Even connection is becoming a commodity

I have used a paradoxical phrase a great deal in recent months, because it gets at the heart of something important. The line is

Mobile first, Cloud first, Connection first.

These are the three legs of the stool for what most people call collaboration tools, which I call work tech nowadays.

We’ve moved pretty fast in the last few years in all three of these dimensions, and the result is a very different way of working, with an always connected workforce increasingly working from mobile devices, connected to coworkers through cloud-based services.

I have decreased the use of the term social except when talking specifically of social network effects. Instead, I prefer to talk about connection: the subtle but significant shift in communication style and substance when people frequently message each other, and remain aware of others status and location.

There have been a number of announcements in recent days and weeks that bring the shifting nature of work tech to the foreground.

I see a trend developing. As I have said several times in the course of the recent developments in the file sync-and-share market, the price of storing files in the cloud is trending toward zero. The place where those vendors will make their money in the future is increasingly going to be connection: the monthly fees they will charge for users to sync files, and to share with others.

Work technology is headed toward a stark fall out. On one side will be the giants — Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon — who will be providing the core platforms on which work tech resides. And increasingly, they will be the ones providing capabilities like productivity tools (office documents, etc.), file sync-and-share, and the hardware on which everything is running. On the other side we will have smaller competitors in various niches, like file sync-and-share (with Box, Dropbox, and two dozen others), work chat (Slack, Hipchat, etc.), task management (Trello, Asana, etc.), and specialized tools for HR, CRM, and customer support.

I maintain that whenever the giants enter a market, a consolidation takes place, like that which is going on right now in file sync-and-share. However, it is still possible that upstarts can come along with something really innovative, and redefine how some aspect of work tech is accomplished.

But I’ve started to believe that the conventional model of work tech — project-oriented group contexts, office files, activity streams, user profiles, following, and so on — is now a commodity. And therefore, that form and style of work connection is now going to trend toward zero price, too. Only the giants will be able to play, and all of them will be getting their money from other sources: Apple from hardware; Google from search, apps and increasingly hardware; Amazon from advanced cloud services and (maybe) hardware; and Microsoft from apps and cloud services (and not from hardware).

The tipping point for me was Microsoft’s announcement this week about Groups in Office 365, which provides work tech contexts and activity streams. This is going to cannibalize its Yammer revenue, but maybe they don’t care. They are in competition most clearly with Google in the enterprise, and they may be willing to lose the Yammer battle to win the Office war. Office docs are still where 80% of the information in the business sits. That’s a battle Microsoft wants — needs — to win.

But activity streams and work contexts are simply the file system and windows interface of this century: everyone is going to just get that for free.

And those design metaphors are all about connection, and sharing. That baseline is going to be free. So the Slacks and Talkos  of the world will have to provide something really spectacular to be able to charge more than commodity pricing for their services, because the giants will be giving it all away, like the ketchup packets in fast food chains.

 

Microsoft accepts the inevitable, takes first steps toward making Windows and Office free

Satya Nadella might be waking up to the new economics of his industry. In a number of recent announcements and hints, Microsoft is finally taking steps toward making Windows and Office free.

In recent months, moves by Apple and Google have changed the playing field for both operating systems and office productivity apps. As I said in What Apple’s zero pricing of iOS, Mac OS X, and iWork means back in October,

The release of OS X Mavericks led to an upgrade of the operating system and a new version of the beta iCloud implementation. I wrote about some of the more technical useage pros and cons earlier in the week (see Apple moves to edge out Microsoft Office and Google Drive), but the biggest change announced by Apple is not about the (relatively immature) coediting and document sharing of this iteration of iCloud. The big news is that Apple is making the iWorks software for iOS and Mac OS free with new hardware purchases. Note that it has also made the upgrade to OS X Mavericks free for everyone, not just for new hardware buys.

[…]

it’s going to be incredibly hard for Microsoft to make money selling Windows or Office when people are getting Google Docs/Drive and Apple iWork/iCloud for free.

