Google Wave for Business Analysis

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Like many other business analysts and project professionals, I get excited about nifty new applications and tools that help me do my job just a little more efficiently. I love getting in early and seeing what the new requirements management and definition tools have to offer, and I really enjoy just scanning Source Forge for the latest and greatest open source applications. With that as a preface, the social web is all “atwitter” with news on the upcoming Google offering, Google Wave.

What is Google Wave?

As described by Google,

Google Wave is a product that helps users communicate and collaborate on the web. A “wave” is equal parts conversation and document, where users can almost instantly communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Google Wave is also a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services and to build extensions that work inside waves.

Per Wave co-founder, Lars Rasmussen:

With today’s tools if you want live interaction you need an instant messaging client and a document editor with rich format capability. But we prefer a world where everything’s available to you right while you’re doing live communications. E-mail is an incredibly successful protocol, but with the [technology] advances since then, we think we can do better.

Just  based on what I’ve seen so far of the early demonstration and comments around the blogosphere, the Wave merges e-mail, instant messaging, document management and collaborative editing (think wikis and document portals) and even web-based “meeting” to form a sort of social supertool.

Now, as a business analyst, the words “communication” and “collaboration” immediately pique my interest, and I begin to think of how this type of tool might be able to be leveraged to help facilitate type of knowledge transfer that we do as analysts. How could it change our notion of the way we create and edit requirement specifications? How we prioritize and package work? How we interact with both business owners and distributed team members? The possibilities really appear to be endless.

Points of Interest

I’ve embedded below the demonstration of Wave from the recent Google I/O.

If you’re a technophile like me, you’ll enjoy the whole video, but for the purposes of this post (and acknowledging you may not have an hour-and-a-half to spare), here are a few highlights you might cue to:

  • Collaborative Editing: Around the 30 minute mark for discussion on “live concurrent editing”, including edit accountability and version history with merging and branching-like functionality akin to that of source control applications.
  • Meetings: (Approx. 37:00) An idea or two on how “waves” might be used for meetings.
  • Organizing and Tagging Content: (Approx. 40:00) One of the obvious challenges of managing content, especially as volume increases, is organizing the content and making it easily accessible to users. Google discusses their tools for organization and tagging capabilities here.
  • General discussion of Wave extensibility (43:25) Interestingly, Google envisions extensions working somewhat the way they do for the Firefox browser.
  • Polling: (Approx. 55:00) – I liked this app for a couple reasons. First, it makes for a quick way to get the pulse of large, distributed user groups without using expensive 3rd party polling companies or pay-per-use web polling providers, second, it’s integrated! Your polling results can be tracked an integrated in the same repository for project notes and communication.
  • Twitter Integration: (57:28) – Integration with Twitter as an example of an add-on application.
  • Possible ALM Integration: (1:01:40) Integration with bug tracking tools – I am especially excited about this function as it looks like it would be quite simple to use the same type of functionality and extract requirements from meeting notes, e-mails, other interactions and place them in a requirements management tool. The ability to assign a specific item to an individually makes it easy to imaging project managers getting excited about using such functionality for tracking questions and issues and their resolutions.
  • Open Protocols: (1:05:20) Discussion on use of open protocols for development of Wave enabling “any organization to build their own Wave system.” It’s clear that they envision Wave to become a ubiquitous communication protocol much like e-mail is today, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to have a Google account to use it. This all sounds pretty ambitious, but then again, so was the notion of e-mail not so long ago.
  • Real-time language translation:  (Approx. 1:12:00) To cap off the demo, they demonstrated a service that translates 40 different languages in real-time. Can you imagine a use case or two especially for distributed teams with language barriers? Obviously this, like any other translation package, will have its kinks to work out, but the idea is exciting.

It will be interesting to see how producers of requirements and other application lifecycle management (ALM) tools react. Because Wave is going to be mostly open source with a very extensible set of APIs through which other applications can plug in to Wave, I envision some of these companies building bridges to leverage Wave’s collaborative capabilities.

Of course it’s easy to get over-hyped about the next big thing, but what is most exciting is the overall direction in which collaborative media and tools are moving, and the possibilities that emerging tools appear to be able to provide.

Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on features or tools that would enable analysts and project professionals to be more efficient in their work? What are your predictions on adoption of Google Wave in software development as a serious alternative to or integration point for other requirements and social collaboration tools presently available? How about your general thoughts on Google Wave? Will it live up to the early hype, or will it be destined for it’s 15 minutes and not much more? As always, I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts!

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