The Drive Toward Interoperable Collaboration

    Enterprise collaboration is a net positive for the enterprise, but the question remains as to how open and integrated collaborative platforms should be.

    This issue is likely to come to a head sooner rather than later as more employees opt to create their own workspaces on mobile devices, which means a single-vendor collaboration suite that is controlled by the enterprise is likely to meet with some resistance.

    Ideally, then, collaboration platforms should be open and interoperable, and the industry is taking distinct steps toward this goal. But the process is at a very nascent stage, and it still leaves questions of security, compliance and data management up in the air.

    Already, consolidation in the collaborative sector is taking hold. Slack recently acquired Atlassian’s HipChat and Stride tools, which should bolster its stable of 8 million active users to better compete with market-leader Microsoft. At the same time, the two companies are partnering up to ensure a smooth migration to the Slack platform, part of which will include tighter integration with Atlassian’s large stable of business software. This move is not without some risk, however. Slack will actually discontinue both HipChat and Stride, and the hope is that the good vibes it has with Atlassian will encourage users to migrate to the Slack platform. But they could just as easily take the opportunity to investigate entirely new collaborative solutions as well.

    Meanwhile, cloud service providers are teaming up to augment their own collaboration platforms. Google and Box recently put out a new public beta that allows users to access key features in Google G Suites from the Box interface. In this way, users will be able to automatically back up their data in either (or both) the Google Cloud or the Box Cloud. In addition, G Suite users will be able to tap into Box’ admin console for security, governance and other functions. eWeek reports that this is only the beginning for a broader collaboration, with the next step likely to be a Box tie-in to Gmail that will allow Box files to be attached to emails and native Gmail attachments to be downloaded to Box from the Gmail interface.

    For Microsoft’s part, the company is looking to expand its links to other providers as a way to let users share applications and data beyond their own enterprise networks. The company recently broadened its Azure Active Directory B2B Collaboration tool to allow users to log-in with Google IDs. In this way, the enterprise is able to open their networks to trusted partners while maintaining access control and authentication. Previously, it was only possible to share among Microsoft accounts or Azure AD accounts, which was a problem given that users, partners and other stakeholders often rely on multiple clouds for their applications and data services.

    All of these moves share a common theme: to enable collaboration with as many users as possible and as seamlessly as possible. The goal of collaboration, after all, is productivity, and that is difficult to accomplish when you have to launch multiple platforms or log into multiple clouds just to share information.

    We still have a long way to go before we see anything like universal integration in the collaboration market, but the fact that market leaders like Microsoft and Google are not trying to rule the world with this particular layer of software is a good sign that the enterprise will find it easier to implement collaborative workflows as the market evolves, even as it retains full control over data usage and security.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.


    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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