» Archive for the 'Collaboration' Category

Skype is set free

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by David Goldes

The sale of Skype to a group of private investors presents the company with both a challenge and an opportunity.

The challenge is to transform its popularity as a platform for free voice and video calls from computers and smartphones into greater profits.

The opportunity is to return to its roots, akin to its mode in the pre-eBay days, and get into startup mode.  This should translate into greater innovation and far more flexibility as well as the ability to operate with less disclosure (as a public company, eBay’s investments in developing new technologies, for example, would be disclosed in public filings).  The company can also grant new and existing employees stock options, something that can improve retention of key employees and help bring in new ones.

Rumors of a sale have been around for a while (we speculated on this last April).  Somewhat surprisingly, the buyer didn’t turn out to be a traditional telecommunications company with a vision for the future.  Another surprise was that the sale didn’t include Skype’s founders, who own key intellectual property that is currently part of a licensing dispute.

Regardless, as an independent, Skype itself may turn out to be a next generation traditional telecommunications company – if it can find a way to leverage its current worldwide base into a profitable one.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

In the briefing room: Alfresco Share

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Cody Burke

Information does not exist in isolation; indeed, most if not all content in an enterprise setting is touched by multiple knowledge workers who have to collaborate in some manner to complete their missions.  Not only that, but as more and more knowledge work is performed by distributed and disparate teams, with members located in different cities and time zones, companies need to factor this in and integrate collaborative processes with content management.  Despite the reality of how work is conducted, there is little to no underlying functionality to achieve this in tools that manage content.

Alfresco Share is one option to address the lack of collaborative features in content management systems.  Alfresco has made a name for itself in the content management space through its commercial open source business model that provides a cost-saving alternative to offerings from traditional content management (CM) vendors.  Not satisfied to rest upon its laurels, the company has introduced Alfresco Share, an interface for its ECM offering that manages team collaboration around documents, projects, and teams.

Alfresco Share sits on top of the company’s document repository alongside its Document Management and Web Content Management solutions as part of Alfresco’s Enterprise Content Management offering and is included in both the Community and Enterprise Editions from Alfresco.  In Alfresco Share, all content, be it in documents, blogs, or wikis, is treated the same and stored in the central document repository.

What Alfresco Share brings to the table is the empowering of knowledge workers to interact with content and colleagues via features they are familiar with from social networking applications that allow them to share content, form virtual teams, and monitor project status and team updates.

Knowledge workers form virtual teams around projects that allow them to collaborate together and create communities where both internal and external users can work around specific content.  Specific sites are created for projects were team members can access content such as blogs, wikis, and documents, find contact information for team members, and keep track of recent activity around the project.  One key omission is the lack of imbedded presence awareness and direct contact options, although it is possible to work around this to some extent, for example by cutting and pasting phone numbers into a soft phone.

One feature that knowledge workers will find particularly useful is the inclusion of activity feeds, which allow the knowledge worker to keep tabs on the actions of coworkers and stay up-to-date on relevant content.  The utility of activity feeds, or streams, is that they provide a personalized single location to present activity that is relevant to the user.

Collaboration is without question the wave of the future for knowledge work, and surely we will see more collaborative functionality from Alfresco and other CM vendors in the future.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Putting All of Our E-Mail Eggs in One Basket: Gmail Down Once Again

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

I gave more thought to this column’s headline than I usually do (our editor-in-chief will heartily agree on this point, to be sure).  Others that came to mind were “Don’t Send a Boy to Do A Man’s Job” or possibly “You Get What You Pay For.”

Regardless of what the headline reads, the fact is that more and more people are relying upon a free e-mail service, Gmail, for business purposes.

When it fails, which it seems to do with alarming alacrity, Gmail users go crazy.  Yesterday, Gmail was down yet again, this time for almost two hours.

“I want to strangle someone” a senior executive at a large retail company said to me yesterday.  “I told you not to outsource your mail to a free service,” was my reply.

The last major Gmail outage was in February, unless I missed one since then.  This week’s would be the seventh major outage in one year.  Most of what my colleague David Goldes had to say then still holds, so in the interest of brevity, I’ll ask you to continue here.

