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ebizQ's Business Agility Watch


Driving Business Forward With Collaboration: A Talk With Oracle

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What follows is my discussion with David Gilmour, Senior Vice President of Collaboration Technologies at Oracle. In this podcast we discuss the business drivers of collaboration, Oracle's Beehive Collaboration Tool, and dig down into real world examples where collaboration has made a difference in the enterprise. Give it a listen below.

Listen to or download the 8:06 podcast:

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PS: What would you say are the primary business drivers for collaboration in the enterprise?

DG: I think most every enterprise has a direct economic interested stake in how well its people connect and work together. It affects the costs the enterprise experiences, it affects the growth in the way opportunities are found and identified as people put their heads together and see business opportunity. And collaboration certainly affects the speed at which the business can unfold and can move forward and the agility that it can move forward with.

So those are all, obviously, very important to almost every business that has knowledge workers, information workers play an important role. And all those things are amplified in this economic environment when the operational cadence in many businesses has slowed down and people are trying to work together and think harder also without traveling to figure out ways to move the business forward.

On that note, can you give me a quick overview of Oracle's Beehive Collaboration platform?

Certainly. Oracle has taken really a clean sheet of paper to the problem of what an enterprise needs to maximize its opportunities for its employees to collaborate. Separate from products we've had in the past, separate from others are doing out in the enterprise, Oracle Beehive is really the first unified platform for enterprise collaboration that brings together all the different modalities of collaboration, the traditional e-mail style of working together which of course we see as a form of collaboration. Team collaboration in which groups come together sometimes for just a very short problem solving exercise, sometimes for a perpetual kind of exercise or relationship and exchange content, co-create content, make decisions and so forth.

And then, finally, synchronous collaboration which is the world of instant messaging, and presence, and online, and voice meetings, and telephony and so forth. So by bringing all these together into a single unified services platform, with an open interface, and a set of clients that can access these services including products that the enterprise might already be using like Outlook, for example, and then tying all that into what platforms and technologies they have today, Oracle Beehive is a platform that can be rolled in alongside what the enterprise has got and add value to it in a pretty dramatic way.

Can you give me an actual real world example of how this collaborative platform is actually transformed in enterprise?

Well sure. We have a large financial services company that had prior to Beehive a sort of a grab bag of different social networking and collaboration tools some of which were on the web, some of which departments adopted on their own that frankly IT didn't really know about in detail, didn't even know it was out there what was being used and that created several problems. That created certainly a problem how IT was going to make all these things work together and make them make economic sense for the company.

So by rolling in the Beehive platform, it was able to do several pretty dramatic things. One is to convert e-mail over to web-based e-mail use with a very, very good user experience as opposed to having to have a thick client at every desktop and manage the maintenance and expense associated with those desktops. And it was able to deploy team workspaces so that any group of employees or others working with the company could quickly have a place to come together and get stuff done all of which was for the first time fully subject to the governance, oversight, and auditing of IT itself and all of which was integrated into the e-mail infrastructure that they had so it was really a pretty dramatic transformation for them.

Gotcha. And your answer kind of hinted at it but what are some of the shortcomings of current enterprise collaborative tools?

Well, there are many. From the enterprise IT perspective, if you take the market leading tools in several areas, e-mail, team collaboration, conferencing, presence and so forth, you wind with a collection of different products none of which was designed specifically with the others in mind. And in most cases, in terms of the market leaders, products that were originally designed for workgroup use and sort of scaled up to the enterprise never originally designed for the enterprise from the get go.

And so integrating all those in the data center creates a lot of cost, a lot of complexity, and a lot of brittleness as you try to make all these things work together. And when one upgrades, sort of knocks over a bunch of dominoes and others have to upgrade, it can be very, very expensive and it's very difficult even if you're willing to suffer all that cost to integrate those things deeply with business processes that you already having going on because they're closed products, there's no designed way to let users who are working on a particular business process step out with let's say supporting a customer, or closing a sales deal, or rolling up general ledger, or hiring an employee.

No way to step out of that business process go collaborate with others , and by the way to write others, and then come back into that business process and complete it because the current enterprise collaboration tools weren't designed for enterprises that have these processes that drive them. So integration with business processes, cost, complexity, and then finally the whole idea of governance and compliance are all very, very weak points of today's tools. There really is no way for IT to get a centralized handle on what's going on across all these tools in a single unified viewpoint as they really need to do to their job as trustees of the company's information.

What do you see for the future of collaboration in the enterprise?

I think we're a really interesting time for collaboration in the enterprise because we're approaching a watershed in which the whole scope of what we mean by collaboration is going to broaden, and change, and become more universal. Instead of triggering a sort of narrow question when you ask about collaboration, which is what tools do I have to collaborate with and connect with people I know I want to collaborate with.

You can imagine a much more intelligent future in which the job of the collaboration services or platform is not just to make collaboration possible but actually recommend what collaboration should happen. Identify who and when and why people should collaborate. And then, place into their hands just at the moment they're needed the tools and facilities to make that possible.

So I think we're going to really approach the concept of collaboration that makes sense to a business executive, which is how can I buy a piece of technology, and draw a line from that event to the event of my organization working more fluidly, more efficiently, more rapidly together to be more effective and that's the question that customers or enterprises are going to increasingly demand an answer to. It's not going to be enough to just say look at my ghee whiz tool and isn't it a better way for users to hang out together?

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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