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HyperOffice Collaboration Software Suite Featured on Two High Authority Roundups

After getting a flattering review from PC Mag, HyperOffice was covered again last week by PC Mag in “Ten Apps That Can Make You More Productive”.

Sean Carroll, the author of the article, felt that collaborating online HyperOffice can help workers “work smart instead of longer”. Although “having enough time left over to play Fantasy Football”, isn’t exactly the reason you would want to be more productive, as Sean cheekily puts it, greater productivity is something every business strives for.

You can click on the image below to see the slide show with all the suggested products, including the HyperOffice Collaboration Suite.

HyperOffice #6 in GetApp Top 20

HyperOffice also had the previlige of being listed at #6 in the “top 20 applications of September” by GetApp, a well known marketplace of cloud apps, which has been covered by top tech blogs like TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and InformationWeek. HyperOffice is the top app in the collaboration software arena.

The ranking is based on a composite algorithm that incorporates several criteria, including listing popularity on GetApp.com, number of reviews and comments, social media presence such as Twitter and FaceBook followers, volume and quality of integration points, and input from analyst reports. The ranking is updated monthly.



Going Virtual using HyperOffice Collaboration Suite Prevents a Charity from Closing Doors

A cloud collaboration provider, an accounts and management consultancy, and the Schizophrenia Society of Canada may sound like an unlikely coming together. Not so.

We’ve always said that HyperOffice helps clients work and compete better, cut IT overheads, save the hardware and maintenance costs associated with traditional software, and focus towards their core areas.

In a classical illustration, HyperOffice was successfully used by a not for profit organization to navigate a financial crunch, and get back on its feet. You can also read about it in BC Penny’s press release titled “Virtual Management using HyperOffice Prevents a Charity from Closing it’s Doors”.

The Challenge

BC Penny, a well-known Canadian virtual accounting and management consultancy, was looking for a green technology to help the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, which was “struggling to balance its funding and day to day operational costs”.

The Society is run fully on donations, without any Government assistance. With a shortage of funds, the Society found itself having to dig into its reserves to even manage office lease and administrative salaries. Some critical decisions needed to be made, and BC Penny was entrusted the task of finding answers to these tough questions.

The Solution

BC Penny decided that the best way to go forward was to go virtual, and divert funds that were being spent on managing a physical office space. But to pull this off, the challenge was to find a solution that would allow Society members to work effectively as a team without being together in person, and importantly, require minimal maintenance and upkeep as the Society had no funds to hire an IT expert. It was also “fundamental that the solution be user friendly as there were no available dollar resources to provide any training”.

After extensive research, BC Penny found that HyperOffice fit the bill perfectly. It’s extensive integrated features would help members communicate, share information and coordinate activities – business email, shared document manager, project management, shared calendars, intranet workspaces, online meetings, forums, wikis etc. The availability of numerous HyperOffice free training resources like webinars, videos, white papers etc was ideal for “staff and board members who were not familiar with the internet”. Moreover, since HyperOffice is fully hosted and outsourced, hardware and maintenance costs were saved as well.

The whole project was planned and implemented carefully over 18 months as the Society was converted into a virtual operation.

The Benefits

The immediate benefit was that “thousands of dollars were saved and reinvested towards the cause instead of the cost of leasing a physical office with a long term commitment and paying for full-time administrative staff.”

Going virtual also opened new vistas, now that the organization was virtual and had access to national (or international) resources rather than having to depend on local talent.

The Charity’s auditors, who are amongst the top five in the country, were pleased with the new structure and HyperOffice.

If you want to zoom in further, the entire process was chronicled and featured in Chapter 20 of a new book “The Non Profit Guide for Going Green” published by Wiley and Sons in the USA.

This implementation has real lessons on the benefits of the cloud for the non-profit sector. The cloud revolution is sweeping the for profit sector, and non profit organizations stand to benefit even more because of tight donation dependent budgets. They now have access to user-friendly collaboration software and other technologies traditionally available to large businesses that help them work more efficiently, work in new ways and serve their cause better. We are pleased and privileged that HyperOffice helped serve the noble cause of the Society.

