Introduction to the Work Technology Series

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. About The Work Technology Stack
  3. About Our Approach: Trending, Not Ending
  4. About Stowe Boyd

1. Summary

The spectrum of tools at use in enterprise for workgroup collaboration, project management, task management, productivity, and communication has undergone sweeping changes in recent years.

Well-established players have fallen from leadership market position (such as work media products Jive and Yammer), while new startups have burst on the scene and become monster unicorns, most notably work chat’s market-defining product, Slack.

Ways of sharing work representations of social affordances introduced by pioneers a decade ago, are now standard (like kanban boards and @mentions in comments). Meanwhile, the internet giants, like Microsoft and Google, are building on their strengths in productivity and email to expand their presence in the largest corporations.

There is no single, right answer to the perennial question, ‘what combination of tools is the best for business, today?’ Each company will have to evaluate the various component technologies in the work technology landscape, and determine what offerings should be included in the company’s work technology stack. A 20,000 person law firm with offices in three countries has very different needs than a 300 person design firm in one city, and both are different from a 50 person software company with a largely remote workforce.

Email continues to rule as the bedrock of business communication and impinges on work technology in many ways, but it is best to think of it as orthogonal to the tools we are examining and not as a competitor. We are not evaluating email in this series, in the same way we are not looking into video conferencing or telephony.

As shown in figure 1, the work technology landscape naturally divides into three main categories, based on what the primary information being managed is: tasks, messages, or content. However, these categories overlap, for example, a content-centric solution may include tasks, and task-centric solutions may include messaging capabilities. This overlap between the classes of tools is one of the reasons many are confused when considering which tools to use.

The red-lettered region on the table shows the areas we will be addressing in this report series. Note that the bottom tier of these categories are personal or consumer-oriented apps which may be used in a work setting but, in general, are positioned toward individual or extra-organizational use. We will not be discussing social media tools like Twitter or the consumer Google Tasks app, for example.

There will be three reports in the series. The first of three reports in the series is Task-centric work technology, or Work Management. The focus is on ‘collaborative’ work management, deferring non-collaborative project management tools, such as those that principally involve modeling and analysis of projects. Note however, that the leading tools in the work management category have adopted many conventions of project management such as Gantt charts, sophisticated reporting, and financial and resource analysis.

Vendors studied include Trello, Wrike, Asana, Redbooth, Smartsheet, Microsoft and many more.

This is the Introduction to our Work Technology Series. Check out Volume 1: Work Management and Volume 2: Message-Centric Work Technology.

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