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Guess what’s coming soon…? Be Social (and productive) at work!

The moment of social business is here

It is a great moment in the history of social collaboration. The idea itself is not new. Much has been written over the last 2 years about what enterprise software can learn from the principles of “social” design of popular consumer tools like FaceBook and Twitter – the impact on user adoption, on information access, on time saving, on productivity, and indeed, on the fundamental structure of organizations.

There are also scores of solutions in the market which specialize in “social collaboration” – Yammer, Chatter, Podio, SocialText and so on.

However, the last 2 years can be best described as the early beginnings of the social business movement.  Experts were just starting to flirt with the idea and its implications, and only a handful of bold companies were implementing and experimenting with this new approach. Over the last 2 years, the movement has matured, gained strength, and is now at a cusp. Although not yet close to mainstream adoption, the approach has been tried, vetted, and oozes promise.

The shortcomings of social collaboration solutions today

However, “social collaboration” software today suffers from various shortcomings. Although they claim to be more than “Facebook for business”, most current social collaboration tools offer little more than thin networking and social messaging (or wall messaging) capabilities. This approach may be great for fostering cross organizational connections and communication, but is apparently not suited for structured business needs (project management, document management, scheduling). Other social collaboration tools see themselves as “glue”, where third party applications can be plugged on top of their social layer. However, the integration in this case is limited at best (because of the divergent agendas of the social collaboration vendor and third party), and importantly, the plugged-on applications have no inter-integration. In a true collaboration solution, every piece interacts with other pieces.

The problem of current social collaboration solutions, in our view, is a lack of collaboration depth.

On the other hand, traditional collaboration software providers like Google Apps (Google Plus is NOT a social collaboration app!) and Office 365, by virtue of their size, and their user bases and positions to defend, are understandably slow and cautious in making bold changes. For this reason they have not entered the social collaboration market in a bold way (Office 365 has some basic networking features).

Guess what’s coming soon?

At HyperOffice, we have the nimbleness of a startup, and more than 10 years of experience of developing collaboration software for SMBs. We have the goods to create a social collaboration software with substance.

And we are going to.

We are within weeks of launching new social capabilities to our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite.

While we are not revealing much at this point, the best way to describe the new features is that structured collaboration needs of businesses have been combined with the open, democratic design of social media tools. The following graphic is a good conceptual depiction:

If you want to be informed when we launch, please visit the following page, and reserve your spot on our invitation list. Don’t miss out!

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King Arthur on a Collaboration Horse

We have often seen King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table brandishing swords, lances and scary looking maces in their glorious battles. But how would you feel if you see them use mobile phones, laptops and collaboration software in their armory?

In the spirit of fun, we created a cute video of King Arthur and his Knights using HyperOffice’s collaboration tools to help with their conquests. What else would you get then but dragons with bewildered expressions when the knight pulls out his laptop? Or a horse snorting in astonishment  when a knight types out a message on his iPhone (did they have rules about riding and messaging at the same time back then?)?.

Please do check out the video and share it with others!

A Roadmap for Researching and Selecting Collaboration Software – GOLDEN Case Study

After a certain point in their growth, most organizations realize that email is not enough for collaborating in their expanding network, and decide to implement specialized collaboration software. They then need to undertake the rigorous process of identifying their specific needs, and researching various solutions, analyzing them and selecting the collaboration software for those needs.

However, there aren’t many guides or precedents to guide those search, and the researchers are left mostly on their own.

Steve Waddell, an expert on global and local inter-organizational networks and change management, had to undertake the exercise of selecting a collaboration backbone for GOLDEN, an expansive global non profit network of academics, research centers and corporations promoting sustainability in business. After studying many well known solutions in the market, Steve finally settled with HyperOffice.

Steve went further, and documented in detail the entire process from identifying needs, to researching and shortlisting solutions, to comparing them on specific criteria, before finally choosing HyperOffice.

It is a great endorsement for us because it brings an objective third party view of why HyperOffice was chosen over other options in the market. But besides that, it is also a great roadmap for companies looking to go through the same process, especially coming from an expert who has an in depth understanding of distributed networks spread across private, public and non-profit organizations – a highly collaborative context. It is also a great case study for non profits looking to implement collaboration software across multiple organizations scattered globally.

