Usage Profile Series: The Collaboration Usage Profile

Usage Profile Series: The Collaboration Usage Profile

28 Sep 2016

The concept of a Usage Profile was introduced in this post on September 19, 2016. This series of articles will describe eight role-based Usage Profiles plus a Foundational Usage Profile. These profiles cover well over 90% of all employee and contractor roles in the US, across all industries. Each Usage Profile article will describe:

  • The primary type of work done by people in the Usage Profile
  • The vertical industry segments where the Usage Profile occurs
  • The metrics for workers in the Profile
  • How the Profile is unique
  • How workers in the Profile communicate
  • The technologies and tools used by workers in the Profile, currently and evolving to the future

Usage Profile 1: Collaboration

"Collaboration" is the first detailed Usage Profile description.

What Collaboration Workers Do

The Collaboration Usage Profile comprises workers who work creatively in teams to produce new or modified knowledge, concepts, ideas, products, documents, media, policies, and similar added value. Typically, collaborative workers and teams do not follow previously defined policies, procedures or processes, other than the best practices used by creative teams, such as the Scrum method used by Agile software development teams 1.

Collaboration Worker Titles and Industries

In 2015, collaboration workers represented 10.5 million US workers (7.1% of employment), based on an analysis of US employment by occupation 2. Collaboration workers are found to some degree in all industry sectors, with larger groups in manufacturing, cross-industry marketing, government, cross-industry IT development, financial services, professional services, and education, especially colleges and universities. Job titles vary by industry, but the Collaboration Usage Profile typically includes job titles such as Marketing, IT Development, IT Architect, Research & Development, Policy Analyst, Legislator, Financial Planner, Actuary, Product Line Manager, Buyer/Negotiator, Researcher, Curriculum Design Specialist, Mergers and Acquisitions team member, Professional Services Practice Development, and Professional Services Client Engagement team member, excluding those who are engaged in document processing and similar back-office work.

Collaboration Worker Metrics

The primary metrics for collaborative teams are speed and effectiveness. Speed enables the results of the collaborative work to be put to use as quickly as possible. Think about bringing a product or new marketing campaign to the market faster than competitors. Effectiveness is measured by the degree of impact on the organization's results, such as developing a new medical treatment that reduces deaths or shortens patient treatment time and cost, or a marketing campaign that is particularly successful. Effective communications methods can enable performance improvement against both metrics.

How the Collaboration Usage Profile is Unique

The Collaboration Profile differs from other profiles in these ways:

  • Very content-centric. Teams create and share lots of work involving many drafts and revisions. Interim and final work products include documents, videos, web pages, blog posts, software code, diagrams, designs, reports, graphics, data analyses, etc.
  • Very project-centric. Most collaboration work is done under a schedule for completion with project milestones. Projects may be recurring, such as quarterly marketing campaigns, or ad hoc, such as responding to changes in laws, technology, competition, etc.
  • Undefined elements. While the overall result of the project is well-defined at the outset, the specific form of the outcome and even the creative steps used to achieve the result are generally undefined.
  • Cross-organization boundaries. In most cases, collaboration workers interact broadly across departments within the enterprise and with outside sources such as customers and suppliers.
  • Not desk-bound. Collaboration workers tend to be semi-mobile within their work environment as they interact with other team members. They may also travel outside the physical location. They prefer wireless devices so they can take their work with them. They prefer working in open spaces with smaller team interaction spaces that are consistent across locations.

How Collaboration Workers Communicate

Communications methods for collaboration workers are dynamic and unstructured. These teams usually select a base method for communications, such as messaging (email and/or messaging-based collaborative workspace software), document sharing (email and/or collaborative workspace software or shared drive techniques), or meetings (mostly online, from desk, mobile device, or small meeting room). Then they incorporate other communication elements into that base method, such as instant messaging, SMS, chat, voice or video sessions, or ad hoc meetings - in person or online. Very few collaboration workers choose voice telephony as the communication platform for their collaboration. Voice is used, but only in the context of sharing and meetings.

Usually, the team wants the virtual sense that they are always together and always available to each other, while still being able to shield themselves from other interruptions. For example, many collaborative teams avoid their enterprise's IM and presence system because it opens the possibility of interruption by anyone in the organization.

Often collaboration workers will reach out beyond their team and even beyond their enterprise for information, reference material, opinions (including tools such as surveys and focus groups), and similar inputs to their work. Outreach is usually via email, email-based contact lists, cell phone SMS and calls, and online meetings.

Technologies and Communications Tools Used by Collaboration Workers

In the past and in some current settings, collaboration workers were expected to manually work with a large and diverse set of communication tools, almost none of which were integrated into the same user interface. For example, they might have used email, IM, SMS, web browsing, desk phone voice calling (within enterprise and to the public network), peer-to-peer voice/sharing/video, online meetings for voice/sharing/video, in-room and room-to-room meeting room technologies, shared drive technologies, and blog sites. This approach is now considered to be obsolete because it is a hindrance to the performance of the collaboration team, and it is costly and complex for the IT Team.