Google blames the outage on a capacity miscalculation during server maintenance.  You can read what they had to say here.  But I implore you, please go there one at a time so we don’t overload their servers.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Yakabod’s Yakabox

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

When one strips away all the marketing hype, technical terminology, and buzzwords from knowledge sharing and collaboration products, the real measure of a tool is simple: does it help get work done?  The future of the knowledge workers’ workspace is the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE) but, until our vision is addressed and realized by vendors in this space, it is incumbent upon companies to find tools that support the CBE’s basic principles, namely to provide a single work environment for knowledge workers, reduce friction in knowledge sharing, and embed community into the workspace.

It is easy to lose sight of the fundamental question an organization should be asking when deploying a knowledge sharing and collaboration tool, that is: “how will this tool help my company get work done?”  This often happens because products and tools are segmented into arbitrary and confusing market segments (just look at the variation in TLAs in the content management market, you have CM, ECM, WCM, DM, among others).

A breath of fresh air in this space is Yakabod; the company offers a product, the Yakabox, that promises to be an end-to-end platform that gets work done.  This offering is a hardware appliance incorporating enterprise search, content management, collaboration, and social networking functionality.  A hosted version is also available.  Yakabod’s value proposition is to keep things simple by placing those four applications in one place, aiding in knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the ability to find what one is looking for.

The user interface is very clean and straightforward, and features an activity feed-like stream of items that are relevant to the user, as well as user profiles and favorites that are content-based, such as documents, teams, blogs, or any other item in the system.  What is presented in the activity feed can be fine tuned via a “Matter Meter”, which can be adjusted to show items of varying degrees of importance.  A busy knowledge worker, for example, could set the meter to only show items of high priority.  Yakabod’s enterprise search works in a similar way: the system learns a user’s preferences and adjusts search results accordingly based on relevance to the user.  The results are drawn from structured and unstructured data sources, including online repositories, wikis, social tools, and existing legacy systems.

To make deployment easier, the Yakabox integrates with existing sources such as Microsoft SharePoint and Office, shared drives, and electronic repositories.

Security is a strong point for the Yakabox.  The company has its roots in providing collaboration and knowledge sharing tools to the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the Yakabox meets Department of Defense PL3 security standards.

One promising aspect about Yakabod’s philosophy as a company is the recognition that knowledge sharing and collaboration applications such as enterprise search, content management, collaboration, and social networking are interconnected and interdependent.  Put simply, when these normally disparate elements are combined, the sum is greater than the parts.  The Yakabox may be in some respects closer to the Collaborative Business Environment than many other offerings currently on the market: it provides a single, overarching environment for knowledge workers, reduces friction in knowledge sharing through tight integration, and embeds collaboration tools into all areas of knowledge work via social networking functionality.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: FatWire TeamUp

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Expectations for the work environment have changed dramatically over the years as knowledge workers became familiar with tools in the consumer market that are still in their infancy in the workplace.  The change has been driven largely by the rise of participatory online activity; simply put, knowledge work has evolved to become less focused on a one-size fits all presentation of information to a model that requires dynamic, interactive, social, and customizable content.

There are many benefits to adding a social layer to content.  The addition of profiles, status feeds, wikis, and blogs adds context to information, giving the knowledge worker helpful and often critical background information and a deeper understanding of where the information sits and what it relates to.  Additionally, social tools embed community into content, allowing users to make the jump from a piece of content directly to the author without leaving the environment.

The need for this kind of contextual and social experience has been recognized by FatWire, a content management company.  It recently updated FatWire TeamUp, a collaboration and community platform that allows the creation of social networks deployable as internal collaboration spaces for knowledge workers or as customer facing applications to engage site visitors and create communities.  TeamUp includes blogs, wikis, and profiles, as well as the ability to create team workspaces.  Additionally, it integrates fully with FatWire’s other offerings, such as the FatWire Content Server, as well as EMC Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, and Windows- and Unix-based file systems via the FatWire Content Integration Platform, which uses peer-to-peer architecture to enable access to content stored in repositories.

One of the three tenets of the Collaborative Business Environment is Embedded Community, which implies deploying community and collaboration tools, such as e-mail, instant messaging, presence and awareness into environments where knowledge workers perform their tasks, linking knowledge work and collaboration, and knowledge workers with each other.  The use of such functionality increases the knowledge workers’ ability to effectively do their jobs by making it easier for them to find content and resources for their work.  FatWire TeamUp does this by adding a layer of social networking to its WCM platform and is worthy of consideration by organizations looking to add context to information and connect knowledge workers with each other.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Gordano Messaging Suite

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Cody Burke and Matt Siper

With apologies to Paul Newman, “[W]hat we have here is a failure to communicate” is an aphorism that could be heard in the boardrooms of many companies.  This is, in part, because few companies have deployed knowledge sharing and collaboration tools that allow co-workers to communicate effectively.

