Just as the monster Frankenstein was put together from pieces and parts of many people, so are some of the enterprise collaboration vendors. For example, Jive just acquired Meetings.io, and Producteev to add videoconferencing and task management.
Salesforce.com is another vendor that is building a collaborative Frankenstein, as is VMware, and others. The idea is that as these vendors acquire smaller companies and fold them into their framework, they begin to add more and more collaborative functionality: IM, activity streams, integration with social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), audio/video/data conferencing, online meetings (permanent or temporary). As each piece is added to the framework, unfortunately, the tools and the overall suites tend to become more complex, and require a higher learning curve. The integration with other functions or tools from that vendor is often minimal at the start, but becomes stronger later, once a deeper integration has been done through an API. But, is putting together a hodge-podge of collaborative tools with different features and functions the best way to go? Many of these tools are being aggregated by cloud companies, yes, but they are still using the old paradigm of a tool suite.
Another way companies can get a collaborative suite of tools is make their application: Podio (now Citrix Online) allows you to put together smaller functional pieces that are sure to integrate.
But all of this presupposes that you know what you want in a collaboration tool, and how to apply it once you have access. Generally this is not the case. Most social tools are picked by some IT guy who thought they were “cool” and not by those who need to use them. Although purchasing and implementating social tools is moving more to marketing, the problem is still the same. It is knowing what you want, what kind of outcome (clearly articulated) before you even look at collaborative technologies. I suggest you start with a process rather than a test on some siloed group.
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]