[…]

I am betting that the next Microsoft CEO — which should be on point in the next few months — if he or she has any awareness of where the winds are blowing should quickly move to drastically drop the price of Office and Windows, and best would be dropping the price to zero. For everyone, on every platform, including Android, iOS, and Mac OS X.

This battle isn’t about near-term software revenue, it’s a battle about one of the cornerstones of the working world: creating and sharing documents. Microsoft will have to forgo the cash flow from Office and Windows in order to keep in close contact with the information sharing habits of people everywhere.

Nadella has seen the light, I think.

This is why he has agreed to waive licensing fees for Indian phone manufacturers (as reported by Javed Anwer in the Times of India), and the recent rumors about unbundling One Note from Office and making it free. The One Note story has been spun as a response to Evernote’s dominance in the note application space, but I think it’s an experimental foray in making Office apps free, in general.

My bet is that Nadella will realize that he has to trade the hypothetical revenue from these products — and Office — and give away the OS and apps for free in exchange for relevance. That’s the ante he has to make to stay in the game.

‘How will Nadella make money, then?’ you might ask. Charge organizations for the social glue that makes sense of the work graph, that’s how. Products like the recently-announced Oslo, coupled with Office 365, Yammer, and Sharepoint can remain the mainstays of enterprise work tech, and Nadella should look to that technology — a work management backplane that harnesses the social capital latent in cooperative work — to make up for the hypothetical loss of revenue from Office and Windows.

oslo_05_web

Let’s see if they make Office for iPad free. That would lead to tens of millions of Office downloads.

How did Gillette make money by giving away the razor? By selling the razor blades. And in this case, the enterprise work technology backplace, rented by the month to enterprises of all sizes, that is the equivalent of Gillette’s razonr blades.

 

Microsoft’s Office.com, Office Online, OneDrive, Office 365 are a confusing mess

Microsoft has changed the name of the former Office Web Apps to Office Online: apparently people were confused by the name, thinking they had to have apps installed to use the service, which doesn’t.
However the bigger confusion remains: the company has four brands that are an overlapping mess. Office.com, Office Online, OneDrive, and Office 365, are different ways to get to very similar functionality, but with various options and components.
First of all why have a services called Office Online at Office.com? Can’t we just call it Office.com? You can’t because Office Online also includes various versions of Office 365: three for personal/home use, six for business.
Second of all, how do the various flavors of Office Online differ? First, the home versions:
Screenshot 2014-02-25 11.11.26
So, the baseline free Office Online does not include desktop Office: it’s like Google Drive, basically. The two for-fee versions do, but you have to pay either $80 for four years ($1.67/month) or $10/month.
Screenshot 2014-02-25 11.13.39
Stepping up to Office 365 for business introduces ‘business class’ email — presumably Exchange based. The lowest priced lacks desktop Office, and the highest priced includes Active Directory and ‘self-service business intelligence’ which is presumably means some reporting capabilities based on usage.
Screenshot 2014-02-25 11.16.03
 
