Stowe Boyd recently spoke to Adam Gartenberg - the Offering Manager, Real-time and Team Collaboration, IBM Workplace and Lotus Software - about real time collaboration in the enterprise:
"He [Adam Gartenberg] pointed out that instant messaging and other lightweight collaboration tools seem to come into the enterprise through individual use, and can rapidly spread virally, without any official sanctioning. Adam suggested that only 25% of the companies involved in a recent survey have standardized on real time collaboration tools: three quarters of the enterprises either find benefit in allowing multiple web conferencing, IM, or other real time tools."
This is Web apps are raising the bar for real-time collaboration in the enterprise more evidence of consumer web 2.0 applications driving innovation in the enterprise. Not only are apps like Skype much more cost-effective, but there are a lot of 'best-of-breed' office tools available on the Web now - like Writely, Jotspot Tracker, Basecamp.
Many of these web-based office apps have some form of real-time collaboration too - e.g. Gmail is integrated with Google's Calendar and Chat products; Writely enables users to collaborate on a document; Basecamp features message boards, to-do lists, simple scheduling, collaborative writing, and file sharing. Then you have products like Zimbra and the soon-to-be-released Dabble DB. The 'Zimbra Collaboration Suite' features email, contacts, and group calendaring. Dabble DB is a mix of online spreadsheet, online database and web app builder - all in one collaborative web app.
I've also recently discovered a web conferencing product called Vyew.com, which is a free browser-based conferencing and collaboration platform. Vyew allows users to create meetings from any computer with a broadband connection and obviously has a lot of potential uses in the enterprise, as well as small businesses. I haven't had a chance to check it out in detail yet, but Robin Good has an excellent review.
All in all, it's no surprise to me that 3/4 of enterprises in the survey Adam Gartenberg of IBM referenced "find benefit in allowing multiple web conferencing, IM, or other real time tools". As well as the cost efficiencies and sheer variety of 'best of breed' apps on the market, the likes of Dabble DB and Zimbra show there is real innovation happening in the real-time collaboration front.
So it's clear that web-based Office tools are actually raising the bar for real-time collaboration in the enterprise. These new forms of web apps infiltrating the enterprise - VoIP apps like Skype, online word processing, wikis, hybrid products like Dabble DB and Zimbra - will gradually usurp legacy collaboration apps.