The collaboration frontier: Spreadsheets
Being in the Bay Area last week allowed me to participate in the November Wiki Wednesday at the Palo Alto offices of Socialtext. The company has had a busy week rolling out a new version of the Socialtext wiki, reacting to Google's acquisition of JotSpot (another wiki company), releasing a wiki integration for Microsoft SharePoint (named SocialPoint) and following Dan Bricklin's work with WikiCalc.
Ross Mayfield showed screenshots of the recent version of WikiCalc, suggesting a focus on layout that almost goes against the wiki thinking that only the content matters in the creation process and that formatting can be introduced later. However, I think the new formatting tools are likely to help break down barriers to enterprise adoption.
In a number of enterprise environments (including my recent work with the finance department of a FTSE100 company) I have witnessed how reports from ERP systems are rarely used directly. Everything is downloaded to spreadsheet format where text and numbers are adjusted or re-arranged and the formatting touched up. The process typically involves multiple contributors and applies to internal management reports as well as reports to clients. The reality is that today's businesses are run by spreadsheets, supported by ERP tools.
This suggests a real enterprise market for spreadsheets with collaboration built in. (Perhaps a market for improved ERP tools as well.) Spreadsheets that do not require manual version control and change tracking, distribution by email or manual consolidation of changes. WikiCalc is headed in the right direction.