Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tools : Document and Information Sharing

We used new technologies to collaborate online with customers . Initially we created extranets [secure web sites that only you and your customers can see] to share documents with our customers. It saved a lot of communication time, avoided unnecessary email chains and presented a organized information map of what was going on in the project to the customer. Almost all projects teams have a customer extranet today. However most teams have a web site that is managed by one person.

One of my team members, Mike Phyle, used to manage our extranet. That was not his primary responsibility and project managers had to wait until he had the time to post content to the site. In 1999 one of our project managers made a distress call to me and said "Can you get a system that allows me to post the documents myself without waiting for Mike". I promised her that we'll get a system like that without any idea what that system would be.

We then found out that Sharepoint is packaged free with Microsoft Frontpage [Costs a few hundred dollars]. We used Windows Sharepoint Services to share documents and meeting minutes with customers. We used an internal installation for a while and decided that it was cheaper and more efficient to use the Hosted service that microsoft provides from its small business web site. They do a pretty good job with that. It is pretty inexpensive too if you have about 25 customer projects at a given point of time. We used it for more than two years before we moved to an internal enterprise system.
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