Collaboration Opportunity

For varied and unrelated reasons, I have been involved with many firms either in the collaboration field (VA Software cum CollabNet, Open-Xchange, Novell and their GroupWise offering) or for whom collaboration is an essential part of the product (Mobile Compete). This accumulated history led to me being the Collaboration Solutions judge for this year’s CODiE award.

When it comes to collaboration most vendors don’t get it.

Collaboration is not about technology, it is about people. Specifically it is about people sharing information in a manner that achieves one of several possible goals:

  1. Reduce miscommunication
  2. Ensure the appropriate information is available for making good decisions
  3. Reduce the time to acquire that important information

So, the “it” that vendors don’t “get” is the multipart question of collaboration, those parts being:

  • Who needs to collaborate
  • What kind of information do they need to share
  • How do they prefer to share it

Let’s take Mobile Complete as the first example. Their DeviceAnywhere product allows mobile application developers to remotely use real handsets to test their applications. Mobile Compete added several collaboration tools within their service. Answering the questions above:

  • Who: Mobile application developers, Q&A and tech support teams.
  • What: How a mobile application is behaving on a specific handset with a specific carrier.
  • How: Either in real-time (while everyone is connected to the Internet) or asynchronously using replays of a session with a handset.

In their approach, Mobile Complete (without knowing it) answered these basic questions and provides very specific tools for their target market. From my discussions with Mobile Complete customers, the solutions are wildly successful.

Open-Xchange was a more generic, info-work type of collaboration suite (email, document management, calendars, project task lists, list management, etc.). What they did better than everyone else was integrating and linking (how) the data from these various information types (what) so that anyone using Open-Xchange could very easily hunt or search for important data (how).

This is a wide open opportunity in many software markets today. Collaboration if the very essence of any organization bigger than one person. People need to work with (collaborate) with other people. Looked at in a perverse light, CRM is one big collaboration suite dedicated to a specific set of users (sales , marketing, etc.).

If you are looking to differentiate in your markets/segments, ask yourself these three questions and see if there is a recurring need for your end-users to collaborate using the data you manipulate. If so, and if your competitors are not offering collaboration features, you may have a decisive wedge.


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