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Collaboration Becoming Ever-Present At Burson-Marsteller

The global PR firm is building a real-time knowledge-sharing environment based on Lotus software.

Global PR firm Burson-Marsteller says it's been served well over the last decade by its InfoDesk knowledge-sharing portal, which gives employees a window into about 90 databases built on IBM Lotus Software's Domino architecture. But the firm's been beefing up the real-time collaboration capabilities of the site via Lotus' Sametime and QuickPlace apps.

Burson-Marsteller is using InfoDesk as the gateway into more than 100 QuickPlace work sites that have been set up to manage team projects. Employees with access to those secure project sites can use the instant-messaging and presence-awareness capabilities of Sametime that are embedded in QuickPlace to communicate with other members of their workgroups.

CIO Jeff Marshall says his staff is wrapping up deployment of the latest version of Sametime, released earlier this month, and he's hopeful that it can be implemented as a universal Web-based tool available to all internal users of Infodesk. That would also prevent him from having to deploy Sametime on nearly 2,000 desktops. Currently, the Sametime deployment is limited to fewer than 200 people in IT and select workgroups.

Sametime made a particularly auspicious debut at Burson-Marsteller in New York. It was rolled out Sept. 10, 2001, and helped execs track employee whereabouts in the wake of the terrorist attacks the following day.

The impact of the growing collaborative abilities hasn't been quantified, but chief knowledge officer Per Heggenes says, "There's no question we've had huge productivity increases. We're doing more now with fewer people." Up next at Burson-Marsteller: personalized InfoDesk interfaces, and wider use of presence awareness. Heggenes and Marshall are planning to make it possible for employees to build personalized InfoDesk home pages so they have immediate access to their tools of choice. The pair also wants to make it easier for employees to locate subject experts by expanding presence awareness into more areas of the site. Doing so would turn employee names that appear on InfoDesk into live links that tell others whether they're online and available.

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