No More Silos

Jeff Feldman
Nov 16, 2015 · 3 min read

Once upon a time there was a system that allowed people to communicate and work together. Anyone could write to anyone else, at any time. Nobody owned it. Instead, it was based on an open standard that everyone in the world recognized. It could be saved, exported, imported, and edited. It didn’t require anyone use one system or another just to respond, and it didn’t harass people into using it.

But then it was overwhelmed. Conversations were buried under a deluge of free Viagra offers. It became a catch-all for identity management, notifications, offers, and receipts. It was used for chat, group task management, file sharing, knowledge management, and almost every other work-related activity. “It’s broken” people lamented. “It’s dead” the press repeated. “Our new product eliminates it” startups proclaimed.

But along the slow and winding path to its grave, people began to correct the causes of that overload. Spam, the unsolvable problem that was supposed to kill it, was actually solved. Notifications, receipts, and offers got banished to an inbox no one looked at. Chat went to where it belonged: a chat client. Shockingly, with much of the cruft removed, the system started working again in the way it was intended.

Dozens of companies popped up promising to help “fix” email’s (the beautiful, antiquated, yet somehow still indispensable and open protocol) last core problem — group task management and activity coordination — but each new solution would force a group to create an entirely new communication stream inside a closed platform. If you didn’t use it, you were out of the loop (or even worse, bombarded by a stream of useless notifications). None of these made email better, they simply routed around it, but in doing so they lost the openness and flexibility that made email great. Some of these new platforms caught on, most didn’t. They required complete adoption to function, but complete adoption is extremely difficult to enforce in a team employed by a single company, and impossible in a team that’s composed of multiple parties, like contractors, volunteers, agencies, and partners.

We started Emmerge with the core belief that collaboration shouldn’t be siloed: that it should increase visibility and accountability, and collectivize task management and coordination, but it shouldn’t do so by forcing everyone into a single platform. We believed we could make the existing communication stream better, smarter, and even a little faster — without routeing around it.

When we were introduced to the Threadable team, who believe the same thing, and who were working on almost the same problem from a slightly different angle, we knew we had found some fellow travelers. When they agreed to join us on our journey we were thrilled. They had spent years helping groups inside and across organizations collaborate better without leaving their inbox, and had already figured out how to avoid many of the pitfalls we were discovering.

Together, we’re making email work better for teamwork. We’re moving the parts of the conversation that should be in the cloud — the action items, the history, the files — to the cloud. We give any participant visibility into those key artifacts, and let them take action, whether they join Emmerge or not. No concerns about partial adoption, no lost information or switching costs, and no change of habits. The conversation is the interface, and the conversation must flow freely. No more silos.

image credit: Anthony Arrigo

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