One model for such platforms is the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  A CBE is a workspace designed for the knowledge worker that supersedes the traditional desktop metaphor by providing one single work environment, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing that eliminates extra steps, and Embedded Community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

One company that offers a viable solution for companies in need of a Collaborative Business Environment is Gordano, which offers the Gordano Messaging Suite (GMS), an e-mail and instant messaging server.  Companies can integrate e-mail and IM functionality into a variety of external systems through open APIs and mashup technologies.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Microsoft SharePoint integration that the company introduced in version 16 of the Gordano Messaging Suite; it enables full integration of address books, calendars, and other PIM data with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, allowing for user accounts to synchronize GMS data within the SharePoint interface.

Earlier versions of the platform already supported the ability to integrate instant messaging with Microsoft Office via Gordano’s Collaboration Sever.  Additional integration allows GMS as share calendars, contacts, notes, folders, and address books Office.  Access is also possible through other clients including Apple iCal, Mozilla Calendar, and GMS WebMail.

While Gordano handles typical tasks such as e-mail and IM very well, what’s really interesting is the Gizmos feature, essentially JavaScript mashups that can be configured to extend functionality through the creation of custom buttons and actions.

While Gordano might not be right for all organizations, their tools are worthy of consideration, especially by existing Microsoft customers that would like to embed collaboration tools on the road towards building a Collaborative Business Environment.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.   Matt Siper is an analyst at Basex.

CompuServe Requiem

Friday, July 3rd, 2009 by David Goldes

The original CompuServe service, first offered in 1979, was shut down this past week by its current owner, AOL.  The service, which provided its users with addresses such as 73402,3633 and was the first major online service, had seen the number of users dwindle in recent years.  At its height, the service boasted about having over half a million users simultaneously on line.  Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s.

CompuServe users will be able to use their existing CompuServe Classic (as the service was renamed) addresses at no charge via a new e-mail system, but the software that the service was built on, along with all the features supported by that software, from forums for virtually every topic and profession known to man to members’ Ourworld Web pages, has been shut down. Indeed, the current version of the service’s client software, CompuServe for Windows NT 4.0.2, dates back to 1999.

CompuServe members can convert their existing addresses to the new e-mail system at the CompuServe Mail Center.

David M. Goldes is president and senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Zoho

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Cody Burke

It may seem obvious that the various software tools, platforms, and environments used by knowledge workers should work together, yet an examination of common tools used in the enterprise shows that this is often simply not the case.

Basex has codified the desktop metaphor of the future as a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  Three high-level tenets describe the ideal CBE, namely the One Environment Rule, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  This workspace should provide a single integrated environment to work in, remove friction-such as extra steps in a process or application or that caused by poor tools (search platforms that regularly deliver 564,768 results are suspect), and embed community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

For companies looking to build a CBE, there are multiple options in the market including offerings from some of the largest players including Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.  There are however, also many smaller players that offer considerable functionality in environments comprising rudimentary CBEs.

Zoho, formerly known as AdventNet, provides Web-based desktop productivity software.  The company  has ten fully integrated productivity and collaboration applications and nine business applications available.  Modules include standard productivity software for applications such as e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, document management, wikis, and chat, as well as business applications such as CRM, Web conferencing, reporting and BI, project management, and online invoicing.  The applications are available on-demand, or for on-premises deployments with over 10,000 seats.

All the applications work together: if in the document library, a user can open a document in a tab without opening up a separate word processor.  He can also initiate a chat with the author from within the document library through integrated chat functionality that moves with the users as they shift between applications.  E-mail can be sent from within applications, without moving to the actual e-mail application.  Attachments can be viewed without opening a separate application, i.e. a Word document can be viewed in the Zoho Writer application instead of opening a separate instance of Word on the desktop.

Zoho’s compliance with the three tenets of the Collaboration Business Environment is demonstrated by the tight integration between applications and the embedded presence awareness and instant messaging functionality that extends across applications.

Zoho may not be for everyone, but its simplicity and tight integration between applications makes it worthy of consideration for companies looking simplify their collaboration and knowledge sharing environments.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex

Questions and Answers About Knowledge Management

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Victor, a senior manager at HP, posted an insightful question concerning the current state of knowledge management in the Basex Information Overload Network on LinkedIn (if you aren’t yet a member, and over 100 people joined in the last month, click here).

