Archive for the ‘Enterprise 2.0’ Category

Collaboration in the Intranet: The existing ways are fundamentally flawed

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Fundamentally flawed? Ye, right. Do you remember that the last document you created for your project plan is in the folder //HD4567Share/CorpDocuments/Plan/? Worse, an updated copy of the document is in Sue’s e-mail. Even worse, Sally has updated with her 2 cents and uploaded it on Notes. Go figure!
Mostly collaboration within the intranet is built on top of two technologies viz. e-mail and documents (and documents within your e-mail). Most communication around e-mail is 1:1 or 1:Many or Many:Many, everybody keeps adding their “stuff” on top of the original thread with corrections, clarifications, modifications to the original. A way too many times you have to scroll/wade through to figure out which is the most important e-mail with the most up-to-date/accurate content. And then that e-mail gets archived in one of the “folders” somewhere. Imagine a discussion on a Sales strategy or a Marketing plan. Yeah, you may have had face-to-face meetings, but the little oh-so-forgotten meeting minutes are still in e-mail. Imagine looking for the outcome of such a meeting 6 months down the road — It would be an exercise in vain.
Why this mess? Two-fold, collaboration platforms are draconian and proprietary. Wrote in word, can’t edit in HTML, your word document in e-mail is outdated the moment someone opens up and hits save. Using e-mail as the default publishing mechanism and document repository is killing the organizational knowledge. My exchanges with a former colleague are now in my mailbox. Good or bad, my boss doesn’t event know what ideas we exchanged for that product roadmap! Organizations are not to be blamed for this, there was no one-click publish platform to enable collaboration and knowledge exchange before e-mail. The over reliance is troublesome. Bob Sutor suggests PDF is good until no one wants to edit the document. Not bad, but how about few people collaboratively editing a document before it is published to a larger audience. We’re not there yet, at least not without paying a large fortune.
Come Wikis, Blogs, RSS, JotSpot and other platform. Don’t get this wrong, MediaWiki, the defacto Wiki platform and most of the other wikis still store the content in a data store which is not tuned for harvesting, publishing using other
tools except MediaWiki — All presentable content on Wikis are still HTML. The challenge as David Berlind puts it is “interoperability” of proprietary applications, their protocols. It’s the “walled” systems for content management, document management and e-mail management which are guarding collaboration. David points out that RSS alone can rescue us there:

With RSS as both the notification mechanism and the content subscription mechanism, you basically have a single technology that takes e-mail, e-mail attachments, and far too many round-trips (of email, to fully facilitate the collaboration) completely out of the equation.

Wikis by themselves have the power to change the way corporate intranets disseminate and share knowledge. It’s not a surprise it is easier to find a place to host a webpage and edit it’s content (or maybe even run a Wiki) on the public internet. Have you ever tried hosting a page in your intranet, if you were successful; how easy it was? Even if there are a few companies listening, the future of “Writable Intranet” is here. What I fear most? The whole story of Wikis, Blogs, etc. getting diluted by vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, InterWoven, etc. by claiming that “yeah, we also do Wikis, Blogs, RSS” and then locking that information down in their proprietary store (a la import all formats but export none!). Keeping a close tab on this one.
Tags:, ,