What I really said at Office 2.0

What I really said at Office 2.0

Summary: I just did an interview with Dan Farber at the Office 2.0 Conference, and surprised myself with what came out.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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I just did an interview with Dan Farber at the Office 2.0 Conference, and surprised myself with what came out.  What is Office 2.0?  It's not shared spreadsheets; it's spreadsheets for processes.

To be honest, I haven't been focusing much on Office 2.0... sounded pretty corporate and boring.  So I hustled to find out about this phenomenon, and it mostly seemed like Salesforce.com 2.0--adding personal-productivity apps to the range of software offered online. But I don't really see that changing the world. And, for what it's worth, I have been spending too much time lately in parts of the world where the notion of working online persistently is a joke.

I think Office 2.0 is something entirely different. Yes, it's online, and it's about the way the platform allows the sharing of information, but the trick is managing the processes, not managing the content.

That is, we need tools that will help us keep track of the workflow. For example, I send a blog post out to three people to make sure I quoted them correctly. Now I want a way automatically to ping the ones who haven't responded. That's a minor problem. But I have 20 or 30 of them a way....so I want a process spreadsheet, a tool that lets me set up little processes, copy and modify and re-use them. I want to be able to share them with other people. And, perhaps my company wants a way to create them and distribute them.

But in general, as we think about Office 2.0, we need to avoid the trap of thinking that work rules are centralized and hierarchical.  Rules can be peer-to-peer too--if we have tools to create and share them in a bottom-up way.

What's missing is tools that can add this awareness and functionality to our existing tools and data, not a seamless, closed environment. We need to be able to track our e-mails and bring outsiders into the stream. The ideal tool doesn't simply let you synch calendars and share work; it tracks commitments, requests, fulfillment of requests--in a word, work transactions.

The closest thing to all this is the suite of "activity management" tools from IBM (nee Lotus), which are--surprise!--becoming increasingly open. But the really interesting development is the availability of this kind of functionality at retail... just as Google et al. made the Web-as-library universally available (and affordable).

Putting these kinds of capabilities online does not just let users collaborate. In the long run, it will be another important step towards what the Internet does in so many places--empower the little guy, and in this case, empower lots of little guys working on their own or for little-guy companies to collaborate effectively with other little guys.

Itensil has a workflow tool that I saw just glimpse of. It's heading in the right direction, but it doesn't yet integrate well enough with users' existing software.  Other candidates include Zoho, which includes some project-management tools in an extensive suite, and Near-Time, which has roles and permissions but not (as far as I can tell) full-fledged activity transactions.

If there's something out there that I am missing, please let me know...and let me know if I can share!

Topic: Microsoft

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5 comments
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  • Office 2.0

    Frankly, I don't give a rat's behind for "empowering the little guy". Employees using software are supposed to use it to the company's benefit, not their own. Also, with all the problems with the Internet today, I can not imagine a financial institution using apps like these. It will far too easy for a hacker to gain access to the dataflows from systems like this and thus have access to private information that is being legitimately being entered into forms, letters, and other documents.

    Instead of trying to wring every last drop of profit from the Internet, companies like Microsoft should be making their products smaller, cheaper, and safer. (in reverse order, please!) Microsoft Office is a behemoth, demanding huge tracts of hard drive space and bushels of processor power for "features" that are hearly ever used. Why not allow us to choose the "features" we want at install time, and pay for only those we choose? Online apps are going to be hogs on bandwidth, and believe me, my company's bandwidth is NOT unlimited, and not cheap. I guess we'll just stick with our WordPerfect and continue serving our customers...
    lfugate9
  • Empowering the little guy

    >>Putting these kinds of capabilities online does not just let users collaborate...what the Internet does ... empower the little guy, and in this case, empower lots of little guys working on their own or for little-guy companies to collaborate effectively with other little guys<<

    That's what Qasper is all about. At [b]http://www.Qasper.com[/b], our slogan is: Making it easier for small business to do big business.

    Fred Dalgleish
    no_axe_to__grind
  • office 2.0

    check out these office 2.0 tools
    www.cerenade.com
    www.freshbooks.com
    schmooozer
  • I like it

    The future is bright regardless of your stance on 2.0.

    http://one.revver.com/watch/77167/format/flv/affiliate/23672
    nightman45
  • Have You Been At OUR Meetings?

    As we read your post, we wondered if you'd been sitting in on our recent meetings. Our company, Author Marketing Experts, is facing the same issues you addressed. We send Advance Review Copies of new books to site and blog owners, and are drowning in an avalance of PROCESS!

    We need a new animal that's a cross between a spreadhseet, a calendar, e-mail, and who-knows-what else, to help us track all of our e-mail and let us know WHEN we have to send a reminder or follow-up, and to whom.

    Plus, we need to constantly track that the mailing folks received our request to mail out a PR package, THEN track back when the package went out and track that the author had actually SENT the books to the mailing people.

    We've tried countless software, and signed up for trial versions of just about every web-based project management we could find, but so far, nothing really meets our needs.

    If you find something, please tell us!

    Nancy
    nhendrickson