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Hold the phone! Recent study shows familiar collaboration tools still widely used

What is the number one technology in use today for collaboration by employees in companies across the United States and Europe? According to a recently published study by Forrester Consulting, it is the telephone*. A close joint second are face-to-face meetings and email. Hang on! What about things like wikis and blogs? Sorry, Web 2.0 fans: their usage for collaboration within the enterprise is still relatively low, but will grow.

The study called “Building The Future of Collaboration” was commissioned by Adobe, and the goal was to learn how knowledge workers across Europe and more recently in the United States collaborate in the workplace. You can read more about the study here, and there is commentary and analysis on Lori DeFurio’s Adobe TV show and blog, and on Joel Geraci’s excellent “IT Matters” blog.

According to the study, 77% of U.S. respondents and 76% of European respondents use email with attachments for collaboration. By contrast, only 2% of U.S.-based respondents and 1% of those in Europe use wikis for collaboration in the workplace (blogs and social networks were not much higher than that). As expected though, usage of these Web 2.0-based technologies was higher among younger workers, as they are clearly popular tools once everyone goes home (unless your boss doesn’t mind you checking your Facebook page once-in-a-while during the day).

So clearly knowledge workers today still prefer traditional collaborative tools. Why? Because they are human beings. And as humans, we generally tend to favor what we are familiar with over newer alternatives. At the same time, these knowledge workers acknowledge that there are limitations with these familiar collaborative tools: among U.S. respondents, the top challenges with these current methods are that not everyone has the same tools (59%); that some tools add complexity more than help (32%); and tools don’t work together well (24%).

So, something of a paradox here: technology is both helping and hindering collaboration in the workplace today. This is where I believe Adobe Acrobat can help. Although Acrobat 9 offers to streamline the collaborative process of getting feedback and comments from others, even when they are in different locations and time zones, it does so in ways that everyone is familiar with:

  • the commenting tools look and feel like the paper ones we are all used to;
  • rather than using our email inbox to track who has responded (something email was never intended to do) we can use the Acrobat 9 Tracker to keep an eye on document reviews, yet still use email from there for communication and reminders (something email was intended to do);
  • according to the study, web conferencing and instant messaging are certainly more popular today: by leveraging Acrobat.com ConnectNow and Page View Sharing, Acrobat 9 can bring those methods of collaboration right into the familiar world of working with a PDF document;

What Adobe Acrobat 9 delivers on is being able to help everyone across the workplace be able to build a bridge from their current workflows to the needs of the future as technologies and their adoption change.

Click the linked image below to register for your own copy of the report. I hope it’s a powerful way to make your own case for using Acrobat 9 within and beyond your organization for collaboration (and many other) purposes.


* Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Adobe Systems Incorporated, September 2009

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