person standing on scattered bits of paper
Harmon.ie wants to unify scattered bits of information. PHOTO: Fré Sonneveld

Boston-based harmon.ie is taking steps to unify disconnected information from multiple cloud services, all within the Outlook inbox.

The company, which provides a suite of products to support the digital workplace, is sharpening its focus by pulling its existing Collage tool into Outlook, harmon.ie VP of product strategy and co-founder David Lavenda told CMSWire.

The move is designed to address information overload and improve productivity, he said. 

Later this year harmon.ie plans to offer the same Collage integration with applications like Microsoft Word and possibly Salesforce, Lavenda said. The big advantage, Lavenda added, is that workers will be able to access all the information related to a given topic from the application’s interface.

“This is a real foray into topic-based computing. Until now we have dealt in the SharePoint and Office 365 space specifically and pitched Collage as a separate product," he said. "We kept pushing the idea that email is still the place many people live. At some point we realized email is exactly the place where Collage should be."

This is harmon.ie's first foray into managing content based on topics rather than apps. Lavenda called it "a natural progression from where we were."

Email as an Anchor

Instead of trying to incorporate email updates into the information stream, email becomes the context anchor for all the updates.

The first Collage Outlook add-on surfaced key topics contained in email messages and then identified related notifications across a variety of information sources.

However, with the full integration of harmon.ie and Collage, Collage can pull all enterprise information sources together and uncover topics contained in notifications from business applications, documents, social tools and email.

When you view an email message in Outlook, Collage automatically displays all the information related to topics in the email directly in the Outlook window.

“It does content analysis on the email and pulls up topics  it thinks are interesting. The idea now is that email provides the context for all the other stuff that may potentially be important,” Lavenda said.

“The big news is not that this is a new version of Collage or that it is integrated into email. The big news is that for the first time this allows people to work on topics rather than joggling between all the different apps. The key point is that it is all done by topic."

Improved Digital Workplace Experiences

Collage eliminates the need for workers to open multiple, process-specific applications and email chains by automatically organizing them by topic within Outlook, which are viewable in the topic-driven sidebar.

“The app economy has failed to deliver economic growth because it is built on distraction. It has created an enormous gap between what workers need to do their job and the technology meant to support them. Traditionally, enterprise software is built around specific processes, but that complicates the digital workplace experience because people naturally think in terms of topics,” Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie, said in a statement about the release.

The integration of Collage and Outlook.com is a step forward for enterprises trying to improve their digital experience, but are frustrated by the number of apps used in the workplace, Lavenda said.

For now, harmon.ie is creating better digital experiences by ensuring everyone is accessing the same information and by providing a single place where all that information can be accessed, he continued. It is also serving that information up by topic rather than by app.

Going forward, harmon.ie is reducing adoption and management of new technologies like Office 365 or SharePoint by providing access to data stored there in a single place as well as related information from different cloud services.