The enterprise grade offerings cut things a bit differently. The lowest priced is just email and Active Directory: Exchange/Outlook in the cloud. The higher priced plans include Office.com baseline capabilities  plus ‘Enterprise social’ which seems to be Yammer plus related connectors for Sharepoint. The highest priced E3 plan includes desktop Office and eDiscovery Center (a regulatory monitoring capability needed by financial service and other regulated industries).
Whew.
At the everyday, microcosmic view of actually working socially with other people around and through documents, I am not convinced that Microsoft really does much of a better job that Google, however. The much ballyhooed real-time editing support in Office.com comes down to seeing flags in a document for where others’ cursors are positioned:
Screenshot 2014-02-24 13.14.49
Personally, I favor the real-time chat that Google has just rolled out over that:
Screenshot 2014-02-23 13.23.42
And neither provides a capability for a real activity stream outside of documents, which is a critical need for me when collaborating. Google looks to be the closest, given the recent surfacing of the hidden Activity to the top level:
Screenshot 2014-02-25 11.41.57
That sequence of system activity updates on the right only needs an ‘update’ box added so that users can post information in the stream, and then Google will be backing closer to having Yammer-like work management capabilities. Perhaps they will integrate calendars and tasks, too.
The Bottom Line
Microsoft is stretching its Office Online offerings to go from a stay-at-home dad or college student to the largest enterprise, and its trying to maintain a premium based on the notion of the value of desktop Office applications.
Personally, I generally create relatively simple documents, and the limitations of Google Drive don’t impact me much, with the exception of not being able to have a spreadsheet-style table inside a Google ‘document’ document (their equivalent of a Word doc). And I bet they will be introducing more features of that sort all the time.
So, I wonder if those missing features will actually cause people to start paying $10 or more per month?
Google has made serious inroads in the enterprise with Google Apps — which is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s email and calendars — so much hunch is that the contention point will turn out to be whether users want desktop Office apps, and also how committed they are to Windows.
Microsoft should consider simplifying these offerings, and giving away the desktop Office licenses in order to secure a beachhead in the future of office work. Yes, they will be giving up a great deal of potential cash, but they might be able to continue on as the Office application standard. Otherwise, competition from Google, Apple, and new contenders like Box and Dropbox will fragment the market, and provide the opportunity for an upstart to reveal a radically better model. (Personally, I am betting on Dropbox and Box to upset things in the near term).
For enterprise IT, Microsoft may seem like the safe alternative, one that may be a simple transition from Exchange and Outlook running on company servers and PCs. But I think that Microsoft is not making the transition to Office.com and mobile easy, so I think they’ll accelerate defections unless they make some real changes.

Juxtaposition: Dachis Group is acquired by Sprinklr, PostShift opens for business

I am launching a new form of blog post here: a juxtaposition, where I take two things that have happened at the same time, and I draw some analogy, metaphor, or correlation from that occurrence.
I read that Dachis Group, the once-upon-a-time social business strategy consultancy that morphed a bit at a time into a social media analytics tool company, was acquired by Sprinklr, a social media consulting and technology firm. It seemed like they couldn’t get traction when the large consulting firms and technology companies were rolling out their own social business strategy capabilities
Jeff Dachis, the co-founder and CEO of Dachis Group responded to an email, saying ‘After a short period of operational transition, I will have a permanent advisory board role with the title of Chief Evangelist’, which sounds like he is leaving to start something new. All of the other folks that I know and respect who were involved in the company in the early days have left, with the exception of Peter Kim and Dion Hinchcliffe. I have emails in to them. But others — Dave Gray, Jevon MacDonald, and Kate Niederhoffer — left years ago, and Lee Bryant and the former Headshift crew that become Dachis Europe left not too long ago, too.
In an eerily well-timed announcement, Lee Bryant posted today that his new business, PostShift, is officially open for business. I wrote about Postshift in July, when he left Dachis and first announced the firm (see Lee Bryant leaves Dachis Group, announces something new).
Lee and company are leapfrogging all the issues of the social business controversy, and attacking today’s real problem:

Our mission: To build 21st Century businesses.
We believe that organisations cannot fully benefit from social technology without also addressing questions of structure, culture and practice in a serious way. We will be working with established firms, to look beyond social technology adoption towards new ways of working and more agile management structures; and with investors and startups, to help them scale without losing what made them special in the first place.

New ways of work, and more agile management styles: sounds like a leanership orientation, to me.
So, the one side of the juxtaposition is the acquisition of Dachis and the end of the era of social business that Dachis personified, and the decline of the principles that motivated its creation in the first place. As I have said, ‘Social Business’ isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. The emotive force of the term has declined as it’s been bandied around by vendors and gurus, touting a hundred different takes on social and without any real crystallization.
On the other side is one of the wisest and deep thinking crews of people, Lee Bryant and the Postshifters, who have reoriented to today’s business challenge: how to look beyond work tech — now largely social in a fundamental way, along with other characteristics —  and to tackle reworking work in a way that will match the new postnormal, 21st century world. A world vastly different than the mid zeroes when social business started to seem promising, and one where everything must be reevaluated.
We’re talking about making the shift, here at GigaOM Research. So don’t be surprised if you land here one day soon to see that my posts and reports are published under The Future Of Work, instead of Social.
[Update – 3:42pm 20 Feb 2014: Susan Scrupski of Change Agents Worldwide mentioned on Twitter that her time at Dachis wasn’t mentioned. An oversight in a way, although I didn’t know Susan when Dachis was founded. She folded her 2.0 Adoption Council into Dachis a few years ago, and left the company just over a year ago. She’s founded CAWW and brought aboard a great constellation of very knowledgeable folks. I plan to interview her to learn more about the network and her goals for it.]

