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9/17/2010
04:39 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Liaise Launches E-Mail Collaboration Tool

The Outlook add-in automatically captures dates, action items, and more from e-mail messages and creates to-do lists and calendar items, making it easier to work with the information that's often lost in an Inbox.

The Outlook add-in automatically captures dates, action items, and more from e-mail messages and creates to-do lists and calendar items, making it easier to work with the information that's often lost in an Inbox.Liaise was created, according to company founder Sid Minassian, to address the facts that e-mail is still the most common collaboration tool in businesses, but finding and tracking the project information contained in messages is a laborious process. Many businesspeople receive one or two hundred e-mails a day and send up to 75 more, according to Minassian's research, and don't have an easy way to surface the task and schedule data from those discussions. There are dedicated collaboration tools available, but the challenge there is to get everyone on a team -- which can included people outside the company -- up and running on those systems. Everyone uses e-mail, though (even if they also have a collaboration tool).

Liaise semantically analyzes the contents of e-mail messages for "Keypoints" related to projects, tasks, and timing. For example, an e-mail sent to Jim with a sentence that begins "Please call…" will produce an action item for Jim. Terms like "today" and "ASAP," or "right away" will add a due date to the action item and, since it's due "today" assign it a high priority. Any of these choices can be overridden, enabling the user to "train" Liaise to process information more and more accurately.

E-mails sent to team members not equipped with Liaise just appear as regular messages, with or without the Liaise comments embedded, eliminating the problem of getting everyone to use a product before anyone benefits. Members with Liaise, though, get a dashboard that lets them manage their projects, action items, due dates, and status. The software also provides a List mode for adding items outside of e-mail. (There's no way to link in external files yet, though.)

Mobile devices that sync with Outlook can see the relevant Keypoints, and Minassian says full-featured mobile apps are in the product's future. The company has also built a version with Sharepoint integration as a demonstration product and is looking at other forms of integration with external systems. A Web edition is also in the works.

The product, which has been in beta for a while, got its commercial release this week. Liaise works with Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010 and with Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Subscription prices range from $50 per user per year up to $3,150 for 50 users for two years.

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