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June 03, 2014

Don't be Fooled: File Sync and Share isn't Enterprise Collaboration

By TMCnet Special Guest
Alastair Mitchell, CEO and Co-founder, Huddle

There’s been a lot of buzz around file, sync and share (or FSS) tools. First popularized by the prolific consumer vendor Dropbox (News - Alert), file sync and share was originally a great personal productivity tool. Individuals could photos, music, videos and documents when on the move. Brilliant, right? Soon, these tools began to infiltrate the enterprise due to their widespread utility in the workplace. Once the stuff of CIOs’ nightmares due to the lack of enterprise security features, FSS tools are now offering an olive branch to IT departments globally by rolling out business offerings.

So what? Well, cloud content management tools like FSS are changing the way people work in the largest enterprises and government organizations and enabling them to get their jobs done faster and more efficiently. You have access to whatever information you need, regardless of your location and the device you want to work on. Content is now at your fingertips and you no longer have to get to grips with complex, Jurassic enterprise systems. Following in the footsteps of numerous consumer apps, the new wave of tools are intuitive and just work.

This is a great start. But there is incredible potential beyond just FSS. Collaboration technology that leverages the huge amount of content in today’s organizations creates a far more intelligent system for the way we work. Social platforms, such as Facebook (News - Alert), have fundamentally changed the way that more than a billion people worldwide interact in their personal lives. Through Facebook’s laser-like focus on data and what it can tell us about its users, we now have feeds serving us the most relevant information on our friends and networks wherever we go. Imagine the possibilities for a service that brings that same level of personalization for office workers. All the information you see in the activity stream of your enterprise collaboration system relates directly to you, who you’re working with and the files you’re working on.

Solutions grounded in standalone file sync and share technology have realized they are playing in a zero-sum game and collaboration is where true value lies. An intelligent enterprise is all about collaboration: whether that is collaboration between employees to work on content or “collaboration” of metadata that surrounds that content.

Standalone file, sync and share is a dead end for the intelligent enterprise

File sync and share tools are entirely focused on the individual. They are completely disconnected from collaboration and, like a filing cabinet structure, hide important content away. When people eventually find the content they need, they don’t have access to all the metadata surrounding it – what about the approval flow, feedback from colleagues and all the discussions around this content? How is content then shared with groups and worked on by a team of people?

New features don’t transform consumer file sync and share tools into enterprise collaboration services. As file sync and share services started life in a consumer, freemium market, value is perceived as pretty low (below $1 per month per person) and getting lower as “sync and share” becomes commoditized and simply a feature of cloud storage tools such as G-Drive, OneDrive and Box (News - Alert). It’s an incredibly useful feature for enterprise software, but building on this feature with more collaboration features misses the fundamental point. Your collaboration platform is a portal to content and data, not a string of features haphazardly stuck together.

What does the intelligent enterprise look like?

The intelligent enterprise recognizes that relevant content needs to be accessed by the right people, at the right time, on any device, regardless of whether they are based within or outside of the firewall. Technology figures out what content is of interest to people based on who they work with, the files they work on and their actions. It then delivers this content to them in context and everything you need – related conversations, previous file versions, the people that have worked on a document etc. – are right in front of you. It’s about being more productive, not having to search through a wealth of data and inboxes, nor working out what needs to be synced. Today’s technology should do all of the searching and syncing for you. This is where transformation in the workplace lies.

About the Author:Alastair founded Huddle with Andy McLoughlin as he was frustrated by existing enterprise technology’s inability to help people work together. Spending millions of dollars on a SharePoint implementation, only to watch it fail dismally, was the final straw. In contrast, collaboration apps in our social lives just worked. As a result, Huddle was born. Since setting up the company in 2006, Alastair has grown Huddle around 170 people in London, San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C. raised in excess of $40 million in funding and seen sales double year on year.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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