Stop sending me attachments!! Part 2: the analysis…

So there are many reasons why people have their habits (part 1), not least in the product they use in their daily work life. So in part 2 I will explore the technology angle and look for causes why tools are the way they are and why a seamless integrated platform is harder then it looks.

The idea of seamless and effortless integration of products…

So while this is happening the quasi religious war is being fought. People are searching for purposeful ways to work. Can we make tools that help them to just be more collaborative? Can we make it so that people don’t need to change habits? That culture can adapt to the new ways? Can the tools facilitate the old habits and ways? And at the same time, create a simple cross over to the new and more efficient ways of working?

So let’s start with some simple facts:

  • People do use documents to “solidify” knowledge.
  • Most people live in their email client and send word/excel documents as attachments.
  • Products are NOT integrated well.
  • Adaptors and plugins are just NOT helping enough.
  • People have habits that work for them and habits are hard to change.

Seamless IntegrationIn case of IBM Connections and IBM Notes this is clearly the case. But that’s not unique in the marketplace, by the way! Products have been dealt with by different groups. Notes is a 25 year old product and on the other hand Connections is just 7 years old (ok, the roots of the products can be traced to internal projects, but still). So it’s not weird that the products have their own ways and create their own habits. And believe me e-mail is not dead, not by a long shot. So over time other mail clients appeared in the marketplace, like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Apple Mail. All in all THE most common way to collaborate is through e-mail and documents. For both within organizations and beyond, it’s simply the least common denominator in most cases. Collaboration based on e-mail has run into many issues over the years and fixed them. The standards lack precision so there are issues between technology implementations. e-Mail is still not secure from end user to end user after 25 years+.  Attachments get bounced because of size. Calendar items are handled differently by everyone. This causes lots of problems in everyday worklife. Who has not dealt with calendar problems, file size issues (it’s just too big) and security worries (viruses and unencrypted mail traffic)?

That said, e-mail is still one of the best use cases of product evolution. Some e-mail clients have added features on top of features for many years now. They have become truly amazing information processing products. Integrated with calendaring, task management and contacts databases.

But lets go back a step. In the last 10 or so years we have seen the arrival of new collaboration solutions that augment e-mail and are “more” social. They create places where people can work on documents online, co-create and share knowledge with others. And yet, these new products do not integrate well (not being by the same father or even the same family). At best “notifications” are sent into the old-and-trusted mailbox of the user. The notifications try to get them to come over to the more collaborative space where they can collaborate on a document. But the products are still siloed, each having their own space. It’s the innovator dilemma happening in real life, since the old products still make money and people are used to them. While the new products have not disrupted the marketplace enough to truly replace e-mail at this point. This causes the situation where their is a multitude of solutions to for users to choose from on how to collaborate.

The e-mail client is changing, hopefully for the better. At least that is what the signs in the marketplace is, Microsoft, Google and IBM are all looking for better ways of doing e-mail. IBM has a project called Mail.Next… Google is working on the next generation Inbox. So everyone in the marketplace is trying to reinvent e-mail. No believe me, the future is upon us. So why worry? All the issues will be fixed in the Cloud Service or Startup Innovation or New App or the Next version of the same product…

Somehow we (=enterprise users) feel left behind. The on-premise customers. Even when there is a product release. We work and slave for another 9-12 months before we can help our end users to make a next step. In reality of our workplace it will take another 2 years before we can reap the benefits of the IBM Mail.Next initiative. And even Google is cautious to just replace their old and trusted Gmail product with the new Inbox, so this innovator of cloud is not moving as fast as you might expect.

So what do we as users want? We want to see evolution in small steps and at a faster pace. While the products are being reinvented, we want to see the the gaps closed now in anticipation of the future convergence of products into “collaboration platforms” that can support purposeful collaboration and do actually integrate seamlessly over product and vendor boundaries.

In the last part I will present ideas that try to innovate and iterate the products and platforms use to get our job done. Ideas that make technology help users to change habits in an effortless way.

  • SouthPaw42

    Simple change the attachment button. Provide interface to select file from connections to link inside email. But also provide way to select local file and create in connections automatically. The file access is just the sent to users.

    • Robert van den Breemen

      I like your thinking… 😉 #waitandsee

  • Well for the people following the Mail.Next innitiative within IBM and have watched closely the demo materials which are yet publiocaly available seems to follow this principle. It acts more like how they solved it with the Quickr connectors.