Considering Communication, Collaboration & Content Convergence

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the past, present, and future of communication, collaboration, and content management.  I believe we're on the verge of unprecedented growth in related software domains, in large part because of growing communication- and information-intensity (for both personal and work contexts).  Whether for the benefit of improving personal time and attention management or the mandate, within larger organizations, to comply with increasingly stringent regulatory compliance requirements, the demand for effective communication/collaboration/content strategies is poised for explosive growth.  In this blog series, I'll share some impressions about how we got here, some current challenges, and what's likely to happen next.

To briefly explain my background, I've been working with assorted communication/collaboration tools for more than twenty years, starting with email and basic conferencing systems during the early 1980s and then into more elaborate tools such as PLATO during the mid-1980s.  I went to work at Lotus Development Corporation in the summer of 1988 and spent a decade there, mostly focused on Lotus Notes-related roles; for example, I was director of Notes product management during the pivotal Notes R4 release.  I left Lotus in 1998 to work for Ray Ozzie at Groove Networks, establishing the product management function there, and shifted into an industry analyst role about five years ago.  In my current role as a senior analyst with Burton Group, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work with global enterprises on their technology infrastructure challenges, often focused on the intersection of communication, collaboration, and content management.

To preview where I’m headed with my Collaboration Loop posts, I think we’re coming out of a somewhat chaotic phase for all things communication/collaboration/content-related.  Although collaborative applications (in various forms, such as groupware, teamware, and workflow) have been touted for more than two decades, there has been considerable market confusion, with vendors using neither well-defined nor consistent terminology, and decidedly mixed results for many enterprise collaboration deployments.

Communication/collaboration/content confusion was also exacerbated by incumbent vendor disruption, as IBM and Microsoft, the communication/collaboration enterprise leaders, made major changes to their related product offerings during the last five years.  IBM managed to bewilder the market about its relative emphasis on Notes/Domino and Workplace, for example, while Microsoft unceremoniously discontinued many of the features of Exchange Server 2000 that were originally positioned as “Notes-killer” capabilities in favor of new products such as Live Communications Server and Live Meeting (a web conferencing service based on Microsoft’s 2003 acquisition of PlaceWare).

Fortunately, a new model is emerging for communication/collaboration/content, one based on channels for communication, workspaces for collaboration, and a major focus on contextual communication/collaboration.  The new model, along with influential advances such as blogs and wikis, is reshaping the communication/collaboration/content landscape in fundamental ways.  My next few posts will address these changes and their implications.  We’ll review longstanding goals such as more productive collaboration projects and also review the significance of native XML data model management in leading database management systems (DBMSs), along with implications for communication/collaboration/content management.

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