Startups know what giants don’t: work tech is core to high performance, now

It may seem like a conjurer’s trick, holding up the corporate giant Microsoft, which announced record numbers that nevertheless reveal shrinking margins, and the nimble, focused Intercom, that last week raised $23 million in an investment round, propelling the social CRM start-up ahead.


Work in the highest performing companies, and by the highest performers in other companies, increasingly has web- and mobile-centric work tech at its core. High performance today is predicated on working socially in fluid, nimble, and self-organized networks, and these are sparked and sustained by social tools that allow high degrees of cooperation between highly autonomous individuals connected through software-enabled work graphs.

As I wrote last week, Microsoft is running into decreased margins for its consumer devices — Xbox and Surface — and didn’t have much to say about its smartphone sales, which are probably disappointing (see Microsoft posts record Q2 results, and beats expectations, but no new CEO).

Likewise, the third company in our tale of two cities is Nokia, whose numbers for the holiday period do not give too much confidence in that regard, either. Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s handheld unit for  $7.4 billion. Sales fell 29% — $3.5 billion — in the fourth quarter, losing €201 million. Nokia smartphones were down 7%, only 8.2 million units sold, and this in what is usually a higher sale period because of the holidays.

Consumers are staying away in droves from Windows phones. There are just not enough apps, and the platform is problematic.

But to zoom back out to the big picture, you have to wonder: why is Microsoft pouring so much time and energy into building what are likely to be consumer devices with increasingly low margins, faced with competitors like Apple and Samsung? Especially when the other side of Microsoft’s business is faring well. The enterprise software side of Microsoft is growing faster than the market, and is the source of the overwhelming majority of Microsoft’s profits.

Meanwhile, we may be approaching a time of disruption in that marketplace, and I wonder if Microsoft is going to be undermined by an inflection point. A tectonic shift in business is under way, right in front of us, and Microsoft — and the other titans of enterprise solutions — may not be prepared for it.

Work in the highest performing companies, and by the highest performers in other companies, increasingly has web- and mobile-centric work tech at its core. High performance today is predicated on working socially in fluid, nimble, and self-organized networks, and these are sparked and sustained by social tools that allow high degrees of cooperation between highly autonomous individuals connected through software-enabled work graphs.

This stands in distinction to the immediate past, and the techniques used in less productive companies or less productive individuals in high performing companies. These individuals and organizations think of work tech as an adjunct to work, a nice-to-have but ultimately non-essential apparatus than only — at the best — speeds up other approaches to communication, coordination, and cooperation. They operate as if email and phones are really all that’s needed, and the rest is — at best — frosting on the cake.


The existing enterprise software giants may think they are operating in line with these new realities, but they aren’t. That’s why Intercom did not come out of Microsoft Research, although it might have if Microsoft wasn’t so busy trying to win the smartphone war of the late ’00s, instead of the war it finds itself in but doesn’t seem to see.

And companies like Intercom are based on accepting — and accelerating — that fact. Leaving aside the details of Intercom’s implementation, it is squarely based on the premise that companies today cannot effectively scale customer contact and social sales without technology specifically designed to do so. It is not paving a cowpath of old-school telephone calls and emails from a ’00s sales professional staying in contact with a database of leads and clients. It is taking a different tack entirely, building its work tech on a model of tooled sociality, operating at a scale that a team of sales people could not emulate.

