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Salesforce and Dropbox both want to be your company's next SharePoint

New apps focus on lightweight, mobile-first collaboration

What's the best way to get your company's teams to work together? Decades after the digital revolution, it seems businesses have a long way to go to find out, and now Salesforce and Dropbox are both entering the field with their own answers.

First up was Salesforce, which on Monday announced it had acquired Quip, which began life as a document writing and editing tool and now is focused on changing "the way teams work together." Pitched as a way to move beyond email, it lets collaborators trade notes on spreadsheets, documents, task lists, and more, all with features like version control, chat, and integration with a variety of other services.

With a reported purchase price of $750 million, it's a significant investment from Salesforce, maybe spurred on by the company failing to buy LinkedIn.

And then today, Dropbox made an announcement of its own: It launched the public beat of Paper, its own take on collaboration, with a focus on meeting notes and tasks lists. On the surface, it's a bit less ambitious then Quip, but Dropbox already has a lot of document collaboration and annotation tools built into its primary document storage offering, so it makes sense that Paper is a little more focused (although it is perhaps the millionth app to be called Paper, none of which have seemed to pan out as the creators have hoped).

Neither has all the functionality and extensibility that Sharepoint offers, but for many teams, that might be a bonus: They're both heavily focused on mobile first, cloud first, which is exactly the strategy that Satya Nadella has emphasized with Microsoft. In a lot of scenarios, I think that Sharepoint can bring a lot more baggage than is needed.

See the success of Slack, which has become the fastest growing enterprise application of all time, but which has stayed incredibly focused on extending the chat metaphor in new ways, rather than trying to tackle much of what traditional intranets offer.

On the other hand, both the new entrants have a tough fight ahead. As TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden noted, Salesforce has often struggled with integration of acquisitions, while Dropbox's track record with things that aren't syncing files is pretty dismal (disclosure: I was a diehard Mailbox user).

But I think the emergence of these new options is a good opportunity for IT to step back and inventory what's actually being used in their enterprise, listen to what employees are using and why, and be open to trying to adapt information management workflows to a way that takes into account the needs of the business. For a lot of scenarios, a heavy information management solution that's rarely or incompletely updated isn't as valuable as a system that can quickly connect staff to the information — and people — they need.

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