Workforce Collaboration & the ‘App Store’

January 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

In a network economy, major competitive advantage is gained by having a strong developer ecosystem.  The more software that’s written for a product, the better the product becomes.  Generally.  The vast iPhone App Store catalog sets the phone apart from it’s competition.  The phone is a slick piece of hardware, but if it had the Jitterbug’s app catalog I don’t think it would sell as well.  Why not use the same model in the enterprise?

You’re  standing up your workforce collaboration platform, which is a good thing.  But, much like your cell phone, your collaboration platform becomes superior the more applications  integrate with it.  (Your goal is to make everything social, right? )  Why not set up a framework for developers (assumption: your company has software developers with spare time) to build apps and integrations for your collab platform?  Surely, your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle that amount of work in a reasonable amount of time.  Instead of having them catch all the fish, why not let them teach others how.  It scales better.

A couple of benefits I see here:

  1. As you increase the number of systems integrated with your collaboration platform customers (your employees, in this case) will be able to customize their working environment: personal portals/dashboards aggregating tasks, tools, processes, training, policies all in one place.   The promise of these collaboration platforms is that they can do this kind of aggregation, but the reality is that you already have systems that manage many of these things separately and are not ready to get rid of them.  And, to some degree, why should you?  Some of these systems are good at what they do but would be given a big boost if they were made social.
  2. Increased user adoption of your workforce collaboration platform (because of #1)
  3. Software engineers like this idea (at least the ones I’ve talked to).  They not only get a chance to spend more time in their cube, but they get to showcase their ‘gold nuggets,’ as one developer put it to me.  I think the technical term is egoboo.  Not sure if you have the concept of reputation management in your collab system, but this could certainly play into that.
  4. You could possibly crowd-source and prioritize the apps/integrations to be built.  This would help fuel the adoption of #2 and would get the engineers in #3 fired up if they knew they were coding a solution that other employees want.
  5. It’ll  get the good, reusable artifacts out from under that one-off CMS you’ve got.  The more systems you can make social, the more value they provide.  See #1.
  6. Distribute the scope creep.  From what I’ve experienced, it’s easy to get pulled in lots of different directions.  So many customers (again, employees in this case) are eager for social & aggregation capabilities that you end up with scope creep (read: proliferation).  Not only could you distribute the creep, but you could increase speed to market and customer satisfaction.  It’s really like you’re expanding your project team.

Integration into other systems is a must when it comes to workforce collaboration.   If you’ve got the right kind of business, the internal AppStore makes a lot of sense.  The combination of potentially crowd-sourcing and prioritizing development could take your workforce collaboration software to the next level.

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