Google Wave: A sea change for business collaboration, communication?

Businesses are getting caught up in the Google Wave, contemplating how such mashup collaboration technologies stand to change the way they operate internally and do business.

It's not very common for people of all ranks and files in a company to get excited about a technology, but talk around the water cooler has been turning to Google Wave as users and IT contemplate the potential uses of such real-time collaboration mashup technology.

Just look at the blog activity and you can see that people around the world are scrambling to make the list of the 100,000 chosen few to whom Google is sending invitations on Sept. 30 to test Google Wave. Until now, only developers have had access to the open source collaboration technology prototype that combines email, wikis, blogs, instant messaging and social networking capabilities with the goal of giving people the ability to communicate in real time.

And with the open source framework it will be easy for third parties to integrate Google Wave capabilities into their own applications.

Analysts believe that Google Wave will eventually become part of Google Apps. "People want a single place to collaborate on projects," said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., who wrote a blog post ("Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration") with his take on where Google Wave is heading.

"Right now across corporations, they have spreadsheets, projects hosted on SharePoint, users have to jump from one application to another and partners or customers are given access to a VPN to collaborate," he said. "That's why one place to communicate, tying together Google Wave and Google Docs, makes sense."

Sarah Kling, CEO of UEVision Inc., a consulting company in San Francisco that helps independent software vendors and corporations create user-friendly interfaces, is already looking at use-case scenarios for Google Wave with some of the company's clients.

"We are watching the progress of Google Wave closely because our customers are trying to combine social networking with business enterprise applications," Kling said. "They are really trying to borrow off of Facebook and Google Apps and integrate them more into corporate situations such as the corporate intranet, where you could get immediate updates or see what's going on with your team."

The Google Wave model is appealing in that it solves a lot of the integration issues large companies are facing, particularly with corporate intranets that are often cobbled together and don't give employees the ability to interact. "Google Wave seems to have the ability to better integrate data and applications in one place in a way that doesn't require a lot of training for users," Kling said.

A product for purchase is a while off, but the adoption of Google Wave may follow that of other popular tools and devices such as the iPhone, which IT had to figure out a way to support, even though it wasn't on the list of approved devices when it first came out.

"I think you're going to see the same thing with technologies like Google Wave. ... Let's face it, we are long past this [type of social networking] technology being an R&D kind of thing," said Guy Creese, an analyst at Burton Group Inc. in Midvale, Utah. "Consumer-based technology in corporations is pretty much here."

Let's face it; we are long past this [type of social networking] technology being an R&D kind of thing. Consumer-
based technology in corporations is pretty much here.

Guy Creese, analyst, Burton Group Inc.

CIOs or IT managers should be walking around asking users what kind of tools they are using and figuring out how to support them, versus blocking the use of unapproved tools, he said.

"Users will just whip out their credit card and set up a portal to get their job done rather than wait months for IT to set one up for them for a temporary project," Creese said.

Consumerization of IT is not only inevitable, it is here. Teams are putting videos up on YouTube for training purposes, they are using Twitter for real-time communications and they are asking IT why they can't use Google Apps in a corporate environment, Schadler said.

"I think the argument against using Google Apps and cloud-based tools is going to become harder because Google has done a lot to knock barriers down surrounding security, manageability and accountability concerns," he said. "Google still has a ways to go, but it is getting there."

System administrator Oscar Gonzalez, who works for a large software company that serves the health care industry, said he thinks tools like Google Wave will replace conventional communications systems. "It's going to take over email and IM," he said. "People will have one page that has everything. That will save people so much time searching for information."

Based on his experience working for large corporations, he predicts the adoption curve of Google Wave will be a long one. "I'm seeing a lot of resistance from the top on adopting new communication tools," he said. "They're not willing to be as cutting edge on the communication side. Look how long it took some companies to come around to email or AIM."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Christina Torode, Senior News Writer.

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