The concept of how we collaborate is changing. Better tools are being developed that help workgroups put together documents, quickly schedule meetings and chat with each other.
When business first started operating online, collaboration was largely done via Internet-connected email, where messages could be sent in minutes. But these days, an overloaded inbox can be the enemy of quick collaboration. Then, starting in the '90s, instant messaging via AIM, Skype, Yahoo and others became a quicker alternative to sending emails. But it still wasn't a complete collaboration package.
Today's collaboration environment includes tools for text chats, bulletin boards, video conferencing, screen sharing and scheduling meetings. There are dozens of workgroup collaboration tools these days, starting with video conferencing (such as Citrix GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx) and moving into more sophisticated internal social networking setups (such as Yammer, SocialText and Jive).
Among these are a number of lightweight products that offer quick and near-real time collaboration. Some have been around for several years (such as FMYI) and some have come onto the market in the past year.
This review looks at three of the newcomers: Flow, Glip and Slingshot. While all have some things in common -- all three seek to enable collaboration and can be used either on desktops/laptops or on mobile devices -- they all do somewhat different things in the collaboration space. Indeed, you might want to purchase more than one of them to handle your needs.
I tried them out them on a small network using Windows PCs, Macs and iPhones. I looked at what these tools offer small workgroups (up to about 20 people), whether they are easy to use, how potent they can be in terms of lessening the number of emails you need to deal with and which particular circumstances they are best suited for.
Flow is about tasks, and the more that you can concentrate on a series of well-defined tasks the more productive you will feel with it. It comes from MetaLab, which also makes Peak, a workgroup collaborative tool that connects various social cloud accounts.
Flow has versions for the Web, iOS, Android and the Mac (this last requires OS X 10.7 or later). The Web client offers a menu on the left while the rest of the workspace can show a calendar, tasks or a threaded conversation stream (with an input field at the bottom) using either a one- or two-column format.
Flow's menu is on the left while the workspace shows the calendar and/or tasks; a third column holds a threaded conversation stream.Click to view larger image.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.