Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is Dropbox Making us Stupid?

Yes, I’m paraphrasing the famous article by Nicholas Carr with the title of this blog post. But I do have a point to make. For years, the document management and content management solutions suffered a bit from the stigma of being too complex and difficult to use. Then, the nouveau bread of solutions stormed in, by propelled by the power of consumerization: cloud-based file sharing with Dropbox leading the charge. Suddenly, all the problems were solved...
Well, not quite. The consumer-grade software seduced users with its simplicity. It usually did just one thing but it did it well and easily. Before the CIO could blink twice, the Dropbox or some similar software was all over the enterprise. Of course, we all have heard the stories about the lack of security, the compliance issues, and the legal exposure this caused. But that’s not my point today.

My point is that users started using this software to do actual work. Work, by definition, is a more serious matter than sharing Christmas pictures with your relatives. When one knowledge worker needs to share a document with another one, Dropbox or a similar file sharing system might be a great way to do it. Probably better than email. But when a team of 10 or more people start using file sharing to jointly work on a set of documents, it may result in chaos.

The workers start mixing up document versions. The wrong people get to see the documents when they shouldn’t. People attempt to make edits at the same time only to overwrite each other’s changes. A manager critiques the document before the subject-matter expert got to review it. And, nobody can find anything... All that because they use file sharing when what they really need is a solution with versioning, access control, library services, workflow, and search. In short, they need a team collaboration or document management solution - not file sharing!

There is nothing wrong with file sharing. It is great. It saves a lot of time, hassle and money. But we need to continue educating ourselves about the right tools for the right job. Some activities can be done easily using file sharing. In the enterprise, it should be an enterprise-class file sharing solution with security, compliance, and under the control of the company. But again, that’s not my point today. My point is that to share documents, file sharing is great. To collaborate on documents, you need team collaboration software.

You may be able to loosen a screw with a pocket knife but, let’s face it, a screw driver is a far better tool for the job.


  1. So, is OpenText losing revenue to DropBox, or what is your point?

  2. The point is when employees start to throw files willy-nilly into unsanctioned file-sharing cloud services - they expose the entire company to substantial legal risk.

    1. Hi Brant
      Thanks for commenting! Legal exposure, lack of compliance, and security risks are absolutely an issue and yes, we do have a solution to address that problem at OpenText - Tempo Box. I was, however, trying to state another problem: increasingly, people don't know when to use their document management system versus file sharing. They end up using file sharing, because it is easy, when they really needed a DMS.
      In any case, it's great hearing from you!