Interview with Markus Hegi, Founder & CEO Colayer

What is the problem with the ‘old’ way of communication?

Markus Hegi: Communications today mainly occur within different tools. The problem is fragmentation of information and this leads to multiple inconsistent copies of the same information.

The paradigm shift of online communication leads to two fundamental changes:
The first change is, organization of information. Today, communication is stored in different tools like email, chat, document management, etc. The new paradigm will lead to storing all information along with the context, no matter what tool has generated it.
The second change is, that we will not “send” information anymore. The root cause of the problem with email is that we make copies of information and send them around, to people, who may not be interested. This results in fragmentation, inconsistency, information overload and spam. In the new paradigm, we travel, not the information. We always work within a meaningful context and the information stays there.
Wave is intended for companies, as well as for the public – Why has Colayer no public version?
Markus Hegi: Do you want an honest answer?
Yes, please
Markus Hegi: We are simply not able to serve the mass market. Probably even with the buzz, driven by ‘Google Wave’, we won’t be able to. We focus on what we do best: To provide a productivity tool for professional companies. This alone is a huge task.

We want to challenge Google wherever we are strong. We leave the private user to Google. For Google, it is much simpler to serve the private user than for us. Their business model is to  link user content to relevant advertisements. Colayer does not know about the users and basically we don’t care about the user’s content.

Is Google Wave a serious competitor to Colayer?

Markus Hegi: Our competition is not Google Wave – our competition is the old way of communicating and working together.

You started in 2000. So, are you now simply riding the Google Wave?

Markus Hegi: Google helps us in the paradigm shift of how we use different communication types. (laughs) Yes, we are happy that Google entered the market. It was often very difficult to be alone in the market with such a concept.

Will Google push Colayer out of the market sooner or later?

Markus Hegi: The more successful Google is, the more successful Colayer will be. Google is a market educator and a market maker for us! Riding the Google Wave, users will understand the paradigm shift. And, Google has a long way to go too.

Do you speak from your own experiences?

Markus Hegi: Yes, it has been a long journey and we have had to learn many things along the way. For example, we started in 2000 with the slogan “email will be dead soon”. Google however starts with

“What might e-mail look like if it were invented today? “. This is smarter and more convincing, as it is a positive message and hence it is easier to understand. As a small company, we have been able to convince customers and partners about Colayer’s concepts, but not the whole world. We therefore have been focusing on the corporate market.

What are the main differences between Google Wave and Colayer?
Markus Hegi: The paradigm of how to organize data and tools is quite similar: Communications happen within context, not within tools. Google Wave is still at the beginning of its concepts.

The demo of Google Wave looked very impressive. But if the different tools are simply merged, a huge amount of information is created, yet it misses the importance of structuring. Imagine, for example a large project team or a full company starting to use Google Wave for its daily communication. Soon the participants will end up in a nearly endless ocean of waves. How can any participant get a quick overview of what is new or what is really relevant to them

The content of a chat for example, the “Hello, how are you, and how is the weather” does not have the same relevance as for example: the outcome of a meeting, the decisions made, a final document or lists of open questions or open tasks.

But how do you map relevancy?

Markus Hegi: We have been in the market since 2000 and we have learned, together with our customers and partners, how to handle complex communication. Colayer has developed tools to structure large amounts of data according to its relevance and its importance. And Colayer gives different levels of abstraction and views to different users. One of our customers runs a project with more than 300 contributors in 20 countries.

If you create a merged communication system with chat, email, document management and more tools, like issue management etc, you need to provide many ways to structure the communications. And you also need tools to provide individual views of that communication. Once a chat is over, probably only the results of it matters, not the detailed conversations. If needed, any user can re-open the chat and read parts of it to understand the results. Hence, the outcome of a chat, the decisions made, proposals and questions are seen by all team members. Middle and upper management see only final decisions and milestones

Where is Google Wave better than Colayer?

Markus Hegi: I like their ajax-rich user interface and the speed of their “real time”. While one person is typing, the other person sees it letter by letter. Also the co-editing of documents is well done. Multiple users can write at the same time into a document and every user can see what another user is currently writing. Another cool feature is the  the play-back: You can actually rewind a wave and play it step-by-step.

Where is the business value of Colayer today for your customers?

