Collaboration is a widely used term, and I found it sometime even overused. Collaborative development, Collaborative PDM, Collaborative PLM, Collaborative design, etc. Collaboration market has grown rapidly over the past few years with many companies are trying to get slice of this huge market space. However, I found, people usually can be confused when they need to decide about what collaboration tool to choose. So, I wanted to come with this list of questions that may help you in during this choice.
1. Where will your team be working?
This is a very important question to answer. Despite a wide adoption of the internet, the availability of high-quality fast internet lines is going down significantly if you move outside of North America and Europe. You need to take into account how the tool of your choice will perform in such a situation.
2. What is the scalability of a tool?
Another, obvious, but extremely important case is a scalability factor. How the tool will be able to scale up. There are multiple characteristics, I’d propose to use here: 1/ the ability for more than 2 people to participate in a collaborative session; 2/ the ability to scale up with the number of people in an organization; 3/ ability to run multiple collaboration sessions concurrently.
3. What is the level of integration?
You definitely want to have a tool that able to provide you integration with your environment – operation systems, virtual environments, design tools and many others. For design and product development, the integration with CAD viewers, CAD systems and other specific tools can be a significant portion of your decision.
4. How stable is a company producing the tool?
There are two main criteria you want to analyze with regards to a company-vendor stability. 1/ the newcomer factor; 2/ merger and acquisition factor. There are many newcomers who are trying to provide solutions in this space. You want to estimate the level of risk in working with a new vendor. Another one, you need to estimate what is the potential of a company-vendor to be acquired and stop providing a support for functions that will be important for you.
5. How bleeding edge do you need to be?
This is last, but not least. New technologies are fascinating and important. However, you need to decide and balance between new technological beta versions and stable applications that need to be used in a production environment. Your team will not appreciate multiple disconnects, interruptions and other “premature effects” that usually coming with new products.
What is the conclusion? Collaborative tools are very important, in my view. Global development environment, manufacturing and need to support your customers and vendors can put collaboration tools in the list of mission critical applications.
I know, it is hard to come with a short list. Nevertheless, this is my initial shot. I’m looking forward to hearing if you had an experience in your decisions related to collaborative tools. Please share it with me.