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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Collaboration Solution as a Business Productivity Tool

Summary: Confronted with SharePoint, eRoom, Wiki, email attachment, secure file transfer appliance. What is a smart IT manager or a smart business users to do? The bottom line is which tool(s) would boost your productivity with minimum hurdles.


The old saying is No man is an island. The current hip intelligentsia phrase is The World is Flat. The business IT buzz word is collaboration.

Back on earth, we get the job done by sharing information, verbally, visually, and electronically. We send files back and forth, we edit and comment on them, we add our own bit of knowledge before sending the files on to someone else. It is the norm these days for most business processes.

Numerous technologies have been/are being developed to address the needs of sharing information as part of the collaboration process. Many of these solutions are addressing the organizational question of how multiple people can access and use the information when they need it and how they need it. And, how can one be sure that the information is protected and secure?

At the everyday level, people still rely on email and email attachments to send information to each other. Whether using email or another means of file transfer, such as the Accellion Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance, directly sending files from one person to another (or to a group of people) is still the most effective means for getting the right information to the right person(s) in most organizations' collaborative processes.

Shared repositories from products like Microsoft SharePoint and Documentum’s eRoom are typically called “workspaces for teams.” Predefined team members can place files on the shared space as well as access files that others have placed there. If you think about it, these kinds of repositories are a new and improved version of good ole' FTP servers. One drawback for shared workspaces is that they tend to be designed with an “organization-centric paradigm” and with rigid access control. In other words, outside users, consultants and partners, often have no easy access to the information even if new business processes require it.

Wikis, as embodied by the world’s largest and most famous wiki, Wikipedia (and an ACA Guy favorite), is another exciting new technical solution designed to improve collaboration. Wikis have caught on with technical audiences such as engineers, but the adoption rate by average non-technical knowledge workers is still low. The biggest hurdles are organizational security and confidentiality requirements on information access as well as user resistance on having to learn another protocol and/or managing another set of ID/password.

So, the net-net of it is that collaboration tools like email, secure file transfer appliances, shared workspaces, and wikis are often complementary. No single technology is right for all situations; they all have their place in the enterprise.

Take the example of an Accellion customer, a major global media agency. They have implemented the Accellion secure file transfer solution to allow end users to exchange large files across geographic boundaries and with external partners from day one. In parallel, they are implementing a large digital asset management (DAM) tool that would consolidate all of its media assets on a global basis.

Although the Accellion solution was a separate project initially, it is now part of the DAM implementation to enable easy transfer of the information as the evolving business processes require.

Sort of like collaborating across flattened islands, huh?


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