A Forrester study reports that real-time collaboration has stalled in the enterprise due in most part to the lack of adoption in technologies such as web conferencing and instant messaging. That may be true with existing technologies but it is important to note the new generation of applications that extend real-time collaboration tools.

The State Of Workforce Technology Adoption by Forrester is definitely comprehensive in its examination of how people use technology in the workforce. It's a mass market report, meaning this is how people use technology today. They surveyed 2,001 "information workers" at organizations with 100 or more employees. It is Forrester's first report in this realm. It covers devices, productivity, mobility, collaboration, intranet portals and Web 2.0.

In September, we covered the Gen Y aspect of the report. In this post, we will look at the other findings of the study and how the information presented connects to current trends, especially in the real-time enterprise.

Forrester analyst Ted Schadler wrote the report. He makes the point that the purpose of the study is to walk a mile in the shoes of the information worker.

These are information workers who:

  • Predominantly use desktop computers: 76%
  • Have a pent up demand for smart phones: Just 11% use them at work
  • Rely on email for most everything
  • Do not really use traditional collaboration tools such as web conferencing and intant messaging

Just look at how dominating email has become and you see the challenges to real-time collaboration.

I asked Schadler if the definition for real-time collaboration needs to change and if it may be misleading to keep social technologies separate from the definition. He reminded me that the report is what people are saying right now. It's a wake up call, a reality injection about how we perceive the market. Most don't have access to applications that integrate real-time activity streams. They don't even know their company has tools like web conferencing.

That said, the "future looks rosy," for the real-time enterprise, Schadler said. This is due in part for the need to bolster one-dimensional applications such as instant messaging and for that matter, email. For example, a next generation email application may have its own incoming activity stream, allowing information to be pulled out of the black hole that we know as the inbox.

Increased use of smart phones may bridge the gap for workers, especially of the Genertion Y set, but improvements are needed as well in search. It's also important to recognize that self-service is very popular among information workers. Better online training can help speed adoption.

We believe the changes in real-time collaboration will occur when the social web becomes more fully a part of the work day. That means a whole range of changes that we are just starting to see with offerings from companies like Socialtext, Socialcast and Jive Software. And of course, there are the big players like Microsoft's Sharepoint.

In the end, Shadler says it is a critical time to get that reality check in place and listen to what the workers say:

CIOs have plenty of scars from the failure of previous technology investments to thrill and delight the workforce. By asking workers what they truly need or why they don't think they need a new technology, this benchmark will lay the groundwork to prevent future failures.