Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Product Idea: Email to collaboration

I get 140 - 160 emails a day.  Most emails have multiple recipients.  Rarely I get an email that is addressed just to me.  Only automatic alerts are sent just to me.  Others have often a dozen recipients.  What's interesting is that recipient list gets longer as the email thread drags on.

I'm sure that you've seen many.  Someone sends you an email.  You respond and copy someone who might know the answer.  Recipient starts copying someone who might add to the conversation.  Each time new recipients are added, the email thread gets longer.  Message gets buried.  Dozens of emails are littered across many individual inboxes.

We already know how to fix this.  Answer is to use a collaboration system.  Instead of attaching Word doc with edits, sending a pointer to the central collaboration server where the up-to-date version is hosted is the answer.  And it works well when collaboration happens with well defined task.

Trouble is that collaboration is not as clean cut as we think it is.  Collaboration happens when we stop and chat in the hallway.  Collaboration happens when we exchange a few emails on a topic.  Collaboration happens when we are least expecting.  The moment when we are start inviting others by adding people on cc-list is the start of shared collaboration.

Here's a product idea.  Build a tool that seamlessly transition from email to collaboration platform.  It does not have to be collaboration platform specific.  It could be built as a service layer that can be plugged into many collaboration tools.

Enterprise collaboration market is highly fragmented as 2011 IDC report shows.  And it's a high growth market.  It's projected to grow to be $4.5 billion market by 2016, and we are at about 18% of that today.

IBM Connections is leading the pack, but
44% of market is made out of varieties of vendors.

Idea is a simple one.  As people send/receive group mail, create an ad-hoc collaboration group (it could be a virtual topic like Twitter hashtag '#').  Allow participants to invite others and allow others to comment on earlier conversation so that the entire discussion thread can be shared with any future participant.

I bet that enterprise social collaboration managers can start using a tool like this right away.

Any taker?

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