contact with the advanced functionality of enterprise content management (ECM) systems, and will gladly trade those features for simple tools that fit their direct needs and are significantly easier to use.

Whether or not you believe ESNs will replace email as the primary business communication channel – or that they will reach the main stream within 5 years – I highly recommend you take a look at Gartner’s research on workplace technology, and figure out what it means for your company.  I may be biased, but I believe that ESNs and any technology that improves human-centric workflow will become provide a huge competitive advantage for those companies that adopt early. 

Do you agree that ESNs will have this big of an impact? I’d love to hear your feedback, either way.

Craig Malloy is CEO of Bloomfire. He is a former Navy officer turned entrepreneur who founded ViaVideo (acquired by Polycom) and LifeSize (acquired by Logitech) and is now re-inventing himself in cloud software. His passion lies in bringing great workplace collaboration tools to market with an A-class team.

Edited by Blaise McNamee