Winter of content for Huddle as collaboration snowballs

24th Jan 2012

Huddle's Simon O'Kane talks to MyC about why collaboration is gathering pace and where Huddle fits in the increasingly crowded vendor space.

The growing interest in collaboration tools unsurprisingly heralded an uptick in vendor activity in the space in 2011. Oracle, for instance, lifted the lid on Social Network, an enterprise collaboration and social networking tool, while Cisco targeted expansion in Europe as vendor after vendor looked to capitalise on the increasing appetite for Enterprise 2.0.
But having worked in the space since its launch in 2006, Cloud-based collaboration player Huddle is not about to cede ground to the Johnny-come-latelys, as evidenced by the launch of its new Unlimited Enterprise offering and the announcement of an uptime money-back guarantee.
Simon O’Kane, Huddle’s VP Enterprise, is not surprised by the growing clamour in the collaboration arena.
“Collaboration is coming to the fore now because the tools that people have – particularly the internet – have made it so much easier for people to work together,” he explains. “People have also been educated in all the stuff they can do and what is possible through their personal use of these tools and so they are much more demanding about what they are provided with at work.”
However, O’Kane is quick to emphasise that Huddle stands apart from the rest of the vendor crowd.
“What is important from Huddle’s perspective perspective is to really concentrate on collaborating to get work done. What I mean by that is that there is a lot of noise around the conversational tools, the Facebook-like tools like Yammer, Jive and’s Chatter. Those are all good tools but the job that they do is connecting people to talk about stuff. Huddle is absolutely in a different space, allowing people to collaborate around documents, to get real work done, and actually deliver stuff. And it is important to us that we make it really easy for people to be able to do that.”
Collaboration across the ecosystem
Its latest step to achieving this goal is by removing barriers to effective cross-organisation collaboration by allowing free access to its Enterprise tool across the entire business ecosystem. The launch of Huddle’s Unlimited Enterprise offering means lite users can be added to Huddle accounts completely free so they can view, comment and provide feedback on colleagues’ content.
The Cloud firm suggests that this will enable organisations to collaborate with people for free across their entire business ecosystem, both internally and externally, including customers, partners, contractors and suppliers. In fact, according to Huddle’s research, 93 % of its customers use Huddle to work not only with teams and departments within their own business, but with external organisations or customers. This is key to Huddle’s appeal, says O’Kane.
“If you think about the way we work, we have got various tools that have been provided from another era; technology that was put in place 10-15 years ago. And the best example of this is Sharepoint, although there are lots of other old legacy software tools that people are given at work,” he explains.
“These sort of work when you are collaborating with your colleagues, but as soon as you want to go outside of the organisation it is not impossible but it takes work to get them set up to do that and of course the very nature of collaboration means that if it is not instant, you drop down to the lowest common denominator, and that is email. More and more work is being done with external parties and if all of that is defaulting to email then you have got a whole bunch of issues in terms of audit trails and tracking down information, not least of which is security issues.”
He continues: “We make it as easy to add somebody in to a collaborative working group whether they are internal or external and it is even easier than sending an email. That is the key for me and that is a big shift that has happened. And as far as we know we’re the only people that talk to that need.”
Huddle has also launched its 99.9% True UptimeTM money-back guarantee to address the fact that the uptime of Cloud services is a concern for CIOs. Regardless of this, O’Kane stresses that collaboration and the Cloud are inextricably linked. 
“We have talked about the change in the way that people are working and collaborating externally but we are also seeing the nature of companies and the way they are constructed change – there are lots of them breaking up, lots of mergers and acquisitions and changes in structure. And that has traditionally been a huge headache for the IT function, trying to keep up and the Cloud really just frees all of that up and lets companies move much faster and make changes and expand and contract and change the nature of the organisation.”
Enterprise-level interest
The combination of the proliferation of the Cloud, as well as easy access to consumer-level collaborative tools for experimentation, have ultimately driven interest in collaboration at the enterprise level. And O’Kane believes that as organisations enjoy the benefits of the tools, interest will snowball.
“Companies like Diageo talk about the benefits in terms of having fast access to content, irrespective of where people are – in terms of geography and organisation, whether they are the other side of the world of a supplier or a customer. They talk about reduction in travel and courier costs. But they also talk about security. Just the other day I was contacted by two CIOs from Fortune 100 companies with exactly the same request – they had been using tools like Dropbox and Yammer to test them and see what can be done, and now they want to move to a proper enterprise class secure platform.”
He concludes: “It is really coming to the fore now, and it is coming to the fore with the largest companies, the largest governments, worldwide. We saw a lot of SMEs adopt it fairly early because it was a no-brainer for them – it was cheap and they didn’t need and IT department. And now you are seeing the big corporates following that. At Huddle we are seeing 3x growth, but in terms of the enterprise part of the company we are seeing 5x growth, which really underlines that. The big corporates have educated themselves with consumer-level tools and now they want what they always want – enterprise class security, levels of reliability that you see in our release, and they want the kind of innovation that Cloud can bring.”

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