While we’re defining our terms, let’s think about the word “collaborate” for a moment. For the etymology buffs, collaborate has its roots in Latin. “Co-” is a prefix meaning “together” or “jointly.” “Labor” means to work. So to collaborate means literally “to work together.”
It sounds easy enough. People have been working together for thousands of years. It’s an essential skill we’ve developed since humanity’s earliest days in primitive hunter-gatherer societies. You’d think after all that practice, we’d be quite good at it.
Yet you might be tempted to draw the opposite conclusion after looking at all the software tools aimed at fixing collaboration problems. If collaboration is such a simple thing, why is there so much noise in the enterprise market about it? It isn’t because the human race has suddenly become antisocial. It’s because most of our existing computer hardware and software has all the interpersonal skills of an idiot savant.
The vast majority of office productivity software got its start in the PC era, from the early 1980s through the early 1990s. During this period, the predominant office technology paradigm was to have a computer-to-employee ratio of 1:1. Also during this period, linkages between computers were rare while linkages between people were common. Thus was born the concept of sneakernet. Sharing and communicating information was a human task; storing and processing information was a computing task. The PC’s of that time were little more than advanced pocket calculators.
What’s remarkable is that that the mindset has persisted into the Internet Age, where linkages between computers are often more constant than the linkages between people. Our computers are used for much more than information processing and management. They are now tools for communication and self-expression. As such, they can become social objects in their own right. But it will only happen if we in the tech industry can get the interface right. Just as in real life, appearances matter and bad behavior is noted on the permanent record.
The buzz around collaboration technologies means that the software industry has noticed that the thing we do most with our computers is work with other people. The first generation of enterprise software got things wrong by trying to gather the data together while keeping the people apart. The next generation of software may very well do the opposite, by bringing people together while keeping the data separate.
This idea is at the heart of the infovark solution. Everybody has their own ideas, thoughts, documents, and messages. Some of these need to be shared with others. We want to enable that communication in the most natural and seamless way possible, without impinging on other coworkers’ space. We want to find and retrieve only the most relevant items, rather than distracting employees with useless data. We want people to collaborate as they always have, while allowing the computer to track, process and manage the information that results from that collaboration.
Collaboration is not new. It’s at the center of every business enterprise. What’s new is the emergence of software to enhance that collaborative experience.
No related posts.
Sign up for our Mailing List to receive articles directly via email.
Copyright 2013 Infovark, Inc. All rights reserved.