Kicking off the SaaStar Interview series for SaaScribe, Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange stepped up to the plate to answer some questions around Real Time Collaboration:
What is the Impact of Real Time Collaboration that you are seeing in the market?
Real Time Collaboration is mainly an additional means of communicating with people. It hasn’t replaced anything of the traditional means that we are using. Often we hear that Real Time Collaboration will kill email, like video would kill radio, or the VHS would kill TV, but none of that has happened. What we have seen is increased usage of computer based communication based on Real Time Collaboration. We are starting to see email and chat being mashed together with different versions of documents, however, it is still fairly rare to see people in real time collaborating on document edits. This could be because it’s still only used in a very tech savvy communities. Regular users still use email and document attachments to collaborate rather than collaborating in real time. I think the impact of Real Time Collaboration is a little overstated in the market today.
Can Real time collaboration actually be a distraction and prevent us from getting any real work done?
Yes, most social networks operate using real time features, it has almost become an addiction to check your twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feed 50 times a day. The same can happen with email at times, but significantly less than the level we see on social media.
When you look at the social collaboration features emerging, they work in a similar way to the social networks. Just like a phone call can interrupt, and that’s also part of real time collaboration, it can be very distracting from what you are doing. People need to learn how to deal with that. It’s how to be unavailable sometimes to find time to get work done.
Do you think that the market is saturated with Real Time Collaboration SaaS Products & will we see a consolidation or a clear winner in that space?
I think we are yet to see a clear winner or even some of the best real time collaboration solutions. What we need is for our current means of communication and collaboration to be enhanced by real time features. I use email on a daily basis and it’s convenient because everyone has it and I don’t have to force people on my platform to communicate. The downside is once communications start, too much gets stuck to email. Enhancing email with Real Time Collaboration features will make it easier to move across platforms. This of course needs to be implanted across all systems as SaaS systems we see today are too siloed. They work well inside of themselves, but they don’t really work across the boundaries of their own systems. Which means, unless everybody is on that same system, then you cannot collaborate with everybody. I think that what we will see is two things. One: the enhancement of the traditional means of collaboration by real time communications features & Two: we will see much more cross system compatibility and workflows.
Do you see Real Time Collaboration as the key SaaS category?
Productivity software and maybe business productivity software is what SaaS is mostly about as the consumer side is mostly covered by the social network platforms. But they have the same issues in that cross system communication is impossible in social networks and messenger products. People can easily switch, when they have several systems running for them. If my vision is correct, that real time collaboration needs to enhance our existing means of communicating and working, then I guess we will see the most innovation in those. That’s what we are doing at Open-Xchange, we’re bringing together one system. I would think that the category leader will be the company that gets the mash up right.
Open-Xchange App Suite is positioned as a customer engagement platform. Can you please explain what this means?
First and foremost we are trying to provide everything that people need for their personal or business productivity. This includes going back and forth between the traditional means of communicating and the new means of real time collaboration. As mentioned before, you can switch over to any best method for the case that you are working on. We are trying to provide you with all the functions that you need for your day to day life. We are moving all the functions of your work desktop into the cloud application and you can use this very broadly from your browser. We are not a direct B2C company, but instead we are selling through people that want to provide a SaaS service. So the customer engagement platform term means our customers get a solution from us that they can use to engage their customers more with their brand and their services. Some of them are Telcos or Cable companies or Hosting companies that provide a specific set of services to their customer that they then enhance with the software components we provide them. I mentioned before that real time collaboration really makes sense if you enhance what is there. So having a point solution like Dropbox is nice because you can synchronise your files, but it would be really nice if those files could live inside all your other applications. Collaboration on the editing session with everyone right away, that’s one of the features that we provide to these companies. For telcos, this is the great customer engagement opportunity. It simply means keeping people longer on your platform and giving them all they need for their daily workflow.
by Alex Theuma @alextheuma