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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
Everybody is talking about social collaboration as the new way of working—but the reality can be that social collaboration tools reside in a silo of their own—and everybody actually works in other silos such as Office 365, SAP or whatever. It certainly seems to me that, aside from a few early adopter showcases, ‘collaboration’, in most companies, can be a bit of a joke. It’s perhaps often more in the letter of the tool installation than the spirit of collaboration. Dare i suggest that in some places, collaboration tools might be an aid to the dysfunctional non-collaborator getting ahead? S/he can find out what the emerging consensus is and get in ahead of the pack with a word in the CEO’s ear? But surely no-one ever behaves like that in a big corporation!
Anyway, a company called Sitrion (which was acquired by NewsGator, which then changed its name to Sitrion) seems to be offering an approach that might make collaboration actually work, by adding it to, and linking across, existing silos. In essence, Sitrion prides a ‘micro-app’ development platform that can reduce app design to a few hours, needing little or no special expertise and which is available both on-premise and in the cloud. Sitrion integrates with Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365, Visual Studio, Microsoft Dynamics, Lync and Outlook; as well as providing full integration with SAP, including SAP Netweaver Gateway.
Sitrion’s aims sound good: the provision of a Social Workplace, one place where employees can get their work done; modernised self-service HR (based on SAP); and simplified micro-app-based mobile facilities (its Sitrion One brand offers what it calls “mobile as a service”). Of course, the devil is in the detail—and not so much in the detail of whether the user interface is pleasant to use and and accessible to non-skilled developers but in its detailed capabilities for dealing with all of the complexity that might be actually required by an organisation, without leading unskilled developers to a cliff-edge and pushing them off.
Still, Sitrion seems to have an impressive customer-list and application silos are a serious issue in themselves, so the signs are good. My only caveat is that such solutions should be introduced with the knowledge and collaboration of an Agile IT development group (even if most of the micro-apps are developed by end-users or, at least, outside of IT). For a start, providing a mobile interface to existing applications may introduce usage-patterns that the application was never designed for and this may have performance implications, at the least, and it is even possible that bugs that you haven’t met before might surface—end-user experience monitoring and root-cause analysis (with Compuware APM, perhaps) might be a good idea. Integrating a conventional IT group with micro-app mobile developers may require considerable cultural change in some organisations. Business application silos are bad; but a silo’d IT group is just as dysfunctional and sometimes the integration of automated business processes raises technical issues that really do need input from skilled technicians.