Do check out Steve’s blog about the subject.

Please check out his whitepaper detailing the process.

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The Strategic Potential of Collaboration Software

Those who follow the HyperOffice blog know that in our last series of posts, we have been focusing on the business problem of collaboration, beyond a narrow technology focus.  “Collaboration” in its broad sense, is what every organization is ultimately involved in – people working together to achieve organizational goals. In our last post, the “three pillars of collaboration” we had emphasized that to be truly collaborative, organizations need to get 3 ducks in a row – policies/processes, technology and culture – rather than depending solely on technology.

But that is not to say that technology is completely subordinate to the other two “pillars of collaboration”. Quite often, technology creates previously unthinkable possibilities. To illustrate, before collaborative mobile and internet technologies – there was simply no way to keep field workers on the company’s information grid. But now employees can be kept on the grid wherever they are, which creates fantastic new opportunities in terms of how organizations can operate and structure themselves. This is an example of technology profoundly impacting the organizational bottom line.

In practice though, most often companies fall in the vicious cycle of stamping out immediate fires. Technology is approached similarly – a tool to share documents with so and so client, a sounding board for remote employees, a tool to collect information from website visitors. This approach however, ignores the true potential of collaboration software and leaves organizations with a rag tag of disorganized and disjoint tools (remember the problem of collaboration sprawl?). As that darling of manager types, Franklin Covey, reminds us, keeping on top of strategic goals is important to long term success, rather than getting caught in the whirlwind of everyday activities. Companies which are strategic, look beyond the myopia of the immediate, and create a framework for future success.

Collaboration software, because of its all-encompassing nature, needs to be seen in a similar strategic light. Here are the long term strategic possibilities that collaboration software creates:

Operate at greater scale: As Thomas Friedman told us in “the world is flat”, globalization and the internet have blown off our roof, knocked down our walls, and swiped out the floor from under our feet. The whole world is now a big market for talent and resources. This creates a massive potential for small and mid-sized organizations who now have access to the best talent and resources across the globe, at the most competitive rates, without the overheads of managing such a team in house. Collaboration software creates the framework within which such teams can be enabled with all the tools to work together and contribute.

Free organizational knowledge. Traditionally, organizational information has been scattered across multiple computers, servers, or email accounts – inaccessible exactly when needed. Collaboration software can be seen as an “organizational grid” where organizational information resides, and may freely be shared across the company network. This has a tremendous impact in terms of knowledge management where every document, record or any other information is readily available to employees exactly when needed.

Beyond that, collaboration software, especially cutting edge social collaboration software, encourages people to go beyond strict roles to contribute knowledge, and help each other out – a freeing up of knowledge trapped inside the minds of employees.

Engage customers and partners. Not only does collaboration software allow companies to extend to employees across the globe, it also allows companies to engage customers, partners and vendors like never before. Companies can even bring customers and partners right into their business flow. The result is happier, hence more loyal customers and partners, besides efficiencies in operations. To illustrate, a company may set up an extranet space for a customer project which involves external vendors. This is a place where everyone has a transparent view of project status, and can access information and contribute when their activities are due.

Streamline processes. Common processes relating to information may be served right through collaboration software – project management and delegation, document review, HR requests etc. Tools relating to specialized processes may be integrated right into the collaboration software using unified login or APIs.  Collaboration software therefore acts as a central hub for company processes. Not only is it simpler for employees to access everything in one place, it also breaks process silos, where processes may share the same information and have interactions.

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The 3 Pillars of Collaboration

Do you have a funny feeling that you seem to be doing the same work over and over in your office? Grand projects are initiated with a flurry of meetings and earth shaking intentions, but amnesia sets in as soon as everyone steps out of the conference room. Or responsibilities are handed from person to person like a baton in a relay race, with a loss in context at every step, till they end up in the lap of someone who has scarcely a clue about the original intentions. Or files sent back and forth, till they settle in an obscure corner of the business never to be found again. And you end up doing the same work over and over, burdened with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, when the exact same issues are discussed yet again in a meeting.

I am certain this evokes pangs of personal experience from everyone.

Many organizations suffer from this malady of broken collaboration. Some much of the time, some part of the time, only a few none of the time.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every project was realized systematically, graduating from inception to execution to fruition, without loss in time or resources or context? We would surely be so much more productive.