My real point, again, is neither the particulars of the circumstances for Microsoft (and its soon-to-be-division, Nokia) or Intercom. My point is these tectonic plates shifting below our feet. The existing enterprise software giants may think they are operating in line with these new realities, but they aren’t. That’s why Intercom did not come out of Microsoft Research, although it might have if Microsoft wasn’t so busy trying to win the smartphone war of the late ’00s, instead of the war it finds itself in but doesn’t seem to see.

Todoist, the small-and-simple task management tool, now supports task sharing with Todoist Next

Doist has now added task sharing to Todoist — and a slightly redesigned user experience — moving my favorite task manager from the personal to shared task management category.

I have been using the new version, called Todoist Next, for the past few weeks during the beta, and it adds exactly what I had wished for, and retained all the winning qualities of the predecessor. I’ve written about how I use Todoist (see It isn’t how much time you have, but how you protect it), and it is an app that I literally have open all day.

The basic structure has largely remained the same as with the previous version. Todoist is based on a two pane UX: on the left is the navigation, here with ‘Projects’ selected. That shows all the projects, including subprojects (indicated by the black triangular toggle). I’ve selected ‘Kitchen renovation’ and so the right side panel shows the tasks in that project.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 15.02.04

In the screenshot above, I am editing a task ‘draw version with cellar stairs reworked’, and you can see the various metadata controls:

  • ‘@’ for adding ‘labels’ or tags — these can also be added simply by typing ‘@’ in the task title.
  • clock for notifications.
  • flag for priorities.
  • outdent and indent for nesting of tasks under others: subtasks.
  • ‘no due date’ indicates where a date can be set.
  • the silhouette represents the sharing capability.

Sharing has been added to Todoist Next at the project level. In this case I have invited my wife, Sarah, to share the kitchen renovation project with me, and then I can assign tasks to her or me, or to leave it unassigned, as I did in this case.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 09.22.27

The folder displayed on tasks represents notes that have been left. Here I clicked on the folder icon, and see a comment I left about recommendations for contractors from an architect.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 15.19.29

Note that the identity of the contributor is left with each comment.

In my everday use of Todoist I make heavy use of tags (‘labels’), so that I can filter different groups of tasks, for example, all the tasks associated with my Sociality interview series. Task filtering can also be based on time classes like things due in the next 7 days, or what is overdue, or tasks with no due date.

Most central to my work, I also use tags as a part of my version of the so-called 1-3-5 rule:

Stowe Boyd, It isn’t how much time you have, but how you protect it

Each day, we can accomplish 1 large task (and it’s best done before lunch), 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks.

  • A large task in my case is a redraft of a report, or traveling to the west coast. Something that takes several unbroken hours.
  • A medium tasks for me might be writing a blog post, or getting a product demo, which could take 30 minutes to an hour.
  • A small task for me might be writing a long email to a colleague, or following up on updates to a project on a work management tool, or negotiating terms for a speaking or writing gig.

Screenshot 2014-01-21 15.49.20Whenever I add a task I try to imagine which it is, a @1thing, a @3things, or a @5things. Each morning, I spend a few minutes seeing what I accomplished the day before, and whether I fell into the 1-3-5 rule or not. To get around the fact that completed tasks fall from view (unless you ask to see them explicitly), I use a @completed tag, and then later on — like the next morning — actually check off the completed tags.

What I wish that Todoist would provide is something half way between checked and unchecked, like a penciled check that I could later overwrite with ink, or erase. And these penciled tasks would not disappear when I leave the project context. This is actually better than a setting like ‘hide all completed tasks’, I think, and then I could stop using the @completed tag as a workaround.

The Bottom Line

I’ve had  the opportunity to use Todoist Next for a few weeks, including the premium features — like notes, tags, and other capabilities that make Todoist a truly essential part of my work flow. Now, sharing was the one huge missing piece for me, and now that’s covered.

As I have said in other posts discussing my use of Todoist and other work tech, rely heavily on being able to get at the URLs of granules of the information buried in tools . Todoist does provide URLs for projects, so I can link to those, but I wish I could get at the URL of tasks, so I could share one with a colleague, or place the link of one task in a comment on another.

