Collaborative problem solving – but let’s try not to obsess about ‘free’

I came across a blog posting by Dave Tebbutt, a technology analyst writing about collaboration and social computing. I read his comments on doing what Imaginatik does with great interest, particularly in focusing on the ‘use of free tools’ angle. Here is my response, saved on his blog as a comment:

The funny thing is that these free or largely free ways of doing things have been around for more time than the specialized tools. I would imagine that if it were easy, someone would have nailed it by now, and shared the solution. Forum type functionality has existed for ages and ages, e-mail to… something must be different.

And there are major differences. I’ll start with cost, simply because otherwise I might forget my thoughts on this subject. It is great that there is an obsession with free. Free software over time tends to atrophy, unless the free vendor is funded by a big VC with hopes of getting bought out by Google. There is no money in free, and eventually as customer needs become more sophisticated, removing money from the vendor/s just means no one can afford to innovate beyond a certain (low) threshold. Unless, of course, you have the VC money to wantonly play with.

Another point on cost. Anyone who cares more about saving $10,000 and forgets about making $1 million is a muppet… or perhaps in IT. The logic of trying to save money, and providing a ‘check-box’ response to a business need is a major reason why so many corporate IT projects fail miserably. This is a real challenge for business people – who ultimately own the business problem – to step up and take responsibility for their needs, rather than delegating them to someone who merely wants to get something done quick, cheap, and look vaguely pretty. After all, you can always blame the users for not following instructions.

Final comment (could be more, but work beckons). Why indeed would high quality companies, who can easily build their own software, undoubtedly have free or low cost alternatives, use a service like Imaginatik to drive $m revenue boosts, or save them $mm in cost savings? Why would they duplicate fab effort already done by their lovely IT departments, advised by a smart IT industry, to achieve the same goals?


Because the current ways of doing things don’t work.
And the solution – the right way of doing things – is not obvious.
And the solution is not obvious is because the solution is almost entirely counter-intuitive…
— meaning that if you guess the right answer, you will get it wrong
… and there are at least 20 fatal pitfalls
— meaning that if you guess, and go wrong, you stop your project, and the company waits a year to start again
… and though technology is definitely a large part of the solution…
— what other ways are there of getting 1,000 people in a ‘room’ within an hour to solve a problem?
… IT (in the corporate world) has sadly failed in the challenge way too many times to be trusted with delivering these services again
— cheers for your valiant efforts at Knowledge Management, discussion boards, Microsoft Exchange public folders, those random dotcom software products you bought us and the 10 person firm went bust, those 500 Notes databases, and for forcing us to relearn Office from scratch by changing the interface we were used to for 10 years.



Kind regards,

Mark Turrell
and yes, CEO of Imaginatik

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