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Summary:

The collaboration space is already crowded, but one expert feels there is still a gap in the market for a “WordPress for enterprise,” a flexible collaboration platform that allows businesses to tailor their collaboration suite as easily as WordPress allows them to tailor their sites.

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The collaboration space is very crowded, especially if you consider research showing most organizations are still just dipping a toe into the concept of social tools. So what does the fact that there are so many offerings clamoring for attention and domination mean? Is this slightly chaotic diversity of products a good thing? Do we need a war of attrition where one existing collaboration product fights its way to undisputed king-of-the-jungle status? Or is this welter of options a sign that the we’re still waiting for a product so intuitive and satisfying that we all finally sigh and say, yes, THAT was what we were looking for all along?

Jacob Morgan, co-founder of collaboration consultancy Chess Media Group, recently posted his answer to this question on his blog. His perspective: we’re still waiting for a breakout collaboration product, and it should look like “WordPress for the enterprise.” Of course, there is an enterprise version of WordPress, but assumedly that’s not what Morgan means. He explains how the collaboration solution he’d most like to see is instead like WordPress in key ways:

What we need is a “WordPress for the enterprise” and before its acquisition I thought Podio was the closest to moving down that road.  When you think of WordPress you think of a content management and delivery platform but it’s more than that.  Take a look at how many millions of sites all run on WordPress, each with a unique look and feel and each with it’s own set of features and plugins that can be customized and added to make every site unique and individual.  Currently we don’t have anything like this for the enterprise.  Sure, some vendors have their own app stores where you can buy and download application specific additions but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Atlassian is probably the closest vendor out there to building a complete enterprise ecosystem with apps but even those are focused on the single platform.

He calls this vision of DIY collaboration suites supported by an extremely flexible platform “the widgetized enterprise” and says there are several roadblocks keeping us from this version of the future. One, “we don’t have collaboration standards for all the vendors out there to get them to speak the same language,” and two the market lacks a true platform vendor. But Morgan has hopes that we’ll see something like what he’s after soon. “Eventually we will get to a more widgetized collaboration platform that allows us to take the bits and pieces we want from every vendor and combine them together to make something that works for us,” he concludes.

What do you make of Morgan’s vision of the future of collaboration tools – have you already found a platform that’s flexible and customizable enough to meet your business’s needs, or are does WordPress for the enterprise sound like the solution you’ve been searching for?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Phil Manker.

  1. Jordan Krueger Monday, April 23, 2012

    We won’t see anything like this until the recession is firmly behind us. Companies get far too entrenched with their business software to be willing to jump on the bandwagon with something like what’s suggested, and that gets even worse in a time like now when the adage is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    For example, I worked with a company that was using enterprise CRM software that only worked on Internet Explorer 6 (use anything else and an error message would pop up saying your browser wasn’t supported) — they’re still using it today.

    I think hiring is probably a good indicator of corporate willingness to change software systems. If you have the money to grow your business with new employees, you probably have the money to think about overhauling your software.

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  2. cryptochrome Monday, April 23, 2012

    Not sure what the original author you are writing about is up to, but he seems to be living in the past. Stuff like that for the enterprise is already here, and not just since yesterday.

    Movable Type, Socialtext, Jive, Atlassians’s Confluence, (to a certain extent: Socialcast and Yammer as well as Salesforce’s Chatter).

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    1. Morgan mentions Atlassian, etc. as close but no cigar. I think he’s saying that though current tools aim for it, none have reached the required level of customization in his opinion. Was curious to see if readers felt the same. So far they don’t.

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      1. I also think we’re missing the “bits and pieces” — the way that an email can get from my email client to your email client. The collaboration nuggets that we can pass from one system to another — at least that’s what I’m hoping for.

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      2. Disclosure: I work at Atlassian.

        Great article and topic for discussion. I found this comment particularly interesting:

        “Take a look at how many millions of sites all run on WordPress, each with a unique look and feel and each with it’s own set of features and plugins that can be customized and added to make every site unique and individual. Currently we don’t have anything like this for the enterprise”

        There are over 400 add-ons available for Confluence on the Atlassian Plugin Exchange. One of particular interest in relation to this article is StepStone’s Zen. More than a theme, Zen makes Confluence ideal for all users with complete branding, advanced design tools, drag-and-drop layouts, navigation, and drafts.

        Here are a couple of live sites powered by Confluence and Zen:

        https://developer.atlassian.com/display/HOME/Welcome
        http://www.artemissoftware.net/display/art/Home

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  3. Drupal. Exists already. In use in this way in many places. Highly configurable, huge community of open source developers. It has collaboration distros, such as Open Atrium and Drupal Commons.

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  4. Thanks for mentioning the post Jessica.

    There is a difference between customization and configuration and what I’m actually trying to convey. Any platform today allows you to customize and configure it in several ways, but it’s all based around their platform. I’m talking about the ability to extend beyond platforms to combine features, plugins, add-ons, UI, functionality, and data into something that makes sense for you.

    As with the millions of wordpress sites out there they all have a unique look and feel and addition of add-ons plugins which already exist and can be built.

    Right now the lack of collaboration standards make it impossible for these platforms to communicate with each other in an easy and effective way (from what I have seen).

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    1. Good distinction between customization and configuration — thanks for the discussion spurring post.

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