Building a Unified Collaboration Ecosystem

by: Richard Leong, VMware Vice President IT, Colleague Experience and Technology

Over the years I have been fortunate to speak with many customers and industry peers about various experiences and perspectives on unified collaboration (UC). The most common topic that arises is around a ‘standard’ or ‘single tool’ approach (via a large UC platform) versus a combination of what is perceived as best-of-breed.

I will be the first to admit my perspective on this topic has changed over the years, but so has the industry, the players and the workforce we support and serve. In the past 12 months, my team has embarked on a journey to deliver a rich and fulfilling UC experience for VMware. While new our strategy encompassed a long list of technical components, target dates, savings, capabilities and similar, we’ve also had to change our approach and mindset in several areas:

  • We needed to come to the realization that a “one-size-fits-all” approach was not the right (or the only) approach for our environment. This meant building a clear and honest understanding of what the Microsoft collaboration tool’s strengths were within our environment, identifying the gaps, and then filling them—but with the caveat that this best-of-breed toolset must provide an integrated experience. While some integrations between these tools are minor, we still felt it provided the connective bridge between a potentially isolated set of collaboration islands.
  • Even when we think we have the right toolset that make up our best-of-breed offering, our jobs aren’t done yet! We must continue to research, learn and evaluate alternatives from both traditional and non-traditional offerings. You can’t predict what the next big thing will be, but we recognized the need to invest in building an understanding of the market.
  • We discovered using select IT tools in isolation wasn’t the right approach, either. Instead, we are now driving a truly inclusive process to deliver new tools and services in the UC space. This has proven extremely valuable in the following ways:
    • Creates a true collaboration community where our colleagues are teaching, helping, and supporting one another when collaborating
    • Drives meaningful engagement with our colleagues
    • Brings them directly into the decision-making process
    • Drives transparency in why we did, or did not, choose a specific tool
    • Provides greater adoption, with less change management

The results have been phenomenal, and it’s been very fun hearing the input from our colleagues.

  • Aside from cost and supportability, every tool we offer must provide an exceptional experience. We’ve invested heavily in measuring the experience through various channels (human factor testing, performance testing, interviews, surveys, etc.) and always share the results transparently.
  • We needed to learn to listen. Not just listening for the sake of checking a box, but truly hearing what our colleagues’ challenges, feedback and needs are. This isn’t a one-time activity—it is something that needs to be continuous, consistent and a part of our culture as an IT organization moving forward.

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