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FCW : August 30, 2016
Next steps for collaboration software The best way to get employees to use a par- ticular collaboration suite is to involve them in the process of selecting it. The first step is to having them define the agency’s unique use case. Is everyone happy with the current calendar app? Does anyone even want tele- presence? Once the func- tional requirements are defined, then employees can help narrow down the list of potential vendors, schedule training, perform user-acceptance tests and otherwise manage the change. Collaboration software is a rapidly growing field, and that growth is driven by more than the number of organizations that sud- denly decide they need it. Vendors also keep com- ing up with new ways to enable business processes, and what is still in beta form today might be passe three years from now. Soon, the tools will be able to pinpoint any employee’s geographi- cal location. Physical and logical maps linking team members could be brought up on the screen with the click of a mouse. The time employees spend on specific projects could be documented and charged against relevant codes, making take-my-word-for- it time-tracking software obsolete. As security protocols continue to mature, it will become easier to extend team membership across agencies or even to contractors. Virtually all collaboration software vendors agree that their category of prod- ucts is bound to make con- ventional email obsolete, just as email pushed tele- grams and fax machines to the margins. But Western Union is still in business, even if it is shipping money rather than messages, and fax machines, particularly in the public sector, are still taking up counter space, so there is no need to get misty-eyed over email just yet. — Will iam Freedman August 30, 2016 FCW.COM 27 The team can then communicate in real time via chat rooms and private instant messaging channels. Some products incorporate voice and video- streaming capabilities. Collaboration software allows team- mates to poll one another to gain con- sensus and invite one another to meet- ings via a shared calendar. Tasks can be guided by formalized, intentional workflows that can then be scheduled, tracked and charted. And, of course, those apps can all be accessed via smartphones and tab- lets as well as desktop and notebook computers. The U.S. government developed the first collaboration software in the early 1990s. The Navy took technology that was being used to play first-generation multi-user online games and created the Common Operational Modeling, Planning and Simulation Strategy, or COMPASS. Today, the collaboration software market is growing at a 13.4 percent annual rate, according to IDC, and should surpass $6 billion in revenue by 2019. It’s a diverse field that is ripe for a round of consolidation. FCW studied four review sites that rank the leaders and found little consensus not just on who is best or biggest, but who has even crossed a threshold to merit ranking. The solutions that are of most inter- est to federal IT managers include: • AtHoc, the crisis communication tool recently acquired by BlackBerry. • Box, the document-sharing platform that has developed a healthy ecosystem of apps and integrations. • GitHub, the software develop- ment collaboration tool created eight years ago by a private San Francisco company. • Huddle, the suitable-for-government solution that remains the sole product of the British firm that developed it. • SharePoint, Microsoft’s long-standing entry in the category, which many agen- cies might be entitled to use as part of their enterprise agreements with the company. Although Dropbox has long been the private sector’s cheap-and-easy app for storing shared documents, it does not comply with federal guide- lines, and Borten said he and his IT colleagues wanted more functionality. SharePoint was an option, but firewall issues prevented collaboration with the companies that comprise FAA’s major stakeholders. “I stumbled across Huddle, and the head of our IT business development group stumbled across it at the same time,” Borten said. It checked all the boxes required for the IT department’s blessing, and a demo was approved. The multime- dia team is now nearing the end of a two-year, 25-seat pilot license and anticipates a full rollout throughout the Creative Services Group. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA), not surprisingly, had an entirely different set of requirements and therefore settled on a different solution. The Pentagon is an immense build- ExecTe c h 0830fcw_023-028.indd 27 8/9/16 2:40 PM
August 15, 2016
September 15, 2016