Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The problem with collaboration is that I want to work alone

I think I have already written about how in the beginning of the Internet era (90's) companies and the enterprise world determined the path of innovation. After the Web 2.0 boom, all innovation comes from the masses, and then is implemented or ported to the enterprise. For example, think of CRM technologies. Oracle was a leader in this space and targeted only institutional companies. Nowadays, Salesforce.com and Netsuite leveraged the power of SaaS and other collaboration technologies used by people, for people. Another example, and the one that I want to focus on this post, is collaboration in general.

We've had Instant Messengers with presence information, rich-media collaboration tolls like sharing pictures and diagrams, and even embedded VoIP technology to make phone calls. I have used Yahoo Messenger since almost its beginnings and It was the first to integrate voice and other cool collaboration features. In fact, I used to use it with customers as a great form of collaboration. It was, sometimes better, to IM the customer to see if he was available to chat, or if he received that document. If he didn't, I could try resending the document via the messenger.

The IM technology has matured and come a long way. Many companies deply IM and Presence technology internally. Although they are not customizable systems. I truly believe that we finally have come up with a stronger replacement for the fixed IM client as a main collaboration tool in the office. That is, Webex Connect.

Webex connect is a collaboration product for any business process, based on WebEx's SaaS. The functionality is delivered on an extensible, open development platform based on SOA and XML. You can use the WebEx Connect Platform to extend the functionality of applications a company already has to create customized business mash ups (like widgets) that build collaboration into any business process. That said, the power of the WebEx Connect Platform comes from a framework to merge collaborative applications with business software in ways previously not possible.

However, collaboration has a component that is often forgotten: the social aspect of it. Some people just want to work alone. Companies often implement productivity tools; only to be disappointed when there doesn't seem to be any return on investment, ROI. There are two defined reasons for the failure: the tools and the people.

In many cases, the problem isn't the tools; it's that workers don't use them. On one side, the tools may simply not be adaptable enough. They are fixed and imply a change in business process. That is where WebEx Connect is a breakthrough, and we can no longer say that the tools are the problem. On the other side, we need to better understand the generational differences within the work force, and looking for ways to support collaboration between these different groups. Sometimes people just like to work alone.

The industry and technology was able to adapt the tools. Now we have to work with the social aspect of social technologies.

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