Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Collaboration Tools for Product Management

For those of you in product management, collaboration is key to identifying trends, gathering requirements, peer validation and basically having a single repository for information.

The issue with today's PLM (product life cycle management) tools is that they rely heavily on workflow processes, and expect documents attached at every step of the workflow to some how assist in collaboration. The fundamental problem with this approach is that even though process is very important when the requirements become clear, the chaos during the collection phase needs to be better facilitated- so that the important information floats to the top, and the rest can be at the bottom as a lower priority.

So when a tool like JotSpot came to my attention - I grabbed it for a trial run. So far - it addresses some real cool areas and is based on the wildly popular WiKi methodology, except that the founders talk about building enterprise applications on top of this.

There are several tools that offer the "workspace" centric approach - for e.g. Groove, Lotus Notes, Discussion groups etc that allow threaded conversations and searching across them. What is needed is a channel agnostic way to aggregate content (which Jot allows by integrating with email, RSS, web pages etc), and web service based external integration.

The founders in their conversation with Jon Udell seem to have missed the point about the key applicability in the enterprise space, but focus on a enabling Wikis as a quick development tools for specific business apps. This will point them against standard development tools vendors like IBM, BEA etc with far greater resources that they have, however innovative this product currently is.

What Jot needs is to clearly define what business market they want to go after, with tools to simplify adoption and more user interfaces. Editing a page and adding code may be a piece of cake for a developer but try showing the demo to a sales rep and sees if s/he'll dig it !

However, it is a great concept and I look forward to the founders repositioning this from something that is universally useful to nobody, to mission critical for somebody.

Call me if you need my help!

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