- Content-Centric Work Technology
- Context-Centric Work Technology Products
- Conclusions and Takeaways
- About Stowe Boyd
The spectrum of tools used in enterprises for workgroup collaboration, project management, task management, productivity, and communication has undergone sweeping change 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 becoming 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, internet giants such as Microsoft and Google are building on their strengths in productivity and email to expand their presence into 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 from a 300 person design firm in one city, and both are different from a 50 person software company with a large 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, respectively. However, these categories overlap. For example, a content-centric solution may include tasks, and task-centric solutions may include messaging capabilities. This overlap is one of the reasons many are confused when considering what tools to use.
The red-lettered region on the table shows the areas we will be addressing in this 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 an individual or extra-organizational use. We will not be discussing social media tools like Twitter or the consumer Google Tasks app, for example.
We originally started this project thinking of a single report, but quickly decided that such a report would be so large that few would ever get around to reading it entirely. There will be three reports in the series.
Task-centric work technology, or Work Management
We are focusing on ‘collaborative’ work management, and 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 investigated include Monday, Trello, Wrike, Asana, Redbooth, Smartsheet, and many more.
Message-centric work technology
We are investigating two subcategories in this area:
- Follow-centric solutions are based on principles derived from social media like blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. Examples are products like Yammer, IBM Connections, Podio, Salesforce Chatter, Facebook Workplace, and Jive.
- Chat-centric solutions are based on the principles of chat systems like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Reddit, and instant messaging. Examples are Slack, Fleep, Microsoft Teams, and HipChat.
For this series of reports, we will focus on work media and work chat tools, deferring a discussion of workforce communications tools, which are principally targeted at the hourly worker or out-of-the-office workforces like (for example) those in retail, manufacturing, construction, or hotel settings. GigaOm will dig into that rapidly expanding market in a separate report.
Content-centric work technology
This is the youngest of the three categories and builds on the widespread adoption of what is often called ‘new docs,’ such as Google Docs. It builds on the classic ‘productivity apps’ model of ‘word processing,’ spreadsheets/tables, and even presentation tool concepts. However, these ‘new docs’ generally exist solely in the cloud, not as a file on a personal computer like a Microsoft Word file.
We will examine a group of tools that have been reimagined around what I call ‘work processing’ with ideas derived from task-centric and message-centric tools, and which have become an alternative to other sorts of work technologies. Examples include Dropbox Paper, Coda, Quip, Notion and more.