With his permission, I am reproducing his question and my reply with the hope that the discussion continues below.

“I’ve some questions about KM.  First, what is the most important function of a KM system?  The content management?  The collaboration based communication channel?  The security control mechanism?  The all-in-one portal?  The fast multi-faceted based search engine?  Now that we have a dedicated function for knowledge management and there are CKOs who are in charge of that, then what’s the core mission of it?  To my understanding it’s not only about technologies, or just setup some document management system, or an enterprise wide SNS system… Then what is our major target?  If I’m asked by the boss ‘what’s your strategic value?’ how can we answer that question?  A position or team without a clear vision and goal is worthless.  Say for IT department it is a business automation enabler, for sales department it’s the source of revenue.  Then what is the added-value of KM?  Sorry for the layman question but I’m curious to get the answer.”

Victor, to me KM is more of a discipline than a specific system.  In order for companies to remain competitive, they have to ensure knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, and collaboration.  One of the greatest problems in this area is that individual problems are looked at in isolation, without an understanding or regard for the “big picture” so to speak.  Someone managing a document management project may not take into consideration what someone managing a new or existing search tool or workflow system is planning.

My approach has to be more holistic; I sometimes refer to it as “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” (despite the fact that this oversimplifies).  I have found that, when working with companies that are trying to answer questions similar to yours, few understand where one technology, such as content management, stops and where another (workflow, search, unified communications) begins.

To help end-user organizations better understand how to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we organized our coverage of all things knowledge-sharing and collaboration around the concept of what we called a “market supersegment,” which is essentially an amalgam of 22 markets most people think of as separate and distinct.  If you look at knowledge-sharing and collaboration from this viewpoint, you will find it much easier to address many of your questions.  Every company and CKO will have different core missions by the way.  I would surmise that the underlying commonality will be to keep information flowing and break down barriers.  How one gets there will vary greatly by organization.  You also have to take into consideration tremendous variances in corporate culture, which will then dictate how comfortable people feel about different forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing.

I hope this at least begins to address some of what you were trying to understand.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

What is Twitter?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 by Seth Shapiro

Twitter is the mutt of all that is social. A cross between an instant messenger, e-mail client, and a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter is a fast paced environment. On Twitter, users post 140 character updates (called “tweets”) quickly and (sometimes) persistently to their Twitter page for others to view and comment on. Users can become followers of other Twitter contributors; followers are sent tweets whenever their “tweeter” (someone who uses Twitter) updates his or her page.

Similar to other social networking sites, membership is free and the service relies solely on its users to create content and refer friends. There are myriad uses for the service and the information generated by users.  Twitter may be used by a small group of friends to keep each other updated of their physical location or be useful in a college setting to find someone else looking for a lunch date. The availability of multiple ways to update Twitter increases its accuracy.  Users can broadcast tweets from the Twitter Web site, text message from any SMS capable cell phone, or through outside applications such as DSTwitter (which allows updates from the Nintendo DS gaming console).

Twitter has proven itself effective in fields its creator Jack Dorsey never envisioned. Taking on social networking giants such as Facebook, Twitter offers something Facebook cannot: a fast paced environment where information can be shared almost instantly.  Facebook has, however, attempted to mimic Twitter with its recent redesign that has placed more emphasis on a user’s activity stream.  Using Twitter, people have reported that they are able to ask for information, ranging from a restaurant recommendation to a cure for the hiccups, and get responses immediately. Those with many followers could draw attention to a new hip gadget or poll users on their ideas of a new business proposal (with limited information of course).  Additional business uses include running searches through the tweets that are being broadcast to track conversations, gather information about products and identify trends.

The membership in Twitter may number as many as five million (it does not disclose such figures). If a company could convert a small percentage, say 4% into followers, it would have the ability to communicate with 20,000 people through tweets. Twitter makes it very easy for a company to have a dialog with its customers and business partners.

Twitter may have originally been designed to update friends and family on one’s whereabouts (founder Jack Dorsey first called the system “Status”); however, with the extended availability to tweet and to be delivered daily updates of those you follow, Twitter has become much more. It is a pool of information that anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or even a Nintendo DS has access too. Friends may use it to meet for lunch, singles may use it to find others, and businesses may use it as a means to contact those they have not yet touched.

Till my next “tweet.”

Seth Shapiro is an analyst at Basex.  This is his first Analyst Opinion.