As the nature of the workplace changes, so does its tools. One tool that continues to change as the digital workplace becomes more collaborative, mobile and social is the productivity app.

In the Beginning there was Email

Over the years, email, which was originally designed as a communication medium has become a one-size fits all tool. It's not only a way to quickly send a message to a friend or colleague, but is used as a digital marketing and productivity platform. Although successful in the marketing field, email is not a good productivity application and therefore can run into problems, which include important messages being overlooked in the conversation thread or messages being accidentally sent to the junk folder.

The file would get ping-ponged back and forth and a lot of the added context, such as what needs to be changed or improved would typically get captured in the email,” said Milind Gadekar, co-founder and CEO of CloudOn, a company that specializes in productivity apps. He recently spoke with CMSWire about the industry. “Although, a lot the context gets lost because of how it’s shared.”

As a result using email didn't really help a workplace be more productive; it in fact tended to hinder productivity, so other tools had to be created to fit this void.

File Transferring and Sharing

The next step in productivity was to make files easier to share, which is why in recent years various sharing tools, such as Google Drive and Dropbox were created. With these tools, users can see who has access to a file and keep track related files by separating them into folders. With the more cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, users can easily see who is currently editing the document, edit within their browser window and see when the document was last modified. Also, for example with the Google Apps or Dropbox, when a new document is shared with a person the recipient automatically receives a notification in their email inbox.

Google came into the picture and for the very first time started re-defining what productivity should look like, said Gadekar. "They were able to bring together people to work together."

Although this model is a good file sharing method, it's just a small piece of what a productivity platform should look like.

Not only should productivity tools have the ability to share and edit files easily, but for today's busy, on the go employee, mobile and social are also key.

The Future is Mobile and Social

Social media everywhere. Mobile is everywhere and if used properly these two tools can increase productivity.

For the mobile side, the useful nature of smartphones and tablets can be seen through the influx of mobile device usage and the BYOD movement, as more and more tasks are being done from a mobile device. As a result, there needs to be a way to work on documents and other files when an employee is away from their desktop. This can be done by making sure file sharing has a mobile app and creating tools that making using word processors easier.

With this influx of mobile devices, businesses have to be aware that the PC, at least in the near future won't become obsolete. It will just perform a more focused role that allows users to seamlessly move their work from one device to another.

The PC is the primary creation device, but people want the ability to be mobile and access a file on the go," said Gadekar, “We have users saying “finally we don’t need a PC for everything.’"

As for the social side of productivity, Gadekar says that this should and will mirror the social network format, as employee need a place where they can talk about documents they are working on a real-time capacity, give updates and share files with a group with sites such as Yammer. The social part of productivity will be less about the document or file in question and more about information.

It [the social side of productivity] has to have full visibility on things, so as we think about the evolution of productivity it’s where Facebook meets the document," said Gadekar. "It’s really about making documents social to edit and share across any device."

Therefore, while users not only need to be able to share, write and edit files and documents quickly, they also need to be able to work from any device and connect with colleagues in real-time in order to be truly productive in today's world.

While users can expect changes in the future, what defines a productivity app won't stop with the mobile and social revolution, as it will continue to evolve.

Productivity has come a long way since its email beginning, but one thing is certain as consumer needs change, so will the nature of the productivity app.”said Gadekar.