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As more and more companies look to adopt collaboration software, such as internal social networks, all will face the question: what software should we use?

For many, if not most, of those companies, answering that question will be the responsibility of the IT department. But should it be?

An interesting blog post by Gartner VP of Communication, Collaboration, and Content Craig Roth hints that the answer might be 'no.' As he notes, "purchasing and licensing have little to do with whether a technology will be used", and most importantly, whether that technology will actually create value for the organization.

The problem in general with many IT departments is that they're sadly out of touch with the employees they serve. When evaluating a technology, established vendor relationships and preferences may trump the quality of the product. For instance, if your IT department loves Oracle or Microsoft and is hesitant to support any technology not built on their products and platforms, a not-uncommon thing to see at large enterprises, the number of options considered in an RFP may be limited by factors that are irrelevant to end users.

So what's the answer?

It might just be giving employees a greater say in the adoption process. Or at least looking to them for cues. The rise of the iPhone and iPad in the enterprise, for instance, is being driven in large part by companies wise enough to implement a BYOD (bring your own device) model. If fewer companies were letting their employees decide which devices they use, we'd probably see greater usage of Blackberries. That might have kept the IT department happy, as deploying a fleet of Blackberries was fairly simple given RIM's enterprise focus, but when given a choice, consumers have spoken and most favor other devices.

The good news in the enterprise collaboration and social software space is that, increasingly, software vendors are looking at the consumer market for inspiration. Why are 750m-plus consumers using Facebook, they're asking, and how can we incorporate some of that engagement-driving functionality while also making a product useful to the business?

Even so, companies shouldn't assume that the 'consumerification' of enterprise software is complete, and that therefore the IT department can't go wrong. It can. So any adoption of this software that doesn't include a reality check based on what employees are using personally outside of work risks failure.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2393 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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Nathalie

When we chose collaborative software it wasn't left to the IT department. Why would it be? It was left to the rest of us, including the secretaries. We chose Dooster and it was worth getting. It's very good.

over 4 years ago

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Nathalie

When we chose collaborative software it wasn't left to the IT department. Why would it be? It was left to the rest of us, including the secretaries. We chose Dooster and it was worth getting. It's very good.

over 4 years ago

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Pankaj

Giving users a free hand in selecting their software has the potential of causing "cloud sprawl" - or a situations where a company is left contending with multiple software silos. I think some sort of management oversight is needed for selecting collaboration software, especially since it has a major strategic impact. It could come from IT because they know the techie nitty gritties. Even better, it could come from the top management, who select the software not in light of features, but business value.

over 4 years ago

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Adam, Webmaster

Even if IT don't make the choice, they should at least be able approve the selection, for it is they who will have to deploy and support it.

If the IT department is not involved, as well as the 'cloud sprawl' already mentioned, there is also the possibility that users actually buy and deploy the software themselves. If not done properly, this can introduce security risks and it will always end in tears, when the application breaks and IT say they won't support it because they didn't even know it was being run on the network.

The clue's in the name - 'collaborative' software - there should be a collaboration between the end users and IT in the selection and deployment of this, and any other software system.

over 4 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

Not just an issue for collaborative platforms. Same applies for CMS, CRM, Mobile... but it's also possible for good IT heads to set some reasonable criteria, i.e. SLA standards, where data is hosted, how secured, interoperability, future roadmap - without forcing "only Microsoft".

over 4 years ago

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Phil

This absolutely has to be a collaborative process.

The IT dept may not have to use the software but they often have to implement, maintain and support it.

It would be too easy for many non-IT employees to be distracted by buzzwords and trendy visual design, and to overlook important functional or technical requirements.

over 4 years ago

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property management software

Very interesting point on BYOD. As more and more consumers become more comfortable with portable devices, we can start to see the increase in traffic from smart phones ans smart pads. Therefore, it is very important to start integrating optimization to suit device's interface. At leas that's what we are doing with our property management software

over 4 years ago

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Jamilah

We are a small company. IT is outsourced. We chose and have been using Dooster for some time and find we work well with it.

over 3 years ago

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Jamilah

We are a small company. IT is outsourced. We chose and have been using Dooster for some time and find we work well with it.

over 3 years ago

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