Communication and collaboration software are two of the most important areas of enterprise technology. The first thing any employee gets when they join a new organization is an email account—that’s the barest minimum. Collaboration software has also become an important part of businesses as employees need to work together on documents, coordinate schedules, manage tasks, and have discussions with colleagues spread across locations.
A third software type that has gained in importance in recent years is web conferencing, as it allows you to have virtual meetings with people anywhere, without really having to “be there.” Web conferencing software is compelling for companies because it helps them save on travel costs and instantly have meetings with people they cant really access otherwise (in other countries, etc.).
And it goes without saying that all of the above types of software are closely related, since they cater to a basic core need: to help employees work together. Plus, these tools often need to interact: documents are often attached to emails and sent around, emails need to be sent to contacts stored in the contact-management system, attendees need to collaborate on documents during a web conferencing session, tasks have associated emails and documents and so on.
But ironically, in spite of being closely related, the above three types of software have been offered as separate suites. Companies often have a separate email server, collaboration server, and web conferencing solution.
However, in recent times, it has been seen by vendors that it is more efficient, and useful for end users if all of these suites be integrated in a single solution. A few examples of such integrated solutions are Google Apps, Microsoft BPOS, and Hyper Office.
The following benefits accrue to companies opting for integrated suites:
Less solutions to manage: Evidently, there are no multiple servers to manage, which saves on IT staff time. Most of the available integrated solutions are offered as web suites, which are very easy to manage.
Saved costs: It is more cost effective to have a single integrated solutions rather than having to shell out money separately for three solutions.
Ability to innovate: In an integrated suite, a certain section of the suite is developed as part of a larger suite, rather than keeping a myopic view of only that specific functionality. For example, in an integrated suite, an email can be converted into a task with a simple click; or rather than attaching documents to emails, emails can be linked to documents in the shared document manager. This ability would not be available in separate suites.
More user friendly: Rather than having to log into three consoles and manage information at multiple places, users can access everything from a single console within a few clicks. This is likely to lead to greater user adoption and greater employee productivity.