In spite of being a technology company, we are amongst the first to admit that technology is not the sole panacea for the solution. Technology can be the backbone to help you implement the right things, or even open hitherto unavailable possibilities, but it needs to have supporting pillars. The following are the key pillars of collaboration.

1. Processes and Policies. The management needs to clearly lay out how things will be done. Who is responsible for what? What is the chain of command? What are the workflows and information flows? What tools will be used? With these basics ill defined, responsibility cannot be affixed, nobody is quite sure how they are supposed to achieve things, scores of cracks are created through which information may fall, and everyone ends up working at cross purposes. Ambiguity is the greatest enemy of collaboration.

Processes need to have collaboration built into them. It goes without saying how much different departments (and further, everyone in the company) can benefit from each other. For example, Marketing and Sales interact with the market everyday, and have much valuable information for Product Development about user needs.  But this sharing doesn’t happen nearly enough.  Don’t expect Sales and Marketing to exchange information on a whim. They already have tons going on. Sharing therefore needs be built into the processes of Sales, Marketing, Product Development or any other department in the company.

Technology is part of the picture, as it implements in practice what is laid out by policy. In the above example, Sales and Marketing should be able to log user feedback, which is forwarded to Product Development and made part of product development cycles. Other examples are workers being encouraged to store documents not on their desktop, but in the shared documents repository where they are available to everyone else. Or making sure that the project management system is used to set up projects, assign responsibilities, and update progress, rather than projects being handed down by worth of mouth and email, so that everyone has visibility of ongoing projects.

Although many policies are implemented by technology, they precede technology, and ensure that everything aligns to organizational objectives.

2. Technology.  Much of the work done in modern organizations involves information flows. Technology, or specifically information technology manages these flows, and makes sure the right people have the right information at the right time. Technology is therefore a key pillar in collaboration. This also explains the huge success of collaboration software, which ensures that workers have access to the information they need to perform their jobs.

Technology can also open new avenues and possibilities which were unavailable before. For example mobile technologies ensure that workers can be productive even when they are at home or on the road. Or social collaboration tools which allow information to be displayed and shared in unprecedented democratic and viral ways which spurs collaboration like never before. Technology can therefore impact policies and processes, and even organizational objectives by opening new vistas.

3. Culture. Culture picks up where policies leave off. Not everything can be achieved through processes and policies, and may not even be desirable, as employees may feel stifled. Culture may be thought of as unspoken and unwritten policies, and yet an equally powerful tool for influencing behavior. A “collaborative culture” is a company where people are encouraged to step out of their formal work boundaries, and share information that may be of use to others. Collaboration is part of the DNA of such companies and employees are self-directing in their collaboration behavior, rather than being directed.

SMB Group’s recent study titled “2011 communication and collaboration study” surveying over 700 decision makers found that companies with a “collaborative culture” actually had better revenue outcomes.

Policies may help reinforce a collaborative culture. For example in the SMB Group study, companies which reward group achievement as opposed to individual achievement were said to have a “collaborative culture”.

Conclusion

It is obvious from the above that none of the three pillars really exists in isolation. They all influence and reinforce each other.  Companies which see collaboration as a desirable strategic outcome need to take this broader, multi pronged approach.

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Free Webinar | The State of Business Collaboration 2012. What’s your strategy?

A lot has been said and written about the business impact of collaboration software. And businesses seem to be on board, as indicated by the fact that communication and collaboration software has been one of the fastest growing segments of the cloud. However, collaboration software remains an ambiguous term and is used for a wide umbrella of software products. This is undoubtedly confusing for businesses owners looking to find how they can put the promise of collaboration software to use for their companies.

Research organization SMB Group went beyond the talk, and recently undertook a comprehensive study titled the 2011 SMB Communication and Collaboration Study involving 800 business decision makers to find actual communication and collaboration software adoption, attitudes, usage behaviors and actual business benefits.

HyperOffice is getting together with the SMB Group to deliver a joint webinar to discuss the findings of the study, the state of the collaboration market in general, and establish the critical link with real business benefits.

The webinar will have invaluable takeaways for business owners looking to adopt collaboration software in 2012, or wanting to extract more out of their existing solutions. Analysts, journalists and experts, who want a comprehensive picture of the collaboration market based on hard data will also find it useful.

