Collaboration solutions are one of the most challenging ones to judge in my opinion because the real world and online one are very different. Did any of you use the Second Life virtual world filled with avatars of people to walk or fly around and see the virtual landscape? I played with it a bit but got bored. So did most people.
Now we have Facebook as our consumer collaboration platform. The funny thing is we consider Facebook to be a time-waster. I know of precious few people who use it effectively as a business tool.
These are the thoughts I had about online worlds and to some degree social in general. Everyone says email is broken and we need collaboration tools to work more effectively. Perhaps – but if this is the case, why do so many people rely on email to manage their social networks?
The counter view was certainly expressed to me by Charles Studt, VP, Marketing at Redbooth, a leading collaboration and communication platform.
He told me, “We think of ourselves as a single place workers can collaborate get things done and have a persistent workplace with integrated, real-time communications tools tied to their work.” He continued, “Teams are more productive, accountable and work really gets done – not just talked about.
6,000 companies use the solution and he continued to tell me the users have less email when they use it. Hmm, maybe I was wrong after all. He reiterated Redbooth allows more work to get done and onboarding team members is faster as well. He concluded that there is less email reading and document searching as a result.
I asked who he sees as competitive and he responded no one has the exact capabilities they have but they do get compared to SharePoint. He thinks this isn’t accurate. He added Wrike comes up as well.
A bit of history. Redbooth used to be in the task/project-management space – they were named Teambox. From there, they added real-time communications.
He noted as they added real-time modalities, use and engagement expanded exponentially. When they added chat about 12 months ago, they saw growth of nine times. Moreover, users who use chat tend to become power-users on the platform. They then added screen-sharing, HD audio and video. WebRTC is on the way he says.
This is a differentiator actually as the platform tightly integrates the communications with the tasks allowing rich context. He contrasted this to what he calls generic IM and presence – embodied by Slack or HipChat.
For example if you are in meeting with your marketing team, you can IM with a single button click within a project or team workspace. You can also chat about something abstract. Users can also embed audio and video in the workspace. This in addition to embeddable notes, discussion threads, documents, etc.
There are also APIs for integrations – Box, Google Drive, Outlook and Gmail are some examples of current system integrations.
In 2010 I met with Cisco and was blown away by their Quad product which they touted as the future of collaboration and communications. I bought into it. It made perfect sense to me. Shockingly it didn’t catch on.
So I asked Studt about Quad. He thinks people consumerizing IT investments is more prevalent than ever before. He thinks adoption expands from one line of business out which was different than the Cisco approach of trying to get enterprise adoption at once.
He does say Cisco Spark is somewhat competitive as they have good integration with WebEX but there isn’t structure regarding tasks and workflow integration – he said, “That’s missing.” More recently they added analytics to check performance of teams and individual members to see if work is getting done on time or people are overloaded.
The company’s growth rate he says is 100% which is always a good sign.
I’ve been burned in the past saying online business collaboration was going to change the face of communications. It does make sense to have an enterprise Facebook for projects but for whatever reason the market wasn’t ready back in 2010. Perhaps with the integrated analytics solutions available today, an enterprise Facebook for projects can actually be monitored and measured to ensure usefulness. Certainly RedBooth tells a great story. Moreover 100% growth and 6,000 installs means there is a solid base on which to grow.
I remain more optimistic on the space going forward and would love any customer feedback.