Real-time communication and collaboration in the enterprise represents a significant shift in how employees, partners and customers interact and collaborate to drive organizational performance. The growth and acceptance of so-called “Enterprise 2.0” platforms and applications promise to break down closed communication and collaboration loops by moving discussions and data access from email, content management and rigid process applications to activity streams, wikis and API-based data access.
Together, these new interaction formats enable real-time communication and access to information emanating from within these new collaboration suites as well as from external systems. The result is a real-time flow of information from the people and systems that are critical to business functions for each employee, all accessible from a central dashboard.
The widespread proliferation of real-time tools in the enterprise will, however, require concerted analysis of what process and information flows truly warrant real time access. The notion of “right time” vs. “real time” will become more important as organizations decide what consumption models work best for individual users and the tasks they are responsible for. The speed of “real time” also will be limited by how fast traditional applications in the enterprise are able to process and publish information.
However, the existence of extensible APIs now make it easier than ever to tap into multiple systems to extract information as soon as it’s made available. While the concept of real time has existed for more than a decade, a new crop of collaborative suites from vendors such as Jive Software, Socialtext and Socialcast provide this facility out-of-the-box. Traditional enterprise software vendors have also announced their intention to provide real time collaborative and data access capabilities. Notable mentions include Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010, Salesforce Chatter, Google Wave and IBM’s Lotus Connections.
In 2010, expect to see the concept of the real time enterprise ascend the hype cycle. Enterprises will begin to analyze how real-time access can help discrete business processes such as customer interaction, sales intelligence, lead generation, partner interaction and employee project collaboration, and they’ll begin to evaluate the switching cost of moving their systems and data to platforms that have real-time as part of their solution sets.
Customers and prospects are interacting with each other and with enterprises in real-time making it imperative for the enterprise to structure its own internal and external processes to respond to customers as fast as possible. Expect this shift to be one of the primary drivers for considering a real-time architecture.