Likewise, I’d like to be able to ‘too’ tasks — to just share a single task with someone without having to invite them to join the project or be able to see other tasks.

However, with those caveats — and my dream of penciled tasks — Todoist is the perfect cooperative task management tool.

Dropbox, now valued at $10B, raises $250M

Dropbox is still hungry for cash, according to Douglas NacMillan at the Wall Street Journal, who reported that the company has closed on $250 million in new funding. The deal was led by BlackRock, but the other participants were unnamed, although likely included prior investors. Liz Gannes  reported the other money may be coming in this round, with as much as $400 million in all coming in.

Last year, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston stated that the company needed to push aggressively into expanding the company’s range of offerings. He acquired Mailbox, the popular mobile email client, and rejiggered the basic architecture of the file sync-and-share offering that forms the core of its value proposition to support business and personal accounts in the same client at the same time. But he said that there was more in the works:

Stowe Boyd, Dropbox for Business is only the start: next, work management and office apps

But the big news is revealed in a discussion between Dropbox execs and Liz Gannes at AllThingsD:

Liz Gannes, Dropbox Adds Enterprise Tools

Dropbox had to spend a year rebuilding its products to add the new enterprise-class controls the company unveiled today. “We’d been nervous,” Houston said. “If we clear off your computer, we might remote wipe all your baby photos.”

Yet, there’s more work to be done. The new version of Dropbox doesn’t include employee collaboration tools. And that feature will be essential for fully taking on Google and Microsoft in the productivity space. “We understand exactly what we have to build next,” said business product head Ilya Fushman.

Well, well, well. This is going to be interesting. Productivity doesn’t necessarily stop with editing Word docs, but also tools to support working socially, task management, curation, and potentially more in-depth solutions. My bet is that they are planning a work management toolset — or planning to buy one — as well as office-replacement apps.

I expect to see those tools rolling out in 2014.

Box, a direct competitor, raised $100 million last month on a $2 billion valuation, so this shows that the market continues to simmer. Box showed the direction that these two are headed by releasing Box Notes (see Box enters the office wars with Box Notes), a co-editing solution tightly integrated with the file sync-and-share product.

As I have said in the past, these two companies have a major incentive to move laterally with their file sync-and-share solutions: to edge into office applications, email clients, and other work tech, most obviously task management. In fact, I don’t see why they haven’t been acquiring companies like Asana, Trello, Todoist, Editorially, Draft, and the like, already.

One additional comment: I was talking with a report yesterday, and he wondered about the overlap of Evernote with Dropbox and Box. I said that Dropbox and Box are distributed virtual file systems that fill a strategic gap in today’s operating systems. They a building what should be a layer — and may be, some day — in iOS, OS X, and Android (oh, OK, and even Windows, for as long as that matters). But Evernote is a distributed virtual filing system: a place for the individual (or group) to store images, documents, drawings, and the other effluvia of everyday life or work. They are similar, but people’s intentions when deciding to use them or in everyday use, are very different.

Next generation work tech has to build on the work graph, not just social networks

Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for popularizing the term ‘social graph’ at the Facebook F8 conference on May 27 2007, as a way of explaining the Facebook Platform’s value proposition: offering up the social relationship data of between Facebook users, and to other social objects (like photos and posts), so that other app developers could simply use it and not have to regenerate it.

The earlier use of the term may have originated with Philippe Bouzaglou who used the term in a paper that applied graph theory to explore the characteristics of the social network it modeled. Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and now a co-founder of Asana, attended that class with Bouzaglou. People might have gravitated to it also as a helpful disambiguation from the ‘social networks’ like Twitter and Facebook: the category of apps. It comes as no surprise then that people at Asana are using the term social graph, and now have proposed the term work graph in distinction from the more general social graph.

