Q&A: James Knowles, Interoute

We talk to Interoute's UC product manager about collaboration and its role in business success

How would you define collaboration in one sentence?

Collaboration enables people to work together to achieve a common goal.

How important is effective communication to modern business success?

Effective communication is of critical importance in all areas of life, and with modern business relying on people who are often geographically dispersed working together to achieve goals, it is important to have suitable communications to effectively support such collaboration.

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What are the key benefits of having the right collaboration and communication strategy in place and acting upon it?

Having the right collaboration and communication strategy enables a workforce that can be spread through different organisations, countries and time zones, to work as effectively as possible. Other benefits include a better feeling of staff inclusion as easier to keep staff involved in all relevant activities and decision making, as well as controlling costs and pollution by providing alternatives to always travelling and meeting distant colleagues in person.

Conversely, what are the downsides of not getting this right?

Lack of an effective collaboration strategy can leave some staff feeling disengaged and others overloaded as communication is not effectively managed. This will typically result in lower productivity and potentially higher staff costs. 

What are companies currently doing well when it comes to collaboration and communication? How is your company a good example here?

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Some companies have realised that it is critical to success with widespread usage to enable users to collaborate independent of where they are or what device they are using. For example, enabling simple collaboration between a range of users that could between them have a soft client from Microsoft on their tablet, a Cisco video endpoint in their office, and a mobile audio call as they walk through an airport on travel. Interoute One Bridge is provided to all our employees as well as many customers enabling spontaneous and seamless collaboration between users everywhere!

Is there anything you would change about your collaboration strategy if you did it all again? What words of advice would you give to others embarking on their collaboration journey?

A key piece of advice is to encourage and progress your adoption of collaboration without effective collaboration employees will be less productive and engaged, so ensure your strategy enables users to effectively collaborate wherever they may be working.

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Who in the organisation should be taking the lead when it comes to choosing the right tools and implementing them successfully? Is it the IT manager/CIO/CTO, business department head, HR or a combination of key stakeholders?

It is the responsibility of all within an organisation to share opinions on collaboration tools that could enhance the business, and via management advise the key stakeholders in the CEO team of options with related benefits and challenges. There should ultimately be a single person responsible, typically CIO role, that decides based on their own knowledge and input from key stakeholder peers.

Where do you see the market and adoption of communication and collaboration tools headed? What innovation do you think is on the horizon or, indeed, much needed?

Businesses are often challenged by employees bringing their own application into the business in order to collaborate with colleagues. A desirable innovation would be an effective way to manage this by enabling users to bring their own application into the business in an approved manner or providing an alternative business application that removes the desire for employees to try bringing their own application.

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What will successful corporate collaboration and communication look like five or 10 years from now?

My ambition is for a much more integrated collaboration market with users of different vendor services are able to collaborate as effectively as users of the same service.

Why should people attend our collaboration event to hear you speak?

The event will provide an opportunity to hear how collaboration can benefit your business. This comes from end user customers advising how they specifically have benefitted along with challenges they faced, suppliers relating experience more broadly across a range of customers along with market developments, and analysts giving a whole of market view. This information combined critically with an opportunity to ask questions from the floor or privately in breaks will provide useful insights for anyone looking to develop their own collaboration and communication strategy.

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