Friday, March 12, 2010

The Next Big Shift In the Collaboration Paradigm


Imagine being able to send out a single message to a large group of people to solicit a yes or no answer, or to pick one option out of list of several options – and have that single message track all the responses for you in one quick view.

Imagine being able to hold a debate – and allowing everyone invited to the debate to weigh in with their opinions – within the container of a single message.

Imagine being able to brainstorm a complex issue with a group – bouncing ideas around – sharing drawings and documents – all within a single container – where all ideas are captured for future use or accountability.

Imagine if sitting at your desk, as the lead of a project, being able to lead a group of stakeholders through a needs analysis session – and into project design with your systems architects, engineers, and developers – clearly and concisely – in real time – no matter where they are.

No, I am not talking about a web meetings or video conference calls. This is more permanent. It's completely recorded and available to be played back to show how the events of the collaboration unfolded.

And I am not talking about emails – emails can branch off into different threads and become a monster to understand once the discussion grows in length.

Not instant messaging, or using a document repository or library or journal.

Not any of those means of collaboration that we currently have at our ready avail.

Not any of them … ALL OF THEM.

Confused yet?

Well, please – bare with me as I try to explain. It takes a second to twist your brain in the right way to see what I mean.

I am talking about Google's newest collaboration platform – still in the development stage – but available to a lucky number of us now to figure out what this new tool means.

I am talking about Google Wave.

This is a not necessarily a new paradigm in collaboration. Instead it is the integration of all the components we currently use to collaborate. In real time – or as people come in and participate and then leave.

The Google Wave development team leaders refer to Wave as what email would be if it were being invented for the first time today.

But as powerful as this concept is, it becomes infinitely more powerful – and easier – and slicker – because many of the services available to you to use to collaborate are made available as Google Gadgets – small simple applets that serve a purpose – and help you provide clarity and conciseness to come to a collaborative conclusion about the topic you're collaborating on.

Currently the beta-test Wave platform provides you with about eleven or so gadgets:

A "yes / no / maybe" polling gadget to solicit responses to the posed question from many people.

A polling gadget that lets you pose a list of options for a group to vote on.

A gadget called "Napkin" – like the napkin you use at a bar to draw a quick picture for somebody to illustrate your point.

A gadget to call a website into an i-frame so you can collaborate on the attributes or contents of the website.

A gadget to provide a map – useful for planning events or travel.

And this is just the beginning.

Of course you can attach a document or a picture in the wave – just like you can in email.

But the real potential power – as I see it - is the potential for this list of gadgets to include really powerful – yet simple gadgets. The number in the public domain will grow quickly – as fast as the number of apps you can download and install on your iPhone or Android cell phone.

As well, for the aggressive corporate class that embraces the wave, home grown gadgets built by their in-house IT shop would continue to increase the company's ability to leverage this tool.

And you know it's certain that wave will make itself available on mobile devices like iPhones, and Androids and Blackberries.

You could have a meeting with a group of stakeholders – some who may be riding on a train or waiting in an airport – participating in the collaboration on the video screen of their phone. And it would not be awkward!

This is the next paradigm shift.

And Google's only the first. Others will follow. Others will come along and enhance this model even further.

And the way that we work together will change. Forever.

But wait – there's more.

These collaborations called Waves are not transient. They are not temporary – or at least they don't have to be.

They can be saved. They should be saved. They become very important documentation.

How many times have you come across a legacy process in your business – and wondered "what were they thinking when they made this decision?"

Well, now you won't have to. You can call up the wave – and you can play it back - right to that point where the decision was made – and why.

And that is just so important to know. But rarely ever captured except in the memories of those who participated, and passed down to those that follow later in stories – like how earlier cultures shared legends around the fires at night.

But now you can witness the moment the decision was made.

And who made it.

And understand why.

I am rather excited about Google's Wave project. And I'm being inspired by what I am experiencing during this beta-test process.

Because I really think this will change the way we all work together – and play together – once it catches on.

And it will catch on.

If you want to learn more about Google Wave – check out this fantastic seven minute video on You-Tube.

It will certainly make your eyebrows rise.

© 2010 Fred Brill - all rights reserved