HyperOffice Collaboration Suite Reviewed by PC Mag

Edward Mendelson, an eminent software reviewer for PC Mag just put out a review of HyperOffice, which we were eagerly looking forward to. We are glad to get a “Good” rating from Mendelson and PC Mag, known for their rigorous and stringent review standards.

It was also encouraging to find that some of the features and capabilities we hold as the key strengths of HyperOffice found echo in Mendelson’s review.

As you may know, we recently gave HyperOffice a major interface makeover, in tune with the latest trends and technologies. Mendelson had some good things to say about it: –

“HyperOffice is a slick online collaboration service that lets you store and access files, tasks, contacts, links, documents, and almost any digital file on a HyperOffice-hosted website.”

Our positioning as a fully hosted, inexpensive and hassle free Exchange and SharePoint alternative for small businesses also found resonance in the review: –

“Bottom Line – (HyperOffice is) A fully hosted alternative to building your own Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers.”

“Designed as a cloud-based, lower-priced alternative to Microsoft Office 2010 with components of SharePoint and Microsoft Exchange that’s accessible via any browser, HyperOffice is easy to set up as both an intranet and an extranet that lets co-workers, customers, and clients see specific data.”

As a small business ourselves, we understand the importance of customer service, and responsiveness to customer feedback for our SMB customers who often lack in house IT resources. This, we hold key to our offering, and was pointed out by Mendelson in his review as well.

“Overall, I was deeply impressed by HyperOffice’s depth of features, tight integration of all its elements, sleek appearance, and crack support team that was admirably responsive in both acknowledging the problems I discovered, and in many cases, fixing them almost as fast as I reported them.”

We are thankful to Mendelson for conducting a thorough and objective review, and educating the market about HyperOffice. We hope you will take his advice when he says:-

“HyperOffice should be high on your list of collaboration services to consider thanks to its combination of relatively low price and up-to-date interface.”

August 2010 Upgrade

We’ve been busy this summer rolling out our second update since releasing the modern AJAX interface. Most product improvements and fixes have been reported by our users. You, as our clients, are a major part of the development process and the feedback guarantees the best collaboration suite on the planet. Here are some of the highlights in this upgrade.

Email

1. Convert an email to a task directly from the mail module. Simply click the task icon beside the email subject, and add it to your personal to-do task list, or move it into the project management system.

This small feature will drive big improvements in solving your overstuffed inbox problem. No more hunting for to-dos and team tasks in your inbox. No more missed tasks. Not only does this clear your in-box, but you get additional management tools your inbox doesn’t offer such as progress tracking, status updates, task priorities, assign and notify, etc.

2. Preview attachments. A “preview” button beside your attachment let’s you take a quick look at the attachment before you send it. This will help you when you need to make doubly sure that you are sending out the right file and the right version.

Project Management

1. Subscribe to a project. If you are part of a project you want to keep top of, or simply want to track a project you are interested in, simply click on “subscribe”. You will be notified of all changes to the project including the addition of new tasks and changes to tasks already contained within the project.

2. Task assignees are now notified when a task is completed. Whenever the status of a task is changed to “complete”, everyone who was assigned to the task will be automatically notified, and they can heave a sigh of relief.

Contacts

1. Copy text directly from the contacts screen using the keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste.

2. The issue in contact management where all categories were not listed has been corrected.

3. When modifying the headers in the contacts module, you may now view up to 10 columns at once.

Personal Desktop

1. Improved the personal desktop settings area. The screens are more intuitive and settings easier to manage.

2. You can now filter and adjust what tasks are seen on your personal desktop. You can view all tasks assigned to you in every group for example. Simply click the “Modify Desktop” button at the top right hand corner of the personal desktop if this is permitted by your administrator. Then click the settings gear icon located near the title of the tasks component.

