Once again, my New Year's resolution is to become more time efficient -- a rather lofty goal to squeeze the 25-hour business day into an ideal 10-hour period. Achieving time efficiency is my Nirvana. Toward that goal, I have worked through the personal information management (PIM) toolsets. In the days of DOS, it was Borland Sidekick. Around 1993, I was taken by the striking user interface of Lotus Organizer and Microsoft Schedule Plus. By the mid 1990s, groupware was chic. As one that follows fashion, I became a groupware groupie. The allure of groupware was the promise of collective knowledge. By investing my time with other members of the group, we each gained new knowledge in a more time efficient manner than if we worked individually.
Groupware is monolithic. It comprises PIM functionality, plus some level of workflow and tools for application development -- each of which is tightly intertwined. Yet, people used groupware almost solely for email and calendaring/scheduling. Fashion is fickle. Groupware gave birth to the mainstreaming of collaborative technologies.
Collaborative technologies are modular. Designed to accommodate people inside and outside the organization, collaborative technologies come in multiple flavors of functionality. Text, voice, video, synchronous, asynchronous -- pick your flavor of email, instant messaging, team rooms, Webcasts -- combined together, used singularly -- good luck! As disjointed as it sounds, it works for me. For example, as long as I'm using AIM instant messaging and you're using AIM instant messaging, we can do work in "real-time" and collectively save time. The ambiguities arising from document creation by committee have almost disappeared through the use of Web conferencing and screen sharing.
However, there is no clearly defined market. "Collaboration" is a buzzword for a myriad of technology types, and true, standards-based interoperability is in a pre-embryonic stage. In the meantime, big-fish vendors acquire small-fish vendors to build composite architectures. EMC, for example, has taken a content-centric approach to collaboration through their acquisitions, which include Documentum, Authentica, Legato and RSA Security. A partnership between WebEx and AOL delivered a "real-time" service offering of secure AIM with voice, video and Web conferencing.
I feel as if I've finally taken a baby step toward my Nirvana. I'm convinced that a natural outcome of working collaboratively is a gain in personal time efficiency.