Of Monoliths and Minis (Part 3): The problem with small apps

In Part 1, I bemoaned the fact that my firm (and I suspect many organizations are quite similar) relies too much on huge platforms as a one-size-fits-all approach to collaboration and coordination. This is unwieldy and unworkable.

Such a big wonkin’ monolithic platform isn’t flexible or responsive to any project team’s particular needs … needs which can shift and transform during the team’s work.

(Part 2 was my riff on the distinctions between coordination and collaboration)


So, I have been working with a small group of colleagues on finding “small apps” that will help us coordinate and collaborate. 

In general, most of these apps are quite good … I suppose that this is because they do one thing and do it well (like calendars, IM, collaborative writing, screencasting, etc.).

The first challenge is that they are Internet apps – and data/information security is of paramount concern for this project work.  Should any of this stuff be adopted, IT will require that it all sit inside the organization’s network.  So, basically we’re kinda stuck in just ‘evaluating’ the apps … flying a few things under the radar screen … but IT and management would have our heads if we put any actual project data ‘out there’ in the wild.

Sure – there are some (not all) apps that can be designated as private vs public … but even with a private site, central control is out of the organization’s hands, and this makes them (rightly so) very very very nervous.


The second challenge is that these small apps are – well … small.  They are generally separate from each other … unless the app is part of a suite – but we’re finding that these suites include stuff we don’t want or need … it’s like they’re trying to be all things to all people, which invariably is a lowest-common-denominator thing.  I can see how this would make sense, in one way, for a supplier to group things together into suites … but what is sadly missing is our ability to customize (I mean really really customize) to use only those things we need in the moment and use them in the way we need to.


Ah well … we know that this will get better.

I’m sure I’ll post something about what we eventually select and how we use it.

In the meantime … does anyone have suggestions on ‘smaller apps’ that would be super-awesome for communication, collaboration and coordination? I sure would love to hear about it.


About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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