can collaboration help enterprises weather economic storm?

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The year-long credit crisis came to a head at the end of summer and companies worldwide are tightening their budgets across the board. While IT is not immune, one area that may continue to see growth are collaboration tools, including Web conferencing, Telepresence and other software that promises to help teams work together.

A study released recently by Gartner certainly seems to think so. It estimates that the 'worldwide Web conference and team collaboration software market' will grow 22% in 2008, bucking the economy's overall downward trend. This is the fifth year in a row that the market has grown in excess of 20% year-on-year. Growth in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) was particularly strong in 2008 at 28.6%, driven by rapid expansion in Eastern Europe (55.3%) and the Middle East and Africa (45.1%).

Gartner believes that the market is healthy because organisations are now no longer just experimenting with collaboration tools, rather they have put them at the heart of business processes. It says that instant messaging (IM) will become as popular as email by 2010 and that videoconferencing will find its way onto the desktop, where it will become better integrated with Web conferencing, IM and voice over IP (VoIP).

Some commentators are even talking up collaboration as the prime mover in dramatically improving company productivity, which is essential in times of spending and sales downturn. Cisco CEO John Chambers has suggested that collaboration tools can even replicate the enormous productivity gains seen in the mid-1990s, but without the integration headaches that deploying large enterprise applications caused.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.