Wyatt Kash | The collaboration wave

Another View'commentary: Editor's Desk'commentary: Collaboration tools will upend decades of conventional work practices

Wyatt Kash

It wasn't that long ago that e-mail changed the way we discussed ' and eventually distributed ' our work.

Then the ability to search for and tag content on the Internet arrived, introducing a whole new set of notions about how to store and retrieve information.

Now a new wave of collaboration tools ' which allow people to post, index and share all kinds of information online with anyone, anywhere in the world ' is poised to upend decades of conventional work practices, making even e-mail seem as quaint as a fax.

Exactly what qualifies as a collaboration tool is open to debate.

To some people, collaboration tools are just extensions of office productivity software that offer another way to capture and share information.

To others, they're a way to advance ideas through unified communications or via wikis and blogs.

Depending on which generation you align with, they are either a new way of life or just another semifinished software application to learn or deploy.

A new survey of government information technology managers conducted by GCN, however, tends to confirm one thing: The use of collaboration tools in government is more widespread than you might have suspected.

Sixty percent of government IT managers said they are using or testing software applications that allow workers to share and edit information in the workplace.

Microsoft Office SharePoint and Adobe Acrobat Professional are among the most popular applications.

But a variety of other products are also in use ' from IBM's Lotus Sametime to Group Systems' Think Tank ' in addition to conferencing tools such as WebEx. And nearly one out of five IT managers are using or testing wiki software.

Most of the time, these tools are being used to create and update schedules and basic documents.

But fully two-thirds of government IT managers are using the tools to create and update ongoing reports, and nearly as many are using them to provide read-only reference documents for remote access.

The tipping point will come when agencies grasp the enormous value of enabling their workers and partners to use these new tools to assemble and amend enterprise information centrally in real time.

That's clearly preferable to the way so much business information is still managed today: as isolated documents ferried across e-mail networks.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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