Why Don't We Do It in the Road Ahead?
—Part 2, Applications Integration
> Collaboration
Jerry Laiserin

Third principle of applications integration: collaboration is not an application, but a technology that increasingly gets baked into other software.
"Desktops" and personal productivity software represent self-limiting, dead-end approaches. Even if they truly optimized the efficiency and effectiveness of individual users, they risk sub-optimizing the enterprise (even enterprises as small as three or four people) and will seriously sub-optimize multi- or cross-enterprise projects.

Regarding collaborative tools such as "project extranets" or "project-specific websites" (I prefer the term "project coordination networks" or PCN) Joel Orr of CyonResearch has opined that the collaborative functionality of current offerings will be absorbed into other applications. Thus, I foresee, as does Joel, collaborative project management and project administration. Further, I foresee collaborative design, modeling and simulation systems, as well as collaborative customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting/billing. The prerequisite for this next wave of collaboration is the integration of all consultant-facing, client-facing and contractor-facing applications into larger suites for building information modeling (BIM) professional services automation (PSA) and project coordination networks (PCN) respectively. Because consultants, clients and contractors will be freed from the limitations of interacting with uncoordinated data across multiple point solutions, future collaboration will leverage a higher order of project team integration.

To (re-)cite just one example, Enterprixe Software of Finland makes astonishingly effective use of internet-based design collaboration. Enterprixe's cross-platform, multi-participant collaborative modeling works equally well for design collaboration and for component tracking throughout construction (the functions that support design management—multi-user, multilocation querying of any component and real-time remote editing of any attribute—also support procurement and scheduling).

The path of technology adoption is marked by a few key transition points, the most famous of which is "Crossing The Chasm"—from the book of the same name—between pioneer/early adopter usage and mainstream appeal. Historically, one sure sign that a technology was indeed crossing the chasm has been petulant outbursts from a derriere-garde of the "old" mainstream technology—folks who fear new paradigms they don't understand and therefore belittle the new variously as the same thing, a false thing or no thing at all. That the negativos feel sufficiently threatened by "collaboration" to lash out against it is one of the most encouraging signs that AEC/FM and plant/process industries will very shortly make collaboration a mainstream element of their technology toolkit. In coming issues we'll explore the emerging tools that support relationships between collaboration technology and BIM, PSA, PCN's and so forth.