Today I woke up to read a tweet from Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) and it was the canary in the coal mine for me. For years I have felt that enterprise collaboration was moving to the web and this tweet confirmed my intuition. (for those who are mistified by the “tweet” visit Twitter <- this is more then “telling people what you are doing”). Okay, back to the post, so what did Robert say?
Info on GE going with Zoho …
WHAT? That can’t be the Six Sigma, continuous improvement General Electric I know, can it? Well, I click on the link Robert provided which led to this article (GE Drops Google, Selects Zoho ). Wow, that’s huge, but I am just finding out something which was stated back in September of 2008.
So what is this all about? Well, Zoho is a company which is offering a suite of office applications on the web, think Microsoft Word, Power Point, Excel. They not only provide these applications, but a whole host of other collaboration tools.
If you have ever used one of these tools you may have thought that they are not as full featured as their desktop counterparts and you’d be right. The revolution however is how these tools are changing the way we work. Think of the last MS Word document you created which you needed to share with someone else. If you are like most people out there you created it on your computer, possibly saved it to a network drive, and then emailed it off to some people for review and input. If you are lucky they turned on track changes and when you get back their comments and changes you take your time making sense of all the files and compose the final document. Some of the “more advanced” companies will have implemented systems like Microsoft Share Point or some other document management repository which helps the collaboration process, but most companies aren’t even doing that. The problem with these document management systems is that they are within your companies’ firewall so collaboration is usually limited to employees of the company, but collaboration has no bounds. In today’s global economy people need to collaborate with customers, suppliers, and even competitors as part of standards setting bodies.
GE’s move is a sign of things to come. You can bet yourself that if they get the concept of the “web office” then many companies are soon to follow. Actually, there is more evidence in Robert’s stream (here, here and here). Maybe Robert is just pointing out examples which support his argument and I am just reiterating to make my case stronger, but if you don’t think this is reality, go look for yourself.
If these tools aren’t that great, how are they going to succeed? Well, if you used the web in the mid to late 90’s and if you can remember how limited the whole web experience was at that time you would not have predicted YouTube, Hulu, or Salesforce.com
Technology moves at an amazing speed and Zoho is a perfect example of that. I have been following their products for a while and every time I visit their site, I see some new product offerings. Extrapolating to 2012 there is no doubt that these tools will be up to the task and many more companies will be using them. It makes sense. You no longer need to install programs on your desktop, you no longer need to email files around. You can get new features as soon as they are ready, you can access your files from anywhere. You need to collaborate with someone outside your corporate firewall? No problem, just share that single document with them. In some cases you can all work on the same document at the same time and see each other’s changes as they happen. All your changes get saved so that you can go back to previous versions of the document if you need to. The entire workflow is streamlined. What if you don’t have internet access? No problem, some of these tools have off line mode and you can be sure that by 2012 internet connections will be even more ubiquitous than the are today. (did you know you can already get internet access at McDonald’s?)
So get ready and stay ahead of the curve. When you are analyzing your processes think about your collaboration tools and learn how the innovators are improving their processes. Technology alone does not solve process issues as I mentioned here, but with a good process, the right technology can mean the difference between modest and significant improvement.