Every now and then I come across something that seems rather humble when I first encounter it, but then progressively becomes more fascinating as I dig deeper.
Such is the case with Syncplicity: an interesting acquisition made by our Documentum group a while back.
Not paying much all that much attention at the time, I sort of had this mental picture of a mobile sync tool with a smattering of enterprise features.
But as I spent time with the team, I started to realize I was dead wrong. From my perspective, Syncplicity cuts across a wide range of current enterprise challenges in an elegant, unique and easy-to-consume way.
And I’d like to share with you just why I’m so enthused …
Does This Sound Like You?
I, like many of you, am a mobile knowledge worker. Some days, I think I live in content hell.
I have a pretty big content collection. There are currently five devices in my portfolio. I can absolutely assure you that they never are in sync.
As a result, I spend a lot of time thinking about getting the right content on the right device at the right time.
I wish I didn't have to do that.
I create stuff, and I need other people to see what I'm doing, and weigh in. But my stuff is often too big for many email systems. I get at least 20 requests a day for someone to send them something I've done, and it bounces, so I have to upload it somewhere, and they can't figure out what do with the link, etc.
Can't they just "follow" my content?
I want a lot of people to read my work product, but want only a select few get update capabilities. Many of them are not badged company employees. Many of them don't use the same devices I do.
And I'd really like to restrict who can run off with a copy of my stuff. I also need some lightweight version control, but nothing too serious.
And I shouldn't force people to consume my chosen service just to get access to my content just so we can collaborate.
Needless to say, I work with a large community of other smart people who create stuff, just like I do. It would be great to sync up with their latest work, and have them sync up with mine. And not go through a different hoop for every content creator :)
Occasionally, I have a bad technology day, and I can't get to a decent network, or my device gets upset, or something like that.
I still need access to my stuff, regardless of pieces of tech feel like working today -- or not -- as the case may be.
People like me are driving our IT team absolutely bonkers. The same is true in so many businesses that I work with.
The IT team understands what I need to do to get my job done (really, they do), but they've got a job to do as well -- e.g. protect sensitive information, control costs, integrate with other apps and workflows in the company, and so on.
I personally don't like using the patchwork of techniques I use to get my job done. And neither do they. If the IT team offered me an easy-to-consume service that solved all of this, I'd be first in line to give it a shot.
Now you're probably starting to appreciate what Syncplicity is all about: sync, sharing and collaboration that users love and IT can trust.
And the more time I spend with it, the more I'm starting to realize this is a pretty big deal.
Since neither you nor I have much patience for laborious presentations, let's give it to you all at once:
- enterprise-grade transparent content sync
- easy to consume and control for registered users and non-registered users alike
- agnostic and integrated with many devices and applications, intuitive “folder” model
- oodles of IT controls around security, compliance, usage, etc.
- integration with existing ECM environments like Documentum, Sharepoint et. al. around workflow
- and an enterprise-friendly consumption model that doesn't impact the consumer-like experience
The big challenges it immediately addresses? (solely from my perspective)
- getting your personal content synced across everything you use
- getting your team's content synced with everything they use
- getting collaborative content in front of external entities: customers, partners, clients, etc.
- enabling 80% of what people want from enterprise mobility with a simple service
- helps IT gain better control: information access, auditability, bandwidth usage, etc.
- great flexibility where content actually "lives" -- single instance, replicated instances, etc.
- a unique take at device backup/restore
- no need to send large attachments through an email system (enterprise or shadow!)
- seamless "push" of updated content to all consumers -- no more "download this please" or "go to this application to get an update" – everyone on the same page
- opportunities for all sorts of new content-oriented workflow applications
- and, best of all, a consumer-grade experience delivered "as a service" with full cost transparency and IT control
I hope I've piqued your interest ...
What It Does
At its core, Syncplicity is about intelligent sync that's well integrated along two axes: what business people need and what IT people need. And no, they don't have to be mutually exclusive :)
I think in terms of folders: mine and those of others.
If it's my folder, I can decide what's in it, how it gets synced and how it gets shared -- that is, within the constraints of IT policy. If I elect to consume someone else's shared folder, that follows me around as well.
I can elect to have local copies on my device, or simply pointers to the cloud data store -- as I prefer. If I need to share with someone who's not a Syncplicity user, I can send them an email link to the content, as well as protect it via a PIN etc. Basically, I control my content across my devices and across those who I've chosen to share with.
