As a companion effort to my recent deep dive on messaging, I’ve been trying to get smarter about the online collaboration / groupware space. Unfortunately, the closer I get to it the muddier it seems. I’ve now fallen back on the penultimate refuge of scoundrels, the 2-by-2 matrix, to try to create some order in my head. My current axes are:
- Enterprise / Server-Side vs. Web / Cloud-based
- Task-centric vs. Content-centric
In this framework, Groove is a Task-Centric product for the Enterprise, while Basecamp is a Task-Centric product for the Cloud. MediaWiki is a Server-side, Content-centric offering, and PBwiki is a Content-Centric product for the Cloud.
All this breakdown really does for me is illustrate that there’s probably no single “killer” groupware application out there (nor is there likely to be) because the use-cases are too broad for any single product to address. I fully expect the leading applications to be cloud-based rather than server-side, but that just reflects my opinions about how software-based services are likely to evolve.
So far, the best single article I’ve seen on the subject is this one from Anne Zelenka of Web Worker Daily. Given the diversity of use-cases out there, and the multiplicity of component applications (e.g., GMail, GCal, Google Docs, Zoho, blog platforms, personal productivity tools, etc.) available for integration via API, Anne’s conclusion feels directionally correct:
“This may be the way of the future: taking discrete tools and combining them (or using integration the toolmakers build) to put together a system that suits your needs and your team’s needs better than anything anyone else designed with their own needs in mind.”
I’m not sure there’s a profitable company to be built around that opportunity, but there might be. If so, it’s probably a hybrid of software and consulting services that can generate custom integrations of the following feature list, with a layer of integrated dashboarding and reporting on top:
- Project plans / milestone tracking
- To-do lists / task assignments
- Shared file storage
- Group messaging
- Shared document creation / editing (text / spreadsheet / presentation)
- Wiki pages
- Individual / group blogs
- Time tracking
- Contacts / user profiles
Am I missing the boat here? Seen something cool in this area I should be paying attention to? Let me know.