Gartner expects that managing users' transition from a file-orientation to Web 2.0 approach will be a major challenge for organisations. "There are fundamental differences between working styles that are file-oriented and document-based and those that are Web 2.0 and browser-based," said Jeff Mann, Research Vice President, Gartner. "Understanding and accommodating these differences will be important factors in determining the success of collaboration platform introductions," he said.
Typically users fall into two camps: those who prefer to collaborate around files and documents, and those who prefer to interact with content and other people directly on Web sites. The differences between these two working styles goes much deeper than mere user preference or alternative ways of getting things done as the mind-set of working with files affects how people work, attitudes toward security and the impact of governance.
"Users who have spent years primarily working with PC-based office automation suites such as Microsoft Office, tend to favour the file orientation and can find it unnerving to work in a Web 2.0 environment where people can be editing the same page at the same time," said Mann. "Similarly, users accustomed to free-flowing wikis and blogs can stumble over the process and the more-structured requirements when using document repositories. It is this mismatch between expectations and working styles that lies at the heart of many projects facing issues with user adoption," he added.
While document-oriented platforms are well established, familiar and more productive for some tasks, the trend is clearly toward more Web 2.0-type tools. However, Mr Mann maintained that Web 2.0 will not take over completely because there are situations where working with documents is more appropriate than the wiki style. Tasks that require sequential approval workflows or where the final product will be a file are often easier to get done in a document repository with check-in/out facilities than in a free-form wiki.
Furthermore, some collaboration products show a hybrid of Web 2.0 and file orientation, while several browser-based office automation products allow working with files. For example, Google Apps, Adobe buzzword and Zoho are firmly in the Web 2.0 camp, but also work with files, either by downloading versions to work with offline or by organizing content online using file-like user interface metaphors. "Evolving technologies and increasing familiarity with Web 2.0 techniques will eventually reduce or even eliminate the distinctions between file-oriented and online environments," said Mann. "However, while functionality will reduce the gap in user mentality, it will prove persistent and remain a challenge to collaboration managers introducing new technologies to their users."