LookWithUs, a Los Angeles-based technology startup, today launched its new collaboration platform, which uses social communication tools to add new levels of interactivity to group tasks.
A strange thing is happening in the mobile era, observed Mark Smith, CEO of LookWithUs. "Microsoft has done a tremendous job" with its collaboration offerings, he concedes. Similarly, services like Dropbox have popularized the sharing of business content using the cloud.
Microsoft and its rivals are pumping productivity and collaboration apps but few are taking into account how people communicate now that practically everyone has a smartphone tucked away in a pocket.
Phone calls have given way to quick texts. Instead of emailing a tome with detailed instructions, users now send annotated pictures. To get the point across with little room for ambiguity, few things clear the air as effectively as a video message.
Smith calls this the "smartphone model," where everyday tools are transforming how people trade information and share ideas. Today, it's not uncommon for a smartphone users to respond to messages with images, he noted. "Rich media tools are built into these phones to collaborate socially," he said.
LookWithUs brings these social collaboration capabilities to the workplace. The service was built with modern-day collaboration tools from the start, said co-founder and chief technology officer Michael Harvey. It's an approach that gives his company a leg up on cloud file storage and other services that have bolted collaboration features onto their existing platforms.
"We were never a storage or infrastructure company trying to monetizeharhar it," Harvey said. "We're a pureplay collaboration company."
Why not use these tools in a business context to promote collaboration and massively streamline group work?
With that idea in mind, Smith and his team set out to build a new, more modern collaboration platform that works with Microsoft Office files, among several other types, but brings social-inspired capabilities that go beyond text annotations and change-tracking features in other applications.
LookWithUs projects can start off as an Office document, PDF or practically another type of file. Users can then invite others to add their own contributions. What's unique is those annotations can include text, video, voice messages, images, web links, other supporting documents and even YouTube videos. These annotations are linked to markings within a document, helping small business users not only quickly find them, but review them in context.
Finally, the files and annotations are securely packaged and storage on the LookWithUs cloud, where it can be accessed anywhere and at any time.
Don't have the required software, mobile app or viewer to open the source file? No problem. LookWithUs' web-based interface serves all comers.
During a live presentation, LookWithUs executes showed how a user could access and view shared content with nothing more than a web browser. Indeed, workers can pepper their files with images, video snippets or voice messages that add clarity to a suggested change, which is often lost in a simple text-based note.
LookWithUs can also help teams grow closer together by letting their personalities peek through. Quirky videos can replace well-worn affirmations like "good job." If a project is headed off the rails, there are certainly more creative ways of conveying this than an all-caps tirade.
Moreover, it's easy for small businesses to gather a group in LookWithUs and start collaborating, said Smith. "It takes 10 minutes to learn," he said. "It's certainly not SharePoint, you don't need training and classes."
LookWithUs is currently available in limited beta. Sign-up are available on the service's homepage.