Planning for a Collaboration Hub

I've been sorting through my home office these past few weeks, preparing to do taxes among other things, and have been going through notes and blog posts from 10+ years back. I still have digital edits of articles written in the late 1990's, and much of the content and concepts are still relevant. Much of my content around 2002 and forward surrounded the idea of building a collaboration "hub" for the enterprise. While some of the terminology has changed, and the vendors in the space have gone through a transformation, the basic ideas for capturing, tracking, and presenting knowledge have remained true.

Document collaboration does not equal a collaboration hub. Nor does social. Depending on your business requirements, it might be a whole heckuva lot more complex than just those feature sets — and those two each support multi-billion dollar segments of the market. I started this blog over 10 years ago by exploring tools and companies within the broad collaboration space, and have been thinking a lot about going back that direction — investigating and reviewing the various technologies and providers of the core components that make up an enterprise collaboration environment.

What's included under the hood? Definitions are always fun, because you can go as wide or deep into your definition as suits whatever product or methodology you're pitching. But I'm going to attempt to keep things fairly broad, because you never know where an innovation from one segment may influence or enhance solutions in another far distant, seemingly unconnected segment. But here are some of the initial categories I am thinking about:

  • Connectivity. There is the infrastructure side of things, for sure, but what I really mean by connectivity is how we connect with our data sources. Data comes in all shapes and sizes, some on prem and some in the cloud. There are companies doing some fairly innovative things with storage, business intelligence, and with data visualization.
     
  • Social. Everyone is salivating after all things social, and yet how much do you really understand about what your organization needs? Most enterprise apps have started adding a social layer — but how these various layers fit together to enhance your business has yet to be tapped. I believe there is a sort of bubble over social — while some of our biggest innovations in the information worker space will come from social technology, I think the bubble will soon burst, and people will demand demonstrable return on investment.
     
  • Tracking. Certainly a missing link in all things social — and maybe my interest in this facet goes back to my data warehousing and supply chain technology days, but when it comes to collaboration, my thinking is simple: if you can't track it, you can't measure it. Visibility and analytics will be the key to success in the enterprise space.
     
  • Presentation. I recently presented at the Webtrends Engage conference in San Francisco, and loved that during one keynote, the team presented 5 different visualizations of basically the same type of data output. Abstracting our tools and even our data away from the presentation layer is key — allowing people and organizations to consume, transform, and present data in whatever ways meet their business requirements.
     
  • Governance. And on top of all of these things, you need to be able to manage it all. It's going to be a complex, confusing mess. But I'm confident that a few companies will quickly step up and deliver solutions that will allow organizations to make this jumbled mess secure, compliant, and manageable.

What are you doing to build out your own enterprise collaboration hub? At my company, we have SharePoint (and Office 365) at our core (intranet), within a number of other tools in place to solve other collaboration needs, such as Yammer for ad hoc social collaboration, Salesforce for customer relationship management, Jira for issue and bug tracking, Lync, Adobe and GoToMeeting for web meetings (different customers and partners require different tools), and smaller tools and sites for various productivity solutions, such as LinkedIn, Trello, and Twitter, among others. I'll be writing much more on each, talking about how and why we use each, cool features we are not using (and why), and how they all fit together.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.