Site Publisher

1. System templates. You get to choose from a number of pre-built templates whenever you want to design a new homepage in Publisher. We have built templates for a number of contexts – landing page, navigation page, informational page etc. – which can just start adding your logo and content to.

Forums

1. Fixed bug that limited the number of posts

General

1. The print button is now working in all sections

RIP Google Wave – The Lessons we Learnt

Recap

Google Wave was born over a year ago, with Google’s weight right behind it. I remember watching a video of the Google I/O ’09 conference where Wave was announced to resounding applause by the charming Lars Rasmussen, co founder of the Google Wave project.

Right from the outset, everyone recognized Wave as a revolutionary product, built with the latest internet technologies, taking the “real time” web to a new level. Lars introduced Wave as “communication and collaboration software” but “commboration” would have been a more apt description, as it blurred the lines between email, IM, documents, wikis, text streaming, social networking, image sharing and more. It set itself an ambition no less than “redefining email”, the primary communication technology for over 40 years.

It is ironical that the gap between “Google Wave launched” and “Google Wave is dead” stories was a little over than a year.

As the readers must already know, Google Wave was formally put to rest as a stand-alone product on August 4th, low adoption by users cited as a reason.

An Analysis

In the consumer market, a drastically new technology has fair chances of taking off, because consumers like to experiment, and are forever looking for something new to cater to short attention spans. The business market however, is less venturesome, and the capabilities of a technology need to be clearly mapped to organizational needs. The important question is – what can it do for us? For example social networking and tweeting may be big hits with consumers, but are only gradually finding their way into businesses, after much debate.

There’s a big debate around why Google Wave died. We have our own opinions on why Wave didn’t take off in the business market, some of which we proposed at the time Wave started to catch on. Here are our arguments:-

Ill-defined uses

Ever since Google Wave was launched, the emphasis was always on its capabilities – you could co author “Waves” in real time character by character, you could embed images and video, you could use it as a platform to build cool applications, you could replay a wave as it evolved and so on. But there was never very clear articulation around – what can you use it for?

It was clear from the outset that Google expected the market to define the use cases for Wave. It felt that if it just put this powerful and compelling technology out there – uses would emerge from the user and developer community.

This strategy may work in the consumer market, but not in businesses. The technology follows well defined uses, defined over years of experience – collaboration on documents, text communication, audio communication, tools that help manage the customer cycle and so on. Sure, technology pushes the limits of how you can work better, but the changes are always incremental, never drastic. Software-as-a-service had to prove itself for years before being widely accepted as it is now.

No Structure

Business have also developed over years ways of thinking about its information – there is email, documents, IM, forums, wikis – each serving a somewhat separate purpose.

There is information we categorize as communication (email, IM), which is not highly structured, and does not need to be revisited often; and recurring use information, which is highly structured and needs to be visited often (documents).

Then there are different ways of how we work together on information – asynchronously (one person contributes at a time)(email) or synchronously (all participants contribute at the same time)(IM).

Google Wave threw all these different types of information – email, IM, documents, wikis, communication, collaboration, asynchronous, and synchronous – into a real time soup called a “wave”.

If that wasn’t already confusing, all waves were bundled together in a single inbox style interface. This was always calling for a new kind of “information overload” without even the benefit of familiar segregations in information types.

The whole structure was counter-intuitive from the start and expected a huge leap from its users.

The Workspace

Over years of working with businesses we have discovered that a collaboration solution needs to reflect the structure of an organization. Real time collaboration on information may be good for some situations but teams don’t need to work together just once, but on an ongoing basis, often on complex tasks involving sub tasks, deadlines, and sequencing of activities. They also need repeated access to the same information (forms, contract documents) and for information to be stored and archived for future access (if not for regulatory compliance).

Imagine different team members trying to find documents in their Wave inboxes.

These needs are best met by the “workspace” structure, which is the design principle of HyperOffice. A group workspace is a collection of all the information and tools a group needs to work together and coordinate activities – online document management, