?New Rules? for Collaboration

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.

With all due respect to Bill Maher, here are some “new rules” that I’d like to see for the collaboration and communication market. 

E-mail ought to be smarter.  We receive a lot of press announcements about new and exciting products.  Often our first response is to forward these announcements out to the rest of our team.  This leads to a flood of “I’ve already received this” messages back the sender.  E-mail systems ought to be able to tell users that the message they are about to forward has already been received by their peers.

Sell benefits, not features.  Many vendors in the collaboration and communications space continue to tout feature sets.  “The latest version of our “uber-suite” contains everything you’ll need to collaborate.”  Of course this elicits a response along the lines of “but users don’t know how to use any of these applications”.  Vendors ought to lead with the business problems they are trying to solve, and how use of their apps or services will lead to real-world results.  Don’t ignore  the fact that migrating to wikis, shared workspaces, and other collaborative apps can be disruptive.  You must deliver compelling benefits to justify implementation of your product.

Users aren’t going to check-in and check-out documents.  I’ve had a lot of discussions with enterprises about collaborative workspaces.  Often their trials or implementations fail because users simply won’t go through the trouble of saving a file, then going into the shared workspace and uploading the file.  Shared workspace vendors ought to provide the capability for end-users to open files directly into their office applications, then save revised copies directly back into the shared workspace without any need for manual check-in / check-out.

Break the linkage between application and operating system.  Stop offering one class of application for Windows users, and another class of application for Mac/Linux.  The enterprise environment is less monolithic than it was a few years ago, and Macs are making inroads into the enterprise space as a result of the “halo” effect (iPod = home Mac = I want a Mac at work). Quit forcing users to settle on a platform they may not want to use if they want to take advantage of your application.

Have a mobility strategy.  For many individuals their blackberry is far more important to their productivity than they laptop of PC.  This trend will accelerate as smart-phones get smarter.  Collaboration and communications applications need to support mobile users rather than exclude them.

Don’t assume that all bandwidth is equal.   Perhaps the corollary to mobility strategy “new rule” is to remember that many users, especially in underdeveloped parts of the world still don’t have access to high speed Internet.  Even in developed nations high-speed internet access may be spotty, or may suffer from delays in peek periods.  Make sure your app or service doesn’t need 1 Mbps of access to function.

Well, that’s the list for now.  I’m sure I can think of a few more, but I’d like to hear from you.  What “New Rules” would you like to see in the collaboration and convergence market?  Comment below or drop me a line – [email protected]