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In rocky economic times, a successful collaboration strategy can unlock employee potential, reduce costs and help achieve true customer intimacy. Companies can motivate their workers, make them more effective, improve leadership, and foster innovation. Innovative application models are emerging to incorporate collaboration into core business processes, which will encourage greater teamwork and set productivity free throughout the increasingly borderless enterprise. But this shift requires an architectural approach that can support this evolution.

Beyond technical capabilities, the next-generation application architecture must accommodate new ways of working, support collaboration across end-to-end business processes, extend current practices of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 to new environments, and take advantage of new technology opportunities.

But the last thing enterprise architects -- or users -- want is new technology and process silos. Both enterprise architects and empowered users want tools that are already integrated or that can be easily integrated into applications, business flows and enterprise architecture. Avoiding new silos represents a significant challenge to enterprise architects. But using the network as a platform helps enable a future-proof, open collaboration architecture for the enterprise. The network can provide key services that contribute to the security, performance and scalability of collaborative applications.

Collaboration as the platform for business

What fundamental issue must an improved collaboration architecture solve? Many of us experience this issue every day in our work lives.

At critical junctures, a business process frequently requires key team members to collaborate. They need to access, process and transform information from a variety of sources to advance the business process. Application silos, data silos, technology silos and collaboration silos hamper productivity, slow down the business process, and invite error. People engage in "swivel-chair process integration," mediating between silos and trying to convert information between them by using cut-and-paste operations or relying on memory. A simple example is dialing the wrong number while reading it from a computer screen.


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