Huddle chief: Software can't change human nature

The content management company's chief on why enterprise software has been fighting the wrong battle.

Content management company Huddle has some big ambitions - to become a $1bn giant and take on Microsoft. But one thing it's not going to mess with is human nature.

Going against human nature is where its rivals in the content management space have gone wrong, according to Huddle's CEO Alastair Mitchell.

"If you are trying to change human nature you are fighting a losing battle, and for too long enterprise software has tried to change people," he told TechRepublic. "This is about how you conform to human nature, but do what the enterprise needs."

Getting the most out of the content an organisation creates is a perennial problem for CIOs, and while collaboration and content management systems have existed for a long time, end users have often been reluctant to embrace them fully.

Mitchell's criticism of existing content management systems is that "these systems have been built in isolation from the way people really work". And while many software companies are now looking at adding social media style features to their products in order to fix this, he argues that the way people collaborate at work is very different to the way they use social media in their personal lives.

While in their private lives people have become more confident in using social media to share information, photos and likes and dislikes, that doesn't work in the office: Mitchell said that only four per cent of people will tell colleagues they've created a new document.

"People don't like sharing, the system should share for you," he said.

Huddle allows users to manage projects, share files and collaborate with people inside and outside of their organisation, and allows users to access files online, on desktops or via BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad apps.

The UK company was set up in 2006, and now has 100 staff and has raised $15m in funding, tripling sales year on year. Mitchell has big ambitions: "We want to be the next Autonomy - what they did for intelligent content behind the firewall we want to do for the web."

The company also recently unveiled a file synchronisation tool to allow organisations to securely sync and access documents on desktop and mobile devices. Huddle said that the use of consumer file syncing tools is growing because these make it easier for workers to share content between devices and work from any location - the downside is risk of information leaking or becoming out of date.

According to Huddle, the average document it manages is shared between 20 people, making it important to make sure everyone is working off the same version. The Huddle Sync technology predicts which files are likely to be most useful and syncs them across devices, and includes a remote wipe capability if devices are lost or stolen.