September 23, 2011

Collaboration for Socially-Challenged Enterprise Apps

These days it seems that the term “collaboration” has become overused and diluted to the point where it is almost meaningless. Any app that supports more than one user accessing information is now referred to as “collaborative”.

But if you define the term more accurately (and etymologically), as “working together,” then collaboration means actually getting work done, not the ancillary activities related to communicating or coordinating the work. We have become accustomed to our systems of engagement – email, phone, wikis, etc. – residing in realms independent from where actual work happens. At best, we might get email notifications about changes in the work products, but we take it for granted that communication and coordination activities are removed from the work itself.

A collaborative exchange in Convofy about this blog post

Convofy changes all that. Convofy is an actual collaboration tool because it enables working together directly on myriad forms of digital content, from documents to PDFs to images to web pages. In Convofy, you can highlight, annotate, markup and refine your digital content with others – asynchronously or in real time – which results in a huge boost in productivity.

In this post, let’s look at another way in which Convofy goes beyond communication to real collaboration in the work environment. If you’re collaborating on a blog post, or a press release, or an advertising spread, or a video spot, Convofy offers the tools to dramatically increase our productivity.

But what if your focus is on a line of business enterprise application – anything from a CRM to an HRIS to AP? These aren’t generally considered areas for collaboration, but there may well be times when you want to engage your colleagues on a sales opportunity, a candidate’s resume, or even an annual 10-K report.

To use an old adage, if Moses won’t go to the mountain, bring the mountain to Moses! The updated form might be, if your enterprise system doesn’t have collaboration capability, bring the collaboration to the system using Convofy.

Here’s how it works: Web-based enterprise systems are accessible through a browser, and the objects in that system – a customer, an employee, a report – are generally available with their own unique URL. As a stand-in for a web-based enterprise app, consider Amazon.com. In this case, we may want to view a specific book – say, David Eagleman’s Incognito. As most of us have experienced, each object in the Amazon system has its own unique URL (in this case, the simplest form of the URL is https://www.amazon.com/Incognito-Secret-Lives-David-Eagleman/dp/0307377334/).

Here’s the magic: In Convofy, you can render any web page as shared digital content thanks to its built-in web browser. So, as with other digital content, you can collaborate with others on the object in question – in this case, a web page. To share the Amazon.com page for Incognito, grab that aforementioned link and either paste it into the status update field in Convofy, or drag and drop to create the shared item, and then invite your collaborators to view it.

In the image below, I’ve invited two old friends – Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau – to view, annotate and highlight the web page. If you look closely, at the bottom of the screen, Convofy offers the ability to chat with your collaborators if they’re online (neither Henry nor Ralph was apparently available at the time of this screen shot). This all happens, obviously, without making any changes to the underlying system (Amazon.com in this case). It’s a social collaboration overlay on any web-based system, which includes countless enterprise apps.

Imagine now, if you will, that instead of sharing an Amazon.com item, you want to share a web-based reference to a customer in Siebel, or an HR policy in Taleo. Just paste or drag that link into Convofy, and share it with your group, and/or with specific individuals, and you’ll instantly be working together on an enterprise app that previously had no experience of collaboration.

Take Convofy for a spin with your favorite web-based enterprise app, and let us know how it goes.

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