Sunday, January 29, 2006

Online Workspace Tools for Distributed Teams

Some of the tools that are useful for distributed teams are also appropriate for teams that may not be distributed. I recently had a chance to listen to the collaboration requiremetns of a small team, within a financial services company.

They told me that they were considering WebEx workspace and Rational Clearcase for online document collaboration. They are a content development team. They work mostly with word documents, PowerPoint files, image files and pdf files. They struggle with document versioning and finding a document associated with a project quickly and efficiently. [They work on about 20 projects a year]

I compared the options they had. I looked at WebEx Workspace and compared it with Microsoft SharePoint. Rational Clearcase, in my opinion, is not for small non-technical teams. WebEx Workspace looks promising. There is document versioning available. However based on the trial account I looked at, it has a long way to go before it can catch up with the ease of use and feature list of SharePoint.

One downside of SharePoint is that it will require other Microsoft products such as FrontPage [to customize the look and feel] and the latest versions of Microsoft office for users to take advantage of all the features that are available.

Branding of the home page was never mentioned as a big priority for the users I spoke to. Ease of use and navigation were big priorities. A simple clean home page was another big priority. Total cost of ownership was a priority. Help to understand the boundaries of the software and best practices of online collaboration was a priority.

The marketing efforts of Microsoft seems to be towards promoting SharePoint as a WebSite creation tool for small companies and businesses. I wonder if that is the right direction. Even the examples provided in the Microsoft web site emphasise branding over collaboration features.

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