One on one with Alastair Mitchell, Huddle CEO

Content is at the heart of collaboration

Alastair Mitchell is CEO and co-founder at cloud collaboration vendor, Huddle. Mitchell has been involved with startups in England for more than a decade. We asked him about the trends driving collaboration in the cloud.

FCM: Why do you think governments are opening up to the possibility of working the cloud with so many concerns about security?

AM: Simply put, the cloud has matured. Governments are waking up to the fact that cloud providers are investing significant amounts of time, money and expertise into their security measures because keeping customers' data safe is their business. The need to share information securely across government departments and externally with stakeholders, contractors and partners has also driven governments to move away from legacy on-premise systems. There is now a need--not just a desire--to work with the entire business ecosystem securely in the cloud.

FCM: If you truly believe social is a feature, where does that leave standalone services like yours?

AM: When talking about social software, it's important to make distinctions between those that are stand-alone social services and those that are social with a purpose. Rather than contributing to the noise and encouraging people to simply talk about work they should be doing, an effective collaboration tool is social with a purpose and focuses on collaboration around content. It is all about using social features to help solve a much larger issue--enabling people to discover, share and work on content with others securely.

By placing content at the heart of all collaboration and providing relevant parties--internal and external--with the ability to securely share documents, content and ideas around specific projects, effective tools enable people to focus on getting their jobs done rather than subjecting them to a firehouse of useless information.

People don't have time to filter through every conversation that is happening across their organization--they only require what is relevant to them. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) acquisition of Yammer and Salesforce's launch of Chatterbox are clear indicators that the future of the market lies in being social and collaborating around content rather than simply being social.

FCM: If I'm CIO, why should I add a cloud-based collaboration? Why not get a solution behind the firewall where my critical information is safe?

AM: Locking information behind a firewall presents a key issue: collaboration in today's organizations needs to take place across the entire business ecosystem--with people not just within the firewall but colleagues beyond it. By deploying a system behind the firewall, CIOs simply aren't supporting the new ways of working and responding to the needs of their users. People need secure access to content from anywhere, at anytime and on any device. They need to be able to work on this content with everyone involved, on whatever mobile device they are using and cloud-based collaboration tools enable them to do this.

FCM: What kinds of factors are pushing companies to cloud-based collaboration solutions?

AM: In a 24/7 global economy where teams are based at numerous locations, working with people across the firewall and using a variety of different devices, on-premise solutions simply don't meet their needs. Cloud-based tools break down the silos that have developed within and between organizations, and enable people to remain productive and efficient when on the move or working at remote offices. Smart businesses are therefore looking to the cloud to reduce costs, break down data silos and ensure their teams remain productive.

FCM: What does the cloud collaboration space look like in 5 years? Is anyone left standing?

AM: We're already starting to see a wealth of consolidation in the space as organizations try to plug the gaps in their existing offerings and this will continue over the next few years. Jive's acquisition of OffiSync last year and Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer earlier this year are further validation of the fact that enterprise content management and social collaboration is the future of enterprise technology.

The cloud collaboration players that will be left standing are those that recognize people require ubiquitous access to the information relevant to them--not visibility of every document, every piece of feedback and discussion going on within the business. These players will offer intelligent solutions that deliver valuable, relevant content to people as and when they need it, on whatever device they are working on. The next few years are going to be characterized by exponential growth, consolidation and market maturity. It's going to be an exciting time!

Related Articles:
Huddle releases private beta of new Huddle Sync service
One on One with Alastair Mitchell of Huddle