Ozzie created Lotus Notes, one of first tools to address early collaboration needs, and now heads Groove Networks, which builds collaborative shared spaces that let groups work together on projects and documents in real time.
Groove originated to solve a missing link in business collaboration, Ozzie said.
"It is obvious and commonplace now, but at the time [in 1995] a lot of [Lotus] Notes customers had serious headaches trying to deploy and manage outside the enterprise collaboration," he said. The trouble primarily stemmed from the need to get two separate IT organizations involved to satisfy a simple, real-time need to communicate, according to Ozzie.
The real sweet spot for enterprise collaboration, according to Ozzie, is to get multiple organizations and business units together dynamically and quickly, which is often difficult to achieve through the limitations of e-mail and with centralized enterprise IT requirements.
"If business environment is more decentralized and more dynamic inherently, maybe technology should be designed to serve that need instead of forming centralized approach on the business environment," Ozzie said.
Ozzie cited a recent example of how Groove Workspace technology is being used on the front lines in the war in
Because Groove is a purely decentralized system that does not need a server to host the application, laptops already available were loaded with the Groove application. Within two days, according to Ozzie, the Groove system was in place, collecting damage assessments and supply needs on laptops while offline and then transferring the requests back to the supply center when connectivity was available.
This example highlights the inherent value in providing technology that can quickly answer dynamic collaboration needs. "To conceptualize an application on a Saturday and deploy it on Monday is astounding," Ozzie said.
In fact, Ozzie explored the idea of exploiting the inherently selfish nature of collaboration. "E-mail is the default collaboration tool in the enterprise, but people don't think they are collaborating," he said. "They are satisfying their own needs, which involve other people."
Groove was built with this important concept in mind, Ozzie said, not as a replacement to e-mail but as a way to get group conversations into a more natural environment. "If five people on a [project] team say they are to be notified about a certain subject, then they all get the notification and find themselves together in a workspace," ready to collaborate on that specific topic, he said.