Dozens of new products and applications launch every day to help with different aspects of social networking, information management, and remote collaboration. We test and bookmark those that seem interesting, but quickly forget why we tried them or even where to find them again. They simply don’t alleviate a problem important enough to keep them on the radar very long.
Some of the “solutions” available offer quick fixes to problems we didn’t even know we had, which got me thinking. What do we really need as web workers these days, and is anyone working to find solutions to those problems?
Technology is changing by the minute, and we expect the tools we use to change and evolve as well, but at the end of all the experimentation with promising new gadgets and gizmos, we still have certain core functions to do each day. What we really need is a single tool to help ease the increasing challenge of managing those tasks, while still keeping us up to speed with the changes in technology.
#1 Need: A Centralized Dashboard
If you’re like me, you jump from one application to the next consuming, creating, and managing every type of media imaginable.
Getting a single task completed can sometimes require five separate platforms (email, online document manager, project manager, content editing apps, etc.), and this problem isn’t limited to work-related tasks, since even commenting online has become increasingly complex.
Whether completing work-related projects or simply networking online, it’s often necessary to log into multiple applications. Even the simplest of tasks have become multi-part processes. Simon wrote about this issue in a GigaOM Pro article, Enterprise 2.0: Web Apps and the Patchwork Quilt Problem (sub. req.).
#2 Need: Aggregated Contacts and Information
“I remember talking with Lynne about that company. She sent me the link to their website, but I’ll have to look it up. I can’t remember if she sent it to me by email or if she posted it somewhere else online.”
How many times do we have these conversations with ourselves? Information is shared just as often via Twitter and Facebook as it is by email, and with varying layers of security and the sheer volume of information being generated at any given point, it’s getting harder to reference a given conversation at a later point.
We need a way to not only archive, but also sync and update information across multiple platforms so that we always have the most current version available to us wherever we are and whatever hardware or software we’re using.
#3 Need: Seamless Hardware Transitions
Just as with disconnected software, hardware that doesn’t seamlessly share and sync information and applications makes it hard to transition from one to another. Although options are available (and they vary depending on the phone, computer, operating system, etc.), they’re not always painless, and if you ever switch to new equipment, you’re often forced to switch syncing options as well.
#4 Need: Security
Last, we need better ways to keep information secure and private. After several experiences with bank and network security breaches, I find myself backing out of applications that require me to share information between applications and sites. It’s just not worth the risk. Although I want to find ways to simplify the way I work online, I know that with every application I use and every piece of information I sync, I’m risking the security of contact data, usernames and passwords.
I’m not sure this was our intention, but we’ve become dispersed as a workforce and created ways to better connect and bridge great distances through the use of social networking, video conferencing, and online collaboration, only to find the information and tools we use to manage all that online interaction disconnected and even counter-productive.
What capabilities do you think are missing from today’s collaboration tools?