The Webinar will take place on Dec 15, at 4 PM EST and is open to all for free. Please register at this link.

How to Sync iPhone with Outlook

While it makes sense to take a strategic approach towards collaboration software, as a tool which will have far reaching effects on how a business operates, oftentimes, businesses opt for collaboration software in response to an immediate problem. This is a first of a series of informative articles we will feature on the HyperOffice blog that deal with common problems that businesses face,  and how they can be solved by HyperOffice as well as other solutions.

As iPhone becomes popular as a business tool, employees quite naturally want to be able to access and sync Outlook and iPhone mail, contacts and calendars. There are three main ways to get this done:

1. Wired sync using iTunes

2. Wireless sync using a web service like HyperOffice

3. Sync using an enterprise messaging server like Exchange

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Wired Sync Using iTunes.

1. This is applicable if you are an iTunes user. You need to follow the following steps.

2. Make sure the iTunes plugin is enabled in Outlook

3. Connect your iPhone to your computer

4. iTunes should open up automatically

5. You need to open the Info tab in iTunes, and select “Outlook” from the “sync contacts with:” and “sync calendars with:” drop down.

6. Click the “Sync” button

Limitations

– You need to connect your iPhone to your computer everytime you need to sync.

– It is only one-way sync, meaning your Outlook information will appear on your iPhone, but not vice versa.

– Although iTunes has a “sync email” option, it only syncs email settings and not messages. To sync email between iPhone and Outlook, you need to set up the same IMAP account on both.

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Using a web service like HyperOffice. (Recommended only if you are looking for a team, not personal solution)

If your SMB does not have, and can not afford an enterprising messaging server like Exchange, a web service like HyperOffice is the ideal option. HyperOffice is a cloud based service that syncs with both Outlook and iPhone, and hence acts as a bridge that allows bi-directional sync between Outlook and iPhone. This offers a number of benefits. Firstly, you don’t need to install any dedicated servers or software. Secondly, you are not tethered to a single computer, and your information is synched wirelessly over the air in real time even when you are travelling. Plus, HyperOffice also includes support for a wide range of other device, and allows you to sync Outlook with devices like BlackBerry, Android, and Nokia etc. You need to take the following steps:

1. Sign up online for HyperOffice and log in

2. Set up synching between HyperOffice and Outlook using the HyperShare add-in.

3. Go to the “Settings” tab, and then “Mobile Sync”

4. Click Setup Phone, and Select the manufacturer, model & carrier from and enter phone number. Click continue.

5. In this step, enter code received on your mobile device and click on verify.

6. On the next screen, select data items to sync.

7. Once HyperOffice is set up, you now need to set up your iPhone. First you click on settings on your iPhone and scroll down & tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.

8. Tap Add Account & select Microsoft Exchange as the type of account.

9. Enter HyperOffice email address and the password.

10. In the new server field enter hypersync.hyperoffice.com and hit next and select the services (Mail, Contacts, Calendars) you wish to sync.

Read more, or contact us for more information..

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Using an Enterprise Messaging Server like Microsoft Exchange

This option is applicable if you have Microsoft Exchange (2003, 2007, 2010) set up at your company, and powering Outlook. iPhone syncs with Exchange through the ActiveSync protocol. You need to take the following steps:

1. Set up your Outlook account using Exchange

2. On your iPhone screen, click “settings”

3. Click on mail, contacts, calendars

4. Click on “add account” and select “Exchange”

5. On the next screen, fill out your Email, Domain, Username, Password, and Description.

6. If auto-discovery is enabled in Exchange, the next screen will be automatically prepopulated. If not, you need to fill out the server information, and click next.

7. Now iPhone displays a list of data types you want to sync – mail, contacts and calendars. Click on “save” to complete the process.

Limitations

– You need to have Exchange Server installed, which is typically an enterprise product costing up to thousands of dollars. This is not an optimal solution for SMBs.

– If you want to extend syncing capabilities beyond iPhone, Exchange does not support non ActiveSync devices.

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HyperOffice is movin’ on up!

We are pleased to announce that HyperOffice is moving from 6101, Executive Boulevard, Rockville, Maryland to a bigger, better space at 30 West Gude Drive, Rockville.

