Social collaboration applications have been in a race since their inception to see which could be the most feature laden. It was an arms race of sorts, with each side adding more ways to communicate and collaborate and -- in the process -- becoming more monolithic.

Applications that started as simple activity feeds and corporate microblogging platforms blossomed into much bigger software systems. Modern enterprise social networks, for example, allow end-users to share all manner of content including files and audio. Some allow sharing of business objects which encapsulate data and actions associated with a business process.

Even basic lightweight task management -- a specialty feature just a few years ago -- has morphed into sophisticated workflows with metadata driven program logic and is available in the majority of social collaboration tools.  

More Is Great, Until It's Too Much

It’s great that social collaboration software now encompass many more use cases. End-users can pick and choose which features to use without any pressure to use all of them. Pretty much every social collaboration platform has adopted this approach -- pull together all the features and data necessary for a specific use case, and end-users can ignore all of the others.

As great as it is to have access to all of these features in a desktop or web application, on a mobile device, they become ponderous. This is why we're seeing the proliferation of mobile apps that deconstruct social collaboration into limited purpose tools that address a specific need.

Jive’s new single purpose apps are one example of this trend. They pull out two important features of Jive’s platform -- getting news from your social communities and chatting with community members -- into the apps Jive Daily and Jive Chime. LinkedIn has been doing the same with LinkedIn Job Search, Connected, Pulse, Recruiter, Sales Navigator and SlideShare apps.

Expect More Deconstruction Ahead

People get distracted changing between multiple applications on a desktop. Desktop and web app end-users want everything they need in one place without having to switch tasks. Mobile users want to do one thing at a time.

Learning Opportunities

It’s not just a matter of the screen size of the devices, although that’s part of it. It’s also how people use mobile devices. People communicate and take quick actions such as chatting, messaging or quickly approving something on their smartphones. They use tablets to read and facilitate workflows as well.

When someone uses a mobile device they focus on doing one thing at a time, not multitasking. They aren’t diving deeply into a process or writing a long piece of content.

Expect to see more deconstructed mobile applications for social collaboration. One of the first apps to emerge will likely be chat applications. Social collaboration vendors will need to compete with enterprise chat vendors such as Slack or lose relevance as a communications platform.

More importantly, communication is central to social collaboration. So are file and content sharing. Single purpose mobile apps can help facilitate all of these important parts of the social collaboration experience.

The differences between the mobile experience and the desktop and web experience will continue to grow. That’s as it should be. They are fundamentally different tools and need to address the ways the average business person uses these tools.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  alubavin