IBM had commercials a number of years ago (the song still runs through me every once in awhile) I am superman. It was for a product (Lotus Notes, later Domino) that was at the time it was launched (1989 or so) one of the greatest products bar none. It sadly had decayed by the time of the Superman Commercial and has fallen even further. It does however represent an interesting case study in collaboration.
I used to sell against Lotus Notes and then Domino. From 1996 to 2000 I lost most of the time, why? IBM had an offline collaboration capability that no one else had at the time (well at least in the products I could sell, I was working for Microsoft then).
Collaboration in its infancy was all about the ability to take it on the airplane and work on the data, returning to a network and slowly synching. Lots of time in the late 90’s the internet struggled because everything was dialup.
So we argued with product groups for years to add offline capabilities. All the while the market and the world changed around us. People didn’t need offline collaboration stores any longer (or the product called Groove would have been a huge hit). People wanted the ability to interact with their solution via a mobile device.
Collaboration is now more than simply working on common project documents. It’s the entire social media revolution. Sharing, notifying and delivering your life to the palm of your hand.
We missed that 20 years ago in chasing offline capabilities. I wonder what we are missing today as we chase the dream of Cloud Computing.