Markus Hegi: First of all, our customers save considerable time and expense with Colayer. How much time is wasted today with filtering spam, structuring emails, re-contextualizing information and sorting out important from unimportant, urgent from non urgent information? And how much time is wasted with searching emails and with requests to re-send an email, because we simply cannot find it anymore.

Executives and professionals become more productive working with Colayer in a clear context, because they are now able to easily communicate from any media, anytime, anywhere and still within the context – even over SMS, if required.

Imagine, you are in an important meeting and you simply need some numbers from one of your colleagues. He however is traveling and currently not reachable by phone or via email. Hence, you send him or her an SMS, as well as an email within the context. And as soon as he gets either, he will answer you, for example, with his iPhone through email, or on Colayer with the phone web browser. And maybe he attaches a graphic to his answer. His answer goes back into the exact context, and you get an alert during the ongoing meeting and are able to discuss the numbers.

What will be the future development of such tools?

Markus Hegi: Today’s Intranet will be replaced through or enhanced by tools like Google Wave or Colayer. Professionals want to get condensed, relevant information. They want to be updated in real time of what is going on and be able to react instantly. Today’s Intranet however is mostly too rigid to cope with the dynamism of professional communication, hence not used much.

Colayer provides the overview needed by professionals about what is really important. And it contains a variety of tools to interact with and facilitates efficient work flow. Colayer based Intranets are highly interactive communication and work tools, and become the ‘virtual organization’. Individuals need the ‘creative chaos’ to develop new ideas and be innovative. And companies need a tool to structure and channel this creative chaos. That’s what we do with Colayer.

3 Kommentare

  1. Most organisations use have their own home built system like the hospital I work at uses MedWay to store patients documents. Has all the features such as last modified by what doctor etc.

  2. Most interesting subject on collaboration, keeping lots of minds busy on how business processes and communication can be improved. These two initiatives (Google wave and Colayer) focusing on how to attack fragmentation and duplication of information; stimulating collaborative way on how to exchange information, eliminating the number of tools exposed to the user , keeping track of the context and history of all content associated with a particular task etc.. All things concerning the collaboration problem set.

    It might be worthwhile mentioning that some OS portal / CMS solution providers try to address this problem for quite some time. Maybe an opportunity to have a closer look at LifeRay OS collaboration software, the recently announced Social Office solution, which covers lots of these areas as described above. Main targets are, as mentioned in the previous article, bringing down the number of different tools, structuring, organizing data, keeping track of versioning and more content management aspects. Keeping the communication wire clean. Losts these aspects are getting covered by LifeRay collaboration software. And not totally unimportant, it is for free, it is backed up by professional support, has an impressive user and development community, and is from stretch build on top of open standards. For integrators a relieve, no exotic non standard technologies that might lock you in on one provider.

    Another problem area is how to integrate more than all these chats, documents, message boards, blogs and wikis into this information wave. How can we integrate core business data from our core systems into this mix of information. And specifically here is where the power of the on open standards based LifeRay solution has a strong point, the seamless integration of ESB and BPM solutions like jboss JBM and Apache service mix. This will open the door for integrating other processes and data into this information mix, based on standards like webservices, WSRP, SOAP, BPEL and so on.

    Another nice aspect is that end users are not forced to change the way they handle their office suite. “LifeRay Social Office makes use of publicly available SharePoint® protocols to allow users to open, save, version, lock, and share documents directly between LifeRay Social Office and Microsoft Office®. This opens up new ways of integrating desktop workflow with web-based collaboration and document storage.”

    Allows you to work on a task based criteria, collecting all relevant context and history on artefacts belonging to that specific task. Important is that this task can be teamed up with users participating in this flow of work. Problem is however, who are you collaborating with, how can you organize this collaboration within the guidelines of engagement on who you are allowed to exchange certain data with, what are the security issues here. LifeRay portal helps solving these organizational structure issues and enables setting up well designed workflows on top of complex organization structures, so you get the
    actual collaboration structure and content context in a secured and manageable fashion.

    Apart of this all, accept the fact that lifeRay is build on top of standards and widely used technologies, LifeRay supports all major application servers, databases and operating systems, minimizing the danger to get locked in by what kind of extend and making your final solutions flexible and scalable in a production like environment.

    Getting curious?, just check out the feature list on this most elegant framework.

    Btw, maybe it would nice to open a dedicated blog post on portal technology.


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