The death of “asynchronish” collaborative dream

The death of “asynchronish” collaborative dream


Collaboration is such a fancy word in a lexicon of technology and software. Looking backward we discovered variety of ways to collaborate – email, instant messaging, voice, video, etc. Each one was bringing a specific “flavor” of collaboration and open new ways to help people to communicate and work together.

Exchanging asynchronous messages can be considered as a major breakthrough in collaboration. It was a big deal and that was made email as we know today a king of collaboration. At the same time, it made people to be swamped into tons of messages. For the last few years, multiple companies were trying to break this dependencies of people on email.

One of them is Slack. In of my previous articles, I speculated that Slack can become a good platform for engineers by helping them to communicate in a more efficient way. Also, by allowing multiple partners and developers to bring additional tools on top of Slack. Refresh your memories by navigating to Slack: Future Operation Systems and PLM Platform.

My attention was caught by another article yesterday – Slack, I’m breaking with you. Take some time, read the article. It is worth it. You will discover some of your personal behaviors with Slack. I did as well.

My favorite passage is related to asynchronish collaboration. Here it is…

Then you came along, and rocked everyone’s world by introducing a conversational melting pot that is neither fully real time, nor fully asynchronous. You’re somewhere in between: You’re asynchronish.

At first I thought this sounded delightful — it would be the best of both worlds! I was always free to drop someone a line, and if they were feeling chatty, a full-fledged conversation could simply spring up, with no need to switch platforms.

After getting to know you better, though, I’ve found that your “asynchronish” side is less impressive than I first thought. It leads to everyone having half-conversations all day long, with people frequently rotating through one slow-drip discussion after another, never needing to officially check out because “hey! it’s asynchronous!”

The article made me think about trends to establish new ways to collaboration. One of them is an attempt to combine both worlds – real time communication and asynchronous one. Which is probably a mistake to do.

Let’s leave asynchronous communication where it is now. Nothing wrong with that. Emails, text messages, tweets, workflow processes. It can be painful to review 100s of emails, but the way to solve that problem is actually not to turn yourself in the real time email machine. Also, there is no technology that can force people to transfer their thoughts “automagically”.


Opposite to that real time collaboration and communication tool can make a difference. There is nothing better than talking to people face-to-face. You can discuss, bring information in front of you and made a decision. The things are getting less efficient when we are not co-located. Voice and video can be more efficient to sending message. However, the most critical part to make remote communication efficient is the ability to bring contextual information in the discussion.

Sharing the same content (most in the way of files) was a major step to improve collaboration in the past. Engineering vendors made a lot of progress by allowing to people to share files between engineers, contractors and service departments.

Latest development of communication and data management technologies introduced a new way communicate by using more granular data and specific context. Think about any modern navigation application you have installed on your mobile device – Google Map or similar. It has a way to show a contextual map based on your location, combined with the information about traffic, road signs and optimized with your preferred navigation options and destination. Instead of that, just imagine bringing pdf map file to your device and try to drive – you loose the efficiency dramatically.

The ability to bring data in the context in a more granular way can be the next important elements to improve communication and collaboration between people. Looking at the same design with the same angle, reviewing specification and bill of materials, sharing the camera viewpoint on the same broken part – these are example of new ways to collaborate that can replace some of painful messaging communication transferring data files between people.

What is my conclusion? The ability to share the same contextual information can become an important element of new collaborative technologies. The ability to edit the same 3D model by multiple engineers, looking into design specification with contract manufacturing, reviewing the same bill of materials shared between engineering and manufacturing. It can improve our decision process and speed up communication. It won’t replace emails, messages, workflows. But combined together it can make them more efficient. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Capital Campus


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