I didn’t initially see that the term social graph offered much over the historical use of the term social network, but now my view has shifted, and for one reason. I always considered the principles of social networks as being derived from graph theory in the first place, but the social graph idea has added to the mix the idea of social objects: the photos, messages, likes, and other signals and information that are shared across social networks. So a simplistic but helpful way to think about it is this:

social graph = social network (people) + social objects (things)

Returning to the notion of work graph, Justin Rosenstein, Dustin’s co-founder at Asana has written a deeply insightful lament about the state of work, and one that echoes a lot of my groaning about the state of work tech tools and our reliance on email:

Justin Rosenstein, The Way We Work Is Soul-Sucking, But Social Networks Are Not the Fix

Surely someday people will look back on us with the same awe, wonder, and sympathy that we look back on previous times: Did they really spend all frickin’ day sitting in front of Gmail and Outlook?

[…]

Meanwhile, the concept of enterprise social networks — and that what works on Facebook will work for businesses — has certainly been appealing. (Not to mention that it creates an enviably straightforward product design roadmap for companies like Microsoft’s Yammer and Salesforce’s Chatter teams: just clone Twitter’s and Facebook’s features, one by one). Such networks do have some advantages over email.

But they are small, incremental improvements. It’s an indication of just how bad the status quo is that even small Band-Aids can represent a billion dollars’ worth of value.

So you might wonder what does he think the answer is? He suggests that we look at the work graph — the network of people (the nodes on the graph) and metadata about them, their relationships (the arcs on the graph), and the ‘units of work’, which are information elements (tasks, ideas, clients, goals, milestones, and so on). And then there are additional schemas — although he doesn’t use that term — that define ways that these work graph elements tie together. And then we must build tools that manipulate objects through work schemas on behalf of people in the work graph: not just passing messages from person to person in the social network.

Rosenstein states that enterprise social networks don’t meet what he thinks is the chief requirement of work tech: Having all the information we need when we need it. I disagree. That has been the value proposition pushed for decades by enterprise software types: the right information to the right people at the right time. But I think he is still correct when he says that today’s work tech doesn’t effectively fit with today’s work graph. But that’s because the now dominant tools are structured around old notions of collaborative control, rather than new notions of cooperative autonomy, and failed to push into emergent value based on strategic learning.

Here’s what he said, though. He gets awfully close to my point above:

The upshot of the latter data structure is having all the information we need when we need it. Where the enterprise social graph requires blasting a whole team with messages like “Hey, has anyone started working on this yet?”, we can just query the work graph and efficiently find out exactly who’s working on that task and how much progress they’ve made. Where the enterprise social graph model depends on serendipity, the work graph model routes information with purpose: towards driving projects to conclusions.

Imagine having more clarity, sanity, confidence, time, and autonomy. Not drowning in email or worrying about whether the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Not having to sit in status meetings or through annoying boss interruptions to find out what’s going on. Instead of worrying about delays or missing deadlines, we can focus on achieving goals and working together effortlessly.

At the heart of this is rethinking how we design our tools. We’ve been able to get by until now on a patchwork of solutions and incremental improvements, but that’s just addressing a need. Attaining our future desires, however, will be about tools that are designed from the ground up for helping people work together.

I totally agree. As I wrote last October

The coming cooperative organization is scary, because it places ambiguity and uncertainty at the center of organization dynamics. It is based on not knowing exactly what to do, in a world increasingly difficult to read. It values experimentation over execution, places agility above process, and puts learning ahead of knowing. It asks more questions than it can answer, and it may not even know how to answer them.

And we certainly don’t have the tools to do that, yet. Visionaries like Dustin and Justin are likely to be the folks cooking up new approaches though, not the large established vendors of last century collaboration tools.

The soaring growth of messaging apps is likely to be a tsunami in work tech

I saw a chart today that confirmed what I have been seeing across the board in the increasingly mobile workforce dependent on companion devices:

Screenshot 2014-01-14 10.18.10A 200% increase in the use of messaging and social apps, and a 150% increase in the use of utilities and productivity tools from 2012 to 2013. These are the leaders in companion use.

What does this mean for work tech? It’s obvious : those vendors of work technology products that can become a key part of this adoption, the surge of time spent on handhelds — and soon wearables — will come to dominate the next era of ‘computications’. And just as surely, those that remain wedded to the old PC-and-a-browser form factor of work tech will fade into the background.