Towards a Friction-Free World

Friction denotes resistance.  Within the context of work, friction implies a resistance that slows down a task or prevents it from happening at all.

Most knowledge workers are too busy to learn new applications or even to keep existing ones updated.  Indeed, many so-called productivity tools remain as shelfware as a result.  Vendors that can eliminate this kind of “friction” will have the upper hand in gaining adoption and helping companies increase efficiencies in operations.

We even have a term for it: “Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing.”  This connotes tools that remove inherent friction, such as multiple steps (logins, cutting-and-pasting or dragging-and-dropping of text or documents) or other obstacles (search results numbering 564,768) that make knowledge workers more into knowledge engineers and stop them from actually accomplishing much work.

Fortunately, a few smart vendors recognize that the secret to adoption and knowledge sharing is to reduce or eliminate such friction.  One such vendor is Smartsheet.com, a provider of a collaborative work management tool that is an intelligent spreadsheet, which functions as a worksheet capable of managing a variety of tasks and work items.

Smartsheet 2009, just released this week, is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that does not require most users to register or log into a system.  Instead, the owner of a project (who is logged in) sends an e-mail to a colleague or group that contains a link that is active until each person completes whatever is required of him, for example entering updated figures or other information.

Smartsheet has an extremely low friction quotient and is therefore fairly nondisruptive.  Through Smartsheet, knowledge workers can define, manage, and control tasks.  Smartsheet also enables management of the work behind the task by providing the linkages and showing the related actions that must be taken.  To collaborate, colleagues can use Smartsheet without training, downloading, or even signing on to an application.  Everything they need to know, from project status to changes made in a document, is available in the format that creates the least friction for them, either through e-mail, or through the Smartsheet online interface.  Users can choose the method best suited for their personal work style.  Either way, they will be made aware of what is going on with their colleagues, as well as what is happening in the organization as a whole.

This is clearly not intended for knowledge workers who need to stay in an application throughout the day, but for organizations where many knowledge workers need to provide or tap into applications on an occasional basis.  Smartsheet 2009 provides a path with a lot less resistance.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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