He just co-authored an excellent book for anyone who now considers how to unleash the power of collaboration within their organization and on a secure basis. His book is Dynamic Collaboration: How to Share Information, Solve Problems, and Increase Productivity without Compromising Security.
He joined the show recently to talk about his book, his company's solutions and the changing dynamics and expectations in the collaboration conversation.
You can listen to our conversation here.
Ray, I know as a CEO you're superbusy. Now, you're a co-author and leading the charge changing the world. Thank you for taking the time to be on the show.
Thanks for having me on.
Before we jump into you book, let’s get a little background. You co-founded CollabraSpace in 1998, right?
What was the market like in 1998 for collaboration solutions?
At that point, a lot of the tools that were out there did one or two things. You might have a chat tool or document-sharing. Even back in those days when we started the issues were:
- whether you had it running on every desktop as opposed to a browser like most systems do today.
- how do you deploy these systems out to the many different locations?
- was code written in C?
It was quite different than where we are today.
What was the thinking among your clients back then, as far as their concerns and what drove them to contact you?
I think back then people were just starting to look at this thing called ‘collaboration’. Most people had looked at some chat rooms they’d seen on the internet and they thought:
“Hey maybe we can bring this internally here...Maybe there’s a better way for us to share some information.”
Those were the main things that came in.
I think also back then there was the cultural thing. There were also the times when people would stand up some things and sit back and look at it and say:
“What is this?”
It could have been the generational thing. We also had people who hadn’t used chat rooms on the internet. The internet wasn’t as big at your house at that point. So, bringing in new technology that people weren’t familiar with as they are today.
What drove that change to embrace this technology? Novelty or global competition or just the kids doing cool things.
Probably a combination of all of the above.
I think there were some successes early on. The pace of business has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. So, companies were looking for how to do they stay competitive, how do they bring the workforce to produce more.
Combine that with the fact that you had a new generation of kids coming up who came to the workforce with the expectations that they have all these cool tools on their computer at home, why don’t I have them here at the workplace.
It was all those things. People coming to work expecting all those things, corporations looking maximizing employee efficiencies, and people using the tools and getting more comfortable with them.
Again, congratulations on writing a great book. I have a copy here with me. I hope everyone goes out and gets a copy.
Who did you write this book for? Describe your intended reader, where do they sit within an organization? What's their biggest challenge or fear? How does your book help them?
We wrote it for anyone who was interested in standing up collaborative environments. We didn’t want it to be too technical. We have a technology background; it delves a little bit in to the technologies.
But, we really want to talk about looking a different way at collaboration. A lot of organizations have stood up collaboration, internally in their organization. We’re definitely not looking at the consumer market. We’re not saying:
"Hey, we’re not standing up collaborative environments for people to use on the internet for sharing pictures of their kids or something."
That’s kinda been done.
What we’re talking about is how do you take some of those technologies that you see on the internet and how do you bring them into your organization and have the viral effect that you’ve seen on the internet in some sights.
As I’ve said, people have tried this in the past. People stand up a tool and then it doesn’t get the use that they thought that it would. Our approach was to write this for people who have stood something up and said:
“I really thought that everybody should use it and they have not.”
We can give them some lessons on different things they can try. Well, companies now have people coming to them and saying:
“Why can’t we build in collaboration into this tool we are building? Why can’t we stand up collaboration?”
And hopefully we can give them a different perspective on that.
You did. I think you did a great job.
My friend, Erika Andersen, wrote a great book titled Being Strategic. She asks the reader to define their reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future.
What was yours, what was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future, when you wrote this book?
We have a different view on collaboration. As I kind of alluded to there, people stand up collaborative environments and you can go on the internet and use the examples of Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. For those who are successful, there are thousands who have failed. In a corporate world, there are some successes and lots of failures.
Our approach here was to educate people on what we think is a different approach in a corporate world. In a consumer world, you stand up a site, you go out and promote it and try to get users to log in. In a corporate world, the corporation already knows what tools people are using, what they log into, how many hours people are using different tools.
So, the way we looked at it was instead of standing up a separate collaborative site and hoping people use it, why don’t you integrate it into your existing tools that people use.
“This way when I bring up my accounting tool or my HR tool, I’m logged in and I can see everybody else on line and I can collaborate with them.”
So, it was really about educating people in a different way of looking at collaboration in a corporate world. That was our goal here.
Being a CEO I know metrics are near and dear to your heart. What are the metrics you're using with this book to measure your progress towards that reasonable aspiration?
So, maybe I failed at CEO school for the book. We didn’t really set any major metrics. We didn’t say:
“Hey, we want to sell a thousand books or we want to sell a million books.”
We’re really hoping, we’re looking at some things. We’ll look at how many books we’ll sell. You know, we’ve set up a blog, things on the internet. People are following us a little bit on Twitter. We’re looking at the community we’re growing. How we’ll effect that. We’re also looking at how people will call us up after reading the book and say:
“Hey, we want to get your advice on something.”
We’ll measure that.
We’ll measure a lot. But we didn’t set goals to like sell a million books and help 400 companies in the future. They would be nice numbers.
Ok. So,everybody has a definition about collaboration. What it means, what it entails. Not many include secure in their definition. So, let's start with that umbrella term, Collaboration. How do you define it?
You’re right. I think it’s one of the biggest problems we see out there.
If you do a google search on ‘collaboration’, you’ll find companies that offer email services and they consider that collaboration. And it is.
We really look at collaboration as allowing people to work together virtually just like if they were working in the same office together. So start thinking about that. How do you do the things you do in an office environment.
You need to be able to talk with the other people. That can be with chat or a phone call.
You’re going to share documents with each other. You’re going to drop them on their desk. How do you do that virtually if my desk is on the other side of the world?
How do we have meetings in a conference room, and get 20 people together, and all view a powerpoint presentation or draw on the whiteboard?
We look at what people do today to work. And, now, how do you take that to a workforce that is distributed around the world and is also mobile.
So, that is what we look at collaboration. So, it could be blogs, it could be whiteboards, it could be audio-video conferencing, it could be web presentation. A whole list of things go into that.
But the core question is how do you take people who are working around the world now and bring them together so that they think they’re in one room, one office, one conference center, one building.
So, now how do you define Secure Enterprise Collaboration?
Well, security. That’s a big part of any collaborative environment.
You get on the one hand the people how want to share information. On the other hand, you need to make sure you don’t share it with everybody.
One of the things we talk about a lot is if you went out and used internet services and all your employees are going to go on to Facebook, and that’s where they’ll collaborate, You have to keep in mind that your information is now outside your corporate walls. Your corporate secrets are out there. For instance, I have one of my friends who happens to be a competitor.
From a security point of view, collaboration has many great benefits. People working together, coming up with better solutions, quicker. You also have to be aware that if you let the information go too far it could be detrimental to your company.
Going back to my previous case of you want to be like your office environment. Your HR department doesn’t share payroll data with everyone; it’s locked in some drawer. You need to make sure your collaborative environment has the ability to say:
“This piece of data over here, this series of information is not available to everyone. “
Security is very important.
And it’s why a lot of people stumble in setting up a collaborative environment. They get wrapped around an axle of:
“We can’t share this data. We can put it in a collaborative environment because we can’t share it with everyone.”
You need to make sure your collaborative environment can segment data that can be shared with various groups.
Parts Two and Three of this interview will be published on Friday and Saturday, October 21 and 22 respectively.