Leader of the pack PHOTO: Life of Pix

Productivity apps are a big fat waste of time.

According to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester, enterprise workers continue to spend an excessive amount of time on redundant tasks, with only 18 percent of their day dedicated to task delivery.

The culprits? Yup, you guessed it — email and the other productivity apps.

Productivity Is Falling

Citing research from the American Psychological Association, the first ever Forrester Enterprise Collaborative Work Management Wave points out that the average information worker uses eight applications during the day. The mental block created by this constant switching from app to app is reducing productivity by 40 percent.

Wave report author Margo Visitacion said workers spend an average of only 15 minutes out of every meeting hour making decisions. And overall, most of a worker’s day is spent doing redundant tasks.

Correcting the Productivity Problem

While we have seen similar figures around productivity and application use in the enterprise before, this time Forrester has identified a solution.

Visitacion said Enterprise Collaborative Work Management (ECWM) applications are a step beyond conventional enterprise collaboration or enterprise file sync and share platforms.

Rather than force workers to jump between applications and data repositories, they streamline and consolidate tools to share information between teams.

'Collaboration Points'

Collaborative work management tools enable employees to bridge task management and collaboration. “Workers are dealing with and processing more information than ever. They need a way to have transparency into what other team members are doing, in ways that are faster and more efficient,” Visitacion said.

Forrester identified 13 vendors that can provide solutions to four specific problems:

  • Single workplace for teams to share digital content like documents, presentations, web content and videos
  • Contextual conversations such as instant messages and comments are automatically associated with workplaces eliminating the need to search for them
  • Plan projects provides functionality that enables "casual" project managers run and schedule projects using task lists, calendars or using cards
  • Personalized workspaces can be designed so all the applications need to achieve a task are accessible form the single workplace

“The difference between these kinds of tools and Box or Dropbox, for example, is that their collaboration is formed around a workspace built to achieve an objective or task,” Visitacion said.

“I call them collaboration points. So whether you're delivering digital content, a marketing program or even a repeatable business process like onboarding, these tools are flexible enough that you can plan out your activity and reach out to the people that need to share information with or need to contribute to projects.

"Workers are not roped into following a specifically methodology like critical path scheduling, or even agile methodology.”

6 Leaders From 13 Vendors

Clarizen, Redbooth, Wrike, Planview, Asana and Smartsheet earned the highest ratings. Seven others — LeanKit, Atlassian, Microsoft, Workfront, ServiceNow, Huddle and LiquidPlanner — were rated strong performers.

  1. San Mateo, Calif.-based Clarizen connects employees, partners and customer in a single place for enhanced productivity. The workplace is built around an intuitive user interface that enables users adapt the product to multiple project delivery scenarios.
  2. Silicon Valley, Calif.-based Redbooth enables organizations simplify the way they manage work activities along with all the elements of communications like discussion threads, comments, instant messaging, file sharing, videoconferencing and phone.
  3. Mountain View, Calif.-based Wrike enables teams to track tasks that provide visibility into what everyone is working on. Teams or users can promote comments and discussions. It also provides a document editor inside the application that integrates with most content storage vendors.
  4. Austin, Texas-based Planview has balanced work and collaboration for an experience that can house timelines. Its focus is on collaboration though both browser and mobile devices while users can invite new participants through a simple email connection. Users can promote comments and discussions to tasks and allocate them to anyone.
  5. San Francisco-based Asana simplifies team-based work management and allows users to organize their work into shared projects. Users can construct workflows as needed and collaboration capabilities include sharing work details, due dates and activities.
  6. Bellevue, Wash.-based Smartsheet provides project and team workspaces that are designed that are used to working in traditional spreadsheets. It enables users track conversations at a row, sheet, or workspace level and to attach files as necessary. Smartsheet also provides resource management capabilities.

Emerged From Shadow IT

According to Visitacion, the ECWM space emerged out of shadow IT and the use of unauthorized applications by users who did not have access to enterprise applications that could meet their needs.

“These tools began to grow virally in organizations. We’re talking about thousands of people adopting these tools before centralized IT got wind of it. By that time workers had become s stuck on them they couldn't conceive of working without them,” Visitacion said.

Now they are evolving into enterprise tools, she said.

Visitacion is keeping her eye on three trends:

  1. Demand from workers for functionality that enables them to connect to people in real-time in a way that create value. The functionality is communication-focused and centered on outcomes.
  2. Demand from users for functionality that enables people to retain focus o and respond to fast paced changes without losing productivity.
  3. Giving information workers the tools to do what they need to do without having to jump around in different applications.

Over the next 12 months more of these tools are going to enter the market, with even big vendors like Google and Microsoft expected to enter the competition.