The shortcoming of outsourcing that you’ll often run into is that a lot of hosting organizations haven’t yet picked up on the possibilities of integrating collaboration horizontally. They still think of it as a standalone tool. They recognize the value of collaboration technology, but they offer it to their customers as an independent collaboration suite. Their subscribers end up with a traditional collaboration tool that isn’t tied into the other applications they subscribe to. Or companies end up using collaboration capabilities from another vendor such as Google, AOL, or Yahoo! so they are not integrated directly with the applications chosen for your organization.
In essence, the customers of outsourcing firms get yet another stovepipe. Whether the software is in-house or outsourced, organizations miss the major benefits of collaboration technology when it’s not integrated horizontally. It fails to go viral because employees don’t have time to open a separate application just to share information or ask each other questions. They need to be able to collaborate from within the tools that they work in every day.
Only then will you get the true benefit of collaboration in your outsourced IT infrastructure. Thinking of collaboration as a service actually fits very neatly into the data center model. A lot of the applications and suites of products that these data centers are hosting are already SOA enabled services. They take advantage of back-end databases and core authentication services. The hosting companies make money by bundling their offerings in terms of price and features, and collaboration is a horizontal service that they can offer end users. They can host as a bundled set of collaborative capabilities, or—if they provide a web-enabled suite of applications—they can prepackage everything together and offer a complete collaborative suite.
In essence, data centers function in much the same way as large organizations do. Just as large corporations and government agencies integrate collaboration horizontally so that they can better serve their employees, data centers need to integrate collaboration horizontally so that they can better serve their clients. The same basic process is at the core: taking what the organization (or data center, as the case may be) already has and incorporating collaboration into it so that existing applications work better for the end users.
Not only do we suggest that data centers consider adding integrated collaboration to their offerings but we also suggest that organizations that are shopping for outsourcing providers make collaboration a factor in their decision. Organizations should ask their providers, “If I outsource to you, would you be able to help me collaborate—in an integrated, seamless way?”