People using collaboration tools have found that working on shared documents often struggle, as they charge small portions of a document to meet their obligations, but perform those edits on an entire document. This situation is exacerbated even more when working on legal documents, when some parties should not see portions of a document at all.
Over time, documents will evolve so that they are much more granular. The Web presages this by compiling web pages from references to various images and text streams brought together on a screen for viewing.
I believe it is important for documents to eventually evolve into assembled components that are managed at both the assembled document level and at the component level, depending upon the specifications of the requester, the author or the team responsible for them.
This will give individual information workers greater control over their content, and much more precision on the content they are responsible for creating and maintaining. Document components should also facilitate new publishing models for published content as the information about component ownership and rights will be embedded with the document, making rights clearance and micropayments to authors more transparent. It will also push security models down to the content level, so that edge security services may eventually be rendered obsolete as content learns to protect itself.
So there is a vision. I have vetted this with many companies, but it doesn’t seem that the owners of collaboration understand the implications of this approach. It means dismantling much of what they have built around to create collaboration around documents. The future isn’t document-centric, it is component-centric – and the sooner we find tools to meet that reality, the sooner we can all move into a more rational and efficient future.