Folder Sharing Is Not Mobile Collaboration

Sync and Share services are popular, but they don’t truly enable mobile collaboration.  Dropbox and similar tools let users move documents into the cloud where they’re sync’d to any device. Now it’s cheap and easy to share folders with others. It’s a big step forward, but there are problems. Collaborators need flexible tools that work with dynamic teams. The tech is best when it’s in the background, especially for mobile users.

The wide range of available tools doesn’t help. They don’t work well together. (See “People Collaborate in Conversations; Tools Are Secondary”).  Collaborative networks need to form and dissolve on demand.  They cross boundaries as groups come together. Imagine a realtor or accountant asking every client to agree on OneDrive versus Google Drive. Most people don’t want to think about file sharing tools. If they do, they’ve already picked one.

Even when everyone uses the same tool, managing folders takes effort. That’s expensive for formal projects.  For one-to-many relationships, the overhead is overwhelming. Documents get passed around in email.  Users get out of sync.  The problem is worse for ad hoc collaboration. It’s just not worth the hassle. Collaborating from smart phones is especially cumbersome. It’s hard to find the file you’re looking for. Conversations get fragmented across email, folders and messaging apps. Context gets lost in the shuffle.

True mobile collaboration remains elusive. Such a product would let people share documents naturally from any device. It would keep all the collaborators in sync, in context and on task. It would work seamlessly with email and other communication tools. Collaboration is not just about structured teams.  We collaborate in networks of relationships that change constantly.  We need our tools to be flexible enough to keep up with these dynamics.