From an IT perspective, there's a broad range of granular policies to selectively enforce by corp/group/folder/individual/device -- everything from a less-restrictive model that encourages widespread use (and hence visibility by IT!) to a strict lock-down model -- with everything in between.
And, yes, you can remotely wipe content ...
The consumption model is interesting.
Syncplicity uses an external enterprise-grade cloud to deliver most of the services, and it's for a good reason: it can be damned hard to collaborate externally across the corporate firewall, and that's where much of the value lies.
That being said, the enterprise IT team can exert strong control over access policies, enablement, use cases, etc. as they need.
The product team's goal is to put progressively more control back in the hands of the enterprise IT team over time as they desire: for example, encryption key management, IT-owned storage pools, access to audit logs, etc.
Syncplicity uses a fast-release cycle, so blink twice and there seems to be a new set of features.
Not everyone's cup of tea, but a very attractive model for so many customers I've met.
The experience for the business user is just about as dead-simple and attractive as I've seen for any sync product. App integration is good, I can check on what's replicated and what's not, I can prioritize that presentation I need RIGHT NOW, it does as much as possible in the background (within the constraints of what iOS will allow on my iPad and iPhone), I can see a log of updates, roll back to earlier versions, etc. etc.
The current experience for the IT administrator is pretty straightforward for most moderate-sized use cases and/or support of a specific business unit.
But before long, we'll need to see things like better AD integration, more granular logging and custom policy tools around things like geography before the typical global corporate could standardize on it. All that -- and more -- is coming quite soon I am told.
And, best of all, no need to invest in a bunch of stuff up front -- you can always do that later if you want.
Easiest pilot rollout on the planet, from what I can see -- just send someone an authorized invitation, and you're off to the races.
The Wow Factor
So, I mentioned I was impressed with what I saw. Let me share some of those "wow" moments I had:
I want it, and am willing to pay for it -- out of my own pocket, if need be. I spend far too much time in content logistical hell these days. Worth every penny. Heck, I'd probably get it all back in data plan savings, as my current approach is to replicate everything. Sure, it would be better if it was approved by the IT guys, and integrated into some of the other tools I use, but very much OK as a standalone proposition.
As a content creator, this solves a *huge* problem for me. I create different folders with all my dot-latest, and simply send out emails with links to anyone and everyone who wants to follow. Case closed.
It made me think about device backup differently. A few weeks ago, my iPad had a bad day, and I had to reinitialize. The apps came back, but what about my stuff? Simply fire off the Syncplicity app, and it would all come back for me. Not to mention that all the files were available via a web view if I needed it.
I would be greatly reassured that I was in control, and could decide what I wanted synced/shared, how I wanted it done, etc. And I could see how the IT team could come up with policies that met their needs but didn't get in the way of what I needed to get done. Win/win!
As I'm inevitably at the receiving end of all sorts of rich content feeds, I could see myself subscribing to a dozen or so cool folders, and always have some useful reading ready to go on my device -- network available or not. Wonderful productivity tool for me. Of course, I'm probably looking at a bigger iPad before long :)
There's a hard problem in some industries getting up-to-date/authorized content in front of users. Imagine, for example, a Documentum or Sharepoint-based application that has the current version of truth, but you've got a "last mile" problem.
Since most people make a point-in-time copy at some point (and never go back) I could always be assured that everyone is looking at the dot-latest version of whatever. Getting people on the same page, so to speak :)
And as I thought about what my IT team is going through (which mirrors almost *all* of my customer conversations), I could see the clear win for them: great service, easy to consume – and most of the controls that they don’t have today as people are generally left to their own devices to shovel content around.
Maybe you're doing the same.
What struck me about Syncplicity was that it addresses a good hunk of the meaningful enterprise requirement (e.g. controlled content collaboration) with a very simple and easy-to-consume offering: a great consumer experience, external enterprise-grade cloud, and IT in control.
As the Syncplicity team took me through their roadmap thoughts, it was pretty clear to me that this offering (while eminently useful now) will be moving fast and furiously over the next twelve months: more integration points with various applications and content managers, more control points for the IT crowd, new variations on consumption models, and more.
I'll do my best to keep you updated :)