Lots of vendors are vying to produce a collaboration platform that will win broad enterprise acceptance. Yet adoption of collaboration software has been underwhelming. How underwhelming? A few weeks ago I wrote about a Forrester Research report that estimates such technology has achieved a 12 percent adoption rate among enterprises.
In that post I cited an IT Business Edge interview with Mark Tonsetic, practice manager in the Corporate Executive Board's IT Practice, in which he said business people were more likely to adopt collaborative tools that naturally fit into their existing workflows. So I have to wonder if folks won't be more inclined to use collaborative features contained within the applications they already use most instead of using a collaborative platform that interacts with multiple applications.
It'll be some time before I get my answer. But in the meantime many enterprise vendors are adding collaborative features to their products. A recent example is business intelligence provider QlikTech, which in the latest release of its flagship QlikView software has added features that make it easier for business people to collaborate with software developers, business colleagues and even folks outside the company.
One of QlikView 11's new features allows multiple users to view and interact with a single QlikView BI session from a Web browser. No added licenses are needed, and the feature can be used with people outside the company. QlikTech product marketing manager Erica Driver walked me through a session in which we checked out some data together to determine who we'd nominate for a hypothetical sales award.
Another feature allows users to provide what QlikTech calls "in-context commentary," posting notes and responding to those left by others in the context of any QlikView app. Notes and comments can be added to charts, graphics and visualizations, and are accessible as threaded discussions. In addition to making it easier for members of business teams to interact with each other, this functionality has the potential to help produce BI applications in line with what users want by facilitating a closer working relationship with software developers.
Other goodies to facilitate team development include integration with third-party source controls like Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) and new layout and analysis capabilities. QlikView 11 offers users point-and-click app-building capabilities to embed UI elements on the fly, without using keystrokes. New data sources and related listboxes, visualizations and images can be integrated with the app auto-calibrating to reflect the additions. QlikView 11 includes connection wizards and out-of-box connectors to SAP, Informatica and Salesforce.com.
The "social discovery" feature marks a key turning point in QlikTech's efforts to make business intelligence "about exploration and not static discovery," Driver told me. Yet it also seemed a bit duplicative of similar features I've seen from vendors including Socialtext, Salesforce.com (with Chatter) and Tibco (with Tibbr).
The idea is to have QlikView integrate with those kinds of applications, Driver said. A prototype of an integration with Chatter was demonstrated at Salesforce's Cloudforce event in San Francisco last month. "We're not so self-centered that we see QlikView as the only place where collaboration happens," she said. "We want QlikView to be wherever people are talking."
So the answer to my question about where people are inclined to collaborate will likely change over time. If applications like QlikView integrate with apps like Chatter, it may not even matter where conversations originate.
Among other new features, QlikView 11 expands an existing capability to create comparative views of two or more sets of data, making it more feasible for "average" business users to do so. To capitalize on the mobile BI trend, QlikView 11 adds support for BlackBerry tablets. (It already supports the iOS and Android operating systems.) And it simplifies the screen layout of its smartphone clients, presenting a summarized view of data for Android and iOS Web browsers while still offering users the ability to manipulate the data.