A bit of remembrance

It is not without nostalgia and a slightly heavy heart that we bid adieu to our office at Executive Boulevard. To imagine as empty the place which saw constant buzz and chatter – of sales delivering their pitches, the management clinching their deals, support dealing with customers – some irate and some amicable, repartee going back and forth over the cabins, and a few jolts (remember the recent earthquake).

This office was home to HyperOffice for more than four years, through a crucial period of our development. We matured as individuals and professionals, as a company, and our industry matured from a nascent only-heard-at-tech-conferences market to the next current big thing in business IT – the cloud. It was also a period of great growth and wide recognition for us as one of the most well established vendors in the space – a “market pillar” as a recent Info Tech Research study called HyperOffice.

An exciting future awaits!

But the truth is, the old office was simply starting to burst at its seams. It was no longer large enough to contain our fast expanding team, and our ambitions. We all love our larger, snazzier new office, with a little bit of sci fi décor thrown in. It is here we hope to write the most exciting chapter in our history yet. As a sign of things to come, we have already landed some important customer wins in the first couple of days here, and one can feel the energy of this “new beginning” reverberate through the new office.

Accordingly, our primary contact number has changed from 301 255 0018 to 240 428 1700. The old number will continue to be operational for a few months before we rest it. Everyone’s extensions remain the same. Our toll free number 1.800.434.5136 also remains the same.

Our new address is 30 West Gude Dr, Suite 150, Rockville, MD 20850. That is the place to direct your correspondence, fan mail, or personal visits in the future :). 

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HyperOffice Recognized as Collaboration Market “Market Pillar” in Info Tech Research Study

Info Tech Research Group just put out a market study titled “Vendor Landscape Plus: Collaboration Platforms”. Info-Tech Research Group’s well known Vendor Landscape reports help enterprise IT decision-makers identify a short list of vendors for their IT programs depending on their needs.  Vendors listed in the study make the cut only after fulfilling rigorous criteria.

We are pleased to report that HyperOffice is one of the solutions Info Tech covered this year, and has been recognized as a “market pillar” in the collaboration market. This is testimony to HyperOffice’s more than 10 years of experience and prominence in the collaboration market.

The is one of the most comprehensive studies on the collaboration software market in recent times. Apart from profiling prominent vendors in the market, it includes larger insights on emerging themes and trends in the collaboration market, maps user needs to type of solution, and includes primary end user research as well. One of the things that stood out for us is the growing importance of “social collaboration”.

It is a paid report, but we recommend it highly to analysts, writers and others who are interested in larger trends in the collaboration market, as well as to end users who want to assess collaboration vendors and chart out an implementation strategy.

Please do visit the Info Tech site and check out the study.

Eminent industry analyst compares HyperOffice with Office 365, Google Apps and others

You hear us gush about HyperOffice’s socks-rocking capabilities all the time don’t you? But we are supposed to do that right?

How about hearing about HyperOffice from an eminent industry analyst who has been observing, writing about, and commenting on the information technology industry for more than 30 years? You can bet on one thing – they know their stuff.

We are super glad to tell our readers that Amy Wohl, widely known analyst and commentator on the cloud and collaboration markets just published a whitepaper comparing HyperOffice and other prominent solutions in the collaboration market.

Apart from a main feature comparison chart, Amy identifies other important parameters and themes in the collaboration market, and how different solutions compare of them. Amy has identified four major areas that companies looking for collaboration software must consider.

Features: What is the feature range and depth. Does the suite have the features you want?

Mobile Collaboration: Companies are increasingly looking to enable their mobile workforce with access to important business information on their iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and other mobile devices. Does the solution support the features and devices you are looking at?

Social Collaboration: The “Enterprise 2.0” debate has been around for 2 years now, and the benefits of “social” tools in companies have been widely accepted. Does the collaboration suite you are looking at have social tools like profiles, wikis, and activity streams?

Integration: Since many collaboration solutions in the market have been built through acquisitions, it is important how well different features of collaboration software play together, as well as integration with commonly used software. How well integrated is the product? Does it work together with other software you use in your company – MS Word, Outlook etc?

To see how HyperOffice compares on these factors, please read Amy’s white paper – HyperOffice and the Online Collaboration Marketplace.

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