Four presence potholes to avoid

Four presence potholes to avoid.

Despite the productivity benefits of presence-aware tools, enterprises must grapple with the cultural shift toward real-time collaboration. While organizations typically make use of the tools optional, many employees feel compelled to join in if they want to participate in key decisions.

"There's a lot of people who find it to be an intrusion and invasion of privacy, because they walk away from their desk for five minutes and their machine declares that they're idle or they're reading a document on paper at their desk, and all of a sudden their computer claims that they're idle," says Kevin Angley of SAS.

At Procter & Gamble, the company emphasizes to its employees that 24-hour availability is unnecessary. "It comes up culturally all of the time. When do I get to quit working? That is just a reality as our business and personal lives converge," says Laurie Heltsley of Procter & Gamble. Heltsley explains that it's acceptable for P&G people to turn their presence status to off or unavailable.

2. Ownership issues.

In some enterprises, corporate communications or even human resources manages videoconferencing, Web conferencing and collaboration. Collaboration tools are sometimes an outgrowth of distance learning and training, and HR has historically driven those initiatives. In other cases, corporate communications has run video production and business television, and videoconferencing may have grown out of these efforts.

"Ownership" also may depend on the network. The more advanced the network, the more viable it is for rich, real-time collaboration and the more likely that IT will manage those tools.

Regardless of which function drives collaboration, ideally, multiple functions partner in developing a collaboration strategy and implementing tools. Collaboration accomplishes business objectives more effectively when organizations focus on integrating tools into work styles and culture.

3. IT-related turf battles.

As real-time collaboration integrates conferencing with IM, the shift can cause turf battles over responsibility for tools, particularly in enterprises with well-defined "silos." Because enterprise-oriented IM systems tie in with mail server systems and line-of-business applications, IT expects to own IM.

However, presence integrates IM with conferencing. If corporate communications or HR manages conferencing, that function may resist ceding control of real-time collaboration to IT. Meantime, the tug of war over tools is preventing the implementation of enterprise-oriented IM and presence in some companies.

"We're still working to define who's going to take responsibility for what," says Barry Kuhn of W.R. Grace & Co. Ultimately, almost all collaboration and communication will occur over data networks which are rapidly evolving to handle the traffic. Therefore, IT naturally owns the collaboration infrastructure. However, input from other functions is a critical success factor.

4. Data retention.

Retention is another issue vexing some network managers, IT directors and CIOs. While enterprises typically keep all e-mail, instant messages traditionally vanish. As IM catches on as a standard business tool, compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other laws means retention will reach beyond e-mail to real-time exchanges.

"Our chief legal counsel is saying that we need to make sure that any time an instant message session is done, it's somehow recorded such that we can recall it," Kuhn says.

Retention is driving the desire among enterprises for more robust real-time collaboration approaches. Microsoft Live Communications Server (LCS) and IBM Lotus Sametime both provide mechanisms for enterprises to retain IM. LCS uses Microsoft SQL Server-based logging and searchable conversation logs. Sametime provides retention through products from business partners including Symantec, FaceTime Communications and Akonix.

As conferencing converges with IM, enterprises may also begin archiving all collaboration and communication, including videoconferencing, video IM and even voice. While this notion raises privacy concerns in some legal departments, the pendulum is swinging toward retention. LCS offers video-IM archiving capability. Sametime provides video as an add-on to Web conferencing rather than IM and allows for archiving this video. Both LCS and Sametime integrate with multipoint control units from partners including Polycom, Tandberg and Radvision. This arrangement allows managed retention of group videoconferences.

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