Monday, May 17, 2010

Where are the Web Work tools?

I’m writing this on Friday afternoon. Through the magic of social networking I know that several friends of mine have “checked in” at local pubs and are already imbibing Portland’s finest. I also know that a former colleague now living in Denver is stuck at JFK. I know that one of my favorite VCs returned to San Francisco this morning from North Carolina via PHL and ORD. He shopped at Whole Foods for what I assume are ingredients for a dinner that I am sorry to be missing. Plus, a friend pointed me to the latest thinking on the possibility of parallel universes.

What I don’t know right now is whether my Web designer has picked up the latest copy I posted to our shared server. I don’t know if our dev team has decided to push the latest changes over the weekend. Tomorrow I plan to prepare our financials, but I don’t know if our accountant has made the updates to the chart of accounts. I have no email from him; I should have called him before he left for his beach house.

Like most people, at any given time I focus on three or four objectives. Why can’t I know as much about those as I know about the drinking habits of my friends? Why don’t I have activity streaming, location updates, automated availability, ubiquitous micro updates, and integral ratings and feedback from my colleagues and business partners working with me on my priority objectives?

I need something that will allow me to identify the group of people with whom I share objectives. We need to self identify the tasks we are contributing to and identify our dependencies. When I need something from someone in the group I should be able to request a task/deliverable from them. They should be able to accept or reject the request with feedback. My ideal tool would let me see the availability, location and status of everyone in the group. I should receive real-time updates for all activity related to tasks that I depend upon. Everything I do related to our shared objective should be available to the group and streamed proactively to those dependent on me.

Technology to do all of this exists today, but no one has yet packaged it into a useful tool. Microsoft’s lame attempt at collaboration services requires a bizarre collection of servers that can only be assembled by a certified SharePoint integrator. The result is overly rigid and can’t accommodate free-form workflows or easily accommodate participants outside the organization. Collaboration and unified messaging from IBM, Cisco, and Avaya are no better. So where’s the Zukerberg who will fulfill this 400 million user opportunity?

Today, while waiting for new tools, I’ll send out a couple of emails requesting updates from my web designer; I will leave a voice message for my accountant; and I will send a text to the head of our dev team. I’ve checked our project management dashboard: the last updates were posted Wed. The shared server shows the latest version of the Web copy is the one I posted yesterday; I have no idea if anyone looked at it. On IM, most of our folks are unavailable and two have status notes clearly posted during the Mesozoic era.

I know with the right tools I could have gotten so much more done before heading out for a beer.

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