Collaboration apps and mobile apps – a potential paradox?

by | Jan 10, 2011 | Intranets

For several years there has been an increasing focus on enterprise collaboration. There are a number of reasons for this, of which the adoption of Microsoft SharePoint has been just one. Since last September I have been working on a project with SparkNow and we have made extensive and effective use of Basecamp to work as a virtual but highly collaborative team. In the course of a four month project we have met just twice as a group. Collaboration is not easy, and it is good to see the emergence of consultants, such as Michael Sampson and Evan Rosen, who specialise in identifying good collaboration practice. Done well collaborative working can have a major impact on organisational performance and culture, but in my experience few organisations really invest in training and mentoring to support effective collaboration.  If you look at the programmes of intranet conferences there is often a lot of emphasis on social media, but collaboration is much more than just providing social media applications.

If there is one trend that I would highlight in 2011 it would be the rapid deployment of mobile apps that provide employees with access to enterprise information.  The 2011 Nielsen Norman Intranet Design Awards report highlighted that six of the ten winning intranets had a clearly defined mobile access strategy, with a strong emphasis on providing employee directories.  Business intelligence vendor MicroStrategy recently surveyed more than 2,400 business and IT professionals, of whom over a third worked at companies with annual revenue of $1 billion or more. 83 per cent of all respondents will deploy or are investigating deployment of mobile apps within next two years.

Whether this happens in 2011 or 2012 we are clearly moving towards the provision of mobile personal information services for employees that will empower them to make business decisions on the site of a client or supplier.
To me there seems to be a paradox here.  Organisations are keen to provide enterprise applications to support collaboration and at the same time are also keen to ensure that away from their desks employees have all the information they need to drive business forward.  I do not necessarily think that organisations are actively planning to use mobile apps for this purpose but they will be pushed strongly in this direction by the mobile handset and network vendors who can see considerable opportunities in this market.

If ever there was a time to sit down and work out how to integrate mobile apps into a collaboration strategy it is the next few months.  Even with the very high quality displays on current generation smart phones no one is going sit in the reception area of a prospective client to scroll through document libraries on (for example) a SharePoint platform to find business-critical information. Mobile search and mobile collaboration are going to need some serious attention. Time for some creative thinking!