As we enter a phase where social collaboration is beginning to mature as a concept, and is being increasingly accepted by businesses as a way to help make positive changes to the way they work and the culture they aspire to develop, one of the most fascinating trends in this area is the growth in the number of solutions focused on the more practical, tangible aspects of social tasks and projects. It’s ironic, really, that the same vendors that only a few years ago differentiated themselves on the basis that they didn’t focus on the structured, process-centred business of project-based work, but rather on the value of connecting people, and leveraging relationships, are now feeling the need to add a little more support for structured work to their products.
Key examples of this are Jive, which has added more task and project management support to its platform over recent releases, and VMware’s Socialcast, which added a project management component earlier this year. Other vendors, including TIBCO and Igloo, also have plans to flesh out their strengths in this area. In contrast, project management software vendors like Clarizen are extending into the broader social collaboration market. [You can hear all about the market activity surrounding this trend in my upcoming live webinar on November 26, 2013—if you're reading this after that date you'll find a replay via the same link.]
It’s not surprising, really, that we’ve reached this point; despite all the advantages that a more social, open approach to enabling collaboration brings, the reality is that, when it comes down to it, we don’t just collaborate for the sake of collaborating, we do so in the context of what we are trying to get done, as part and parcel of the tasks we are carrying out. One of the key things that differentiates the use of social technologies in a business context from public, consumer social networking services is that there is a purpose to using these tools—we have a job, a role, and everything we do at work is centred around that. We don’t use these tools in the same, open-ended way at work that we might do in a personal setting—where there is interest and value in simply browsing through information other people have posted for hours at a time—we are typically looking for something specific, be that the answer to a problem we are trying to solve, the person who can provide the skills to solve our problem, or simply feedback on what we are doing.
And so the ability to tie a task-based workflow into this process is a very natural extension of the scenario, and one which—if done well—will bring significant additional value to these platforms. The thing with collaboration is that there is no 'one size fits all' approach; we all do things slightly differently, and therefore an effective collaboration software platform needs to have the flexibility to support a multitude of use cases and scenarios if it is to be used in an enterprise-wide way. Tasks and projects are vital to this mix, and I think we’re only just seeing the start of this trend.
It would be good to hear what you think about this: how important are task and project management tools in your daily activities? Would you rather see more social capabilities in other, more-purposeful applications like project management, or see those project-based features included in social collaboration platforms?
(A note from the editor: This post was originally published on the AIIM community blog, where Angela posts monthly as an invited ‘Expert Blogger’.)