Collaboration workers now demand top-notch collaborative workspace software tools, which can be provided from the enterprise's datacenters and network, or from the cloud. The collaborative workspace software will be project-oriented and will usually have all of the collaboration and communication tools accessible within the user interface. In some cases, communication tools may be provided as part of the workspace software In other cases, they may be provided by connection to or integration with other services using secure Internet Protocols. One example is the integration of a collaborative workspace software package with Microsoft OneDrive or with Box for file sharing. Other examples are integrations with email, SMS and IM messaging, and possibly with real-time communication tools for meetings and calls.

Not surprisingly, the market leaders for these collaborative workspaces come more from the document-centric market category or from Internet-based and cloud-based innovators, rather than from the traditional real-time communications companies. For example, Microsoft, IBM, Jive, and Tibco are the leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace3. In addition, Wikipedia lists 170 companies in the category of Collaborative software, none of which are IP PBX producers4.

Collaboration workers readily adopt the necessary technologies, including personal computers (Windows or Mac), laptops, tablets (Wi-Fi and some 4GLTE), and smartphones (Wi-Fi and 4GLTE) along with compatible headsets, speakerphone devices, and other appliances. The devices are either company-provided or reimbursed at a flat rate according to company policy.

Collaboration workers need an online meeting technology that is easy to use, but supports high-quality document or application sharing and high-quality voice and video options. It is mandatory that parties outside the enterprise (suppliers, customers, focus groups, etc.) be able to join these meetings easily with a simple email/calendar invitation. Collaboration workers expect that the conference can be recorded for later sharing.

Collaboration workers want meeting room or meeting space technologies in essentially every open space and meeting room in their work area. The meeting room technology must be simple, easy to use, and fast for meeting startup. In general, collaboration workers prefer to walk in with their laptop or tablet and pair with the display, camera, and audio mics and speakers in the room. In some cases, teams prefer electronic whiteboard technology. In other cases, meetings are run from laptops and tablets that have touch screens for 'whiteboard' functions. Collaboration workers prefer that meeting spaces and technology can be scheduled for use by a specific team, but not be booked by other groups. In other words, they prefer that spaces and technologies be dedicated for use by their own collaboration teams.

Collaboration workers welcome "federation" of their collaboration tools with suppliers, partners and customers where appropriate for rapid interactions, consultations, or concept validations. They prefer that federation happen through commercially available tools, such as e-mail routing, the public switched telephone network, and some instant messaging networks. In some cases, such as a mergers and acquisitions team, the collaboration team wants a dedicated collaborative workspace for a specific project, and wants to be able to invite parties from inside and outside the company to register into that secure workspace for the duration of the collaborative project.

Desk telephones are usually not a primary device for collaboration workers. Typically the desk phone is used only for the speakerphone function for the voice portion of online meetings, and then only by the diminishing few who do not use some type of headset, earbuds, or USB/Bluetooth appliance for their voice interactions via computer or mobile devices.

All of these technologies, whether provided on-premises or from the cloud, must have enterprise grade security, since collaboration workers and teams are almost always working with sensitive information that would must not be accessed by competitors or others.


The Collaboration Usage Profile is a high-leverage role in most enterprises and most vertical industries, since the collaboration teams are creating the future strategies, products, services, polices and messages for the organization and their customers, clients, and citizen constituencies.

Communications technologies are key to the performance metrics of speed and effectiveness for the collaboration teams, since effective interaction and sharing is key for those metrics. Collaboration teams are most speedy and effective when communication technologies are integrated into the collaborative workspace software they use.

Many collaborative workspace software producers are providing these communications tools either from their own technology stacks (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Google, SAP) or from others' technology platforms via Internet Protocol integrations or connectors (e.g. Jive, Tibco, Salesforce). Some voice communications and UC companies are seeking to enter the collaborative workspace software business5, but seem unlikely to succeed since their sales channels do not have access to buyers of collaborative workspace technologies.

In many cases, it is no longer necessary to provide a PBX telephone number and desk telephone for workers within the Collaboration Usage Profile. The capabilities provided by the collaborative workspace software, in combination with the collaboration worker's mobile devices, will provide all of the necessary communications tools. Connectivity between the collaboration teams and others in the enterprise can be provided by globally standardized technologies including e-mail (SMTP), public switched telephone network (E.164), voice and video Internet Protocols (SIP, G.711, H.264, etc.), and instant messaging federation (XMPP, SIP/SIMPLE).

For the Collaboration Usage Profile, work with the collaboration teams and their functional leaders to determine the best combination of collaborative workspace software and communications tools to produce the optimal solution with the lowest cost of ownership.

[1] Explanatory article at: /
[2] US Bureau of Labor Statistics Table 11b. at
[3] See "Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace 2015" at this link (scroll down to Oct. 2015)
[4] See:
[5] See Gartner commentary regarding work stream collaboration (though those are not full-function collaborative workspaces) in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2016 at this link (scroll down to Jul. 2016).




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