Yesterday at the GigaOm Net:work event, one of the Launchpad finalists was an interesting company called Harmon.ie (known as Mainsoft since 1993 and see Ben’s previous coverage here). The event itself was focussed on how collaboration happens today and how we will work in the future using the newer technologies that are pushing the envelope on collaboration (in fact, if you really want to know how a big company is taking collaboration to the extreme, check out this talk by Debra Chrapaty from Cisco). If you wonder why I am singling out Harmon.ie for this discussion, they are the ones who gave me a pause and think about how far/fast these modern day collaboration tools can travel in the real world.
Harmon.ie is not your bleeding edge cloud based collaboration tool. Rather, they are on a mission to bring some of the modern day collaboration into the old fashioned workflows inside the enterprises. Those of us who live on the edge of the technology easily adopt modern tools even before they enter the beta stage. But if we peep outside the Silicon Valley technology bubble, we will see many people still using Microsoft Outlook religiously. Many are not even aware of what one can do with modern day personal information manager and collaboration tools like Google Apps. I know of people who access Gmail using their Outlook. Hey, I still receive postal mail from people.
The point is that even though the bleeding edge modern day tools are taking the collaboration to the extremes, the mainstream user habits don’t change so fast. Especially, enterprise users are too slow to change their habits. Whether we like it or not, Microsoft Outlook (and not the browser) is still the always on Window for these users. Even Google realizes this fact and it is one of the reasons they are trying to change the user habits through the backdoor. Harmon.ie also understands this fact very well and they are attacking the problem head on by helping these slow movers get some of the advantages of the modern day collaboration environments.
To start with, Harmon.ie offers three add-ons that will help users collaborate effectively from inside of Outlook (and Lotus Notes). It transforms Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes into a Social Workspace. The advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t disrupt users’ existing workflows. There is no need for them to change their usage patterns. They can stay within their comfort zone and still take advantage of some of the productivity enhancing tools. Their current offerings include:
- harmon.ie for SharePoint – This brings SharePoint as a sidebar to Outlook making collaboration seamless
- harmon.ie for SharePoint-Lotus Notes – This brings SharePoint as a sidebar to Notes so that Lotus Notes users can use SharePoint from an interface they are already familiar
- harmon.ie for Google Docs – It brings Google Docs to the sidebar of Outlook much like the Google Docs gadget we use inside of Gmail
They offer a free version of harmon.ie for SharePoint and Google Docs. They also have an enterprise versions of all the products at a throw away price ($26-$50 per year based on license volume) that gives users fine grained controls and other additional features while also offering the IT admin a management console to manage the users in the organization. This freemium bottom-up approach is similar to how some of the collaboration vendors (like Yammer, for example) are going to the market.
Even though they are clearly targeting the current day market needs, they are on a short leash and they need to keep innovating and evolving in the future. Few years from now, I don’t expect enterprise users to continue using the clunky Outlook application for email. Sooner than later, enterprise email is going to move from Outlook or Lotus Notes to a more browser centric world with mobile being the predominant way to access email. Even from the point of view of Outlook, Microsoft can easily bring in such features natively to the application. Clearly, this is just a beginning for harmon.ie and it will be interesting to see how they evolve with the evolution of enterprise collaboration environment.
- End Attachment Ping Pong by Bringing SharePoint into E-Mail (readwriteweb.com)
- How to access your Google Docs from within Outlook (simplehelp.net)
- Google upgrades Apps connector for Outlook (infoworld.com)