SmartAdvice: Web-Based Collaboration Helps Bridge Travel, Time Gap
The next generation of Web-based collaboration tools are appearing as more companies use near-real-time sharing of documents to speed workflow, The Advisory Council says. Also, Microsoft's delay in releasing Longhorn won't affect the desktop-software strategy of most companies.
Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
Question A: What tools and techniques can be used for remote team collaboration in times of diminishing travel budgets?
Our advice: When traveling to far-off places, or even walking to the next building, is expensive, inefficient, or otherwise ill-advised, technology provides solutions to help with meetings and other collaboration efforts. These range from the mundane telephone call to sophisticated collaboration software. Recently a new breed of software has become available, which requires only a Web browser to share workstation desktops and files, to collaborate on documents, and to engage in audio or video teleconferences, all through a single, integrated system. Uses for this kind of software include virtual classrooms, sales meetings, and secure remote technical support of Windows workstations.
The essentials for collaboration are the ability to share documents, and a convenient real-time communication mechanism. There are many kinds of documents used in team collaboration, including E-mail messages, project plans, word-processing documents, presentations, drawings, spreadsheets, etc. As humans, the most desirable situation is a face-to-face meeting with a document in hand, but travel time and distance can be bridged by use of technology.
Technologies for the near-real-time sharing of documents include groupware products such as IBM Lotus Domino/Notes or Microsoft Exchange/Outlook. Web-based meeting software for delivery of presentations also is available through hosted services such as WebEx Communications and Microsoft PlaceWare.
A new breed of software, which combines Web-based collaboration on documents, meetings online, and remote access to authorized PCs and applications, is appearing, in a natural evolution where Web technology meets the collaboration suites.
Web-collaboration functions include:
Application and document sharing
Multiple editing and inputs to a single document (white-boarding)
Instant messaging and polling
The focus of the new generation of products has become collaboration across enterprise boundaries. These collaboration products don't themselves offer document editing or input capability, but create an environment where multiple users can use an existing tool over the Web.
The costs of gathering a large number of people from remote locations can be significantly reduced by use of Web-based collaboration tools to drive business value.
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