Document management is collaboration black hole

This blog post is sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya.

You know what I’d do when asked to see a demo of any collaboration suite?

It’s not IM features or email integration or hooks into Yammer/Chatter/whatever or video conferencing or desktop sharing… Nope, I’m a simply geek — all I ask is to show me, using your awesome software, how a coworker and I can jointly and simultaneously work on any document without a hitch. Preferably allowing live audio or video communications during the document collaboration session.

We’ve been seeking that lil’ piece of office heaven called the Paperless Office, but are we living it yet? The promise of a clutter-free and clean office space, where everything is done in bits and bytes rather than pen and ink. Fax machines and printers are obsolete, and everybody would possess a e-signature, ready to apply his (or her) John Hancock to any digital document on a whim.

The modern fax machine came out of Xerox Corporation in the 1960s and made available to the masses by competitors in the 1970s. That dinosaur still sits in many offices today, in the year 2012. Granted, it has evolved — conjoined with its evil twin, the copier, or moved into the Interwebs to become fauxsimile (same technology but no longer a box). Still, it either eats aways your email quota or the ink toner. Paperless? Almost.

One-to-one video conferencing used to be hip. Pfffft, that’s so yesterday. Now, you’re only limited by screen size, processing power, and bandwidth. Even consumer offerings allow a good deal of multi-party vid conferencing. Skype claims 10 people max, ooVoo says 12, Google Hangout touts 9, and I’m sure there are other apps I’m missing. So we have the capability to video chat with a dozen people, but once you ask, Hey let’s all work on this document together, then people’s faces start to contort. Raised eyebrows, dropped jaws, dilated nostrils, glazed eyes. Can you share your desktop and be the editor while we talk through the changes? Collaboration, yes. Effective? No.

(Google Docs, now known as Google Drive, actually does simultaneous document editing and implements it fairly well. Too bad most companies don’t allow employees to use it.)

Please share how you and your coworkers manage and collaborate on documents effectively. I already know how we can all communicate effectively, but what about getting the work done together to deliver a report or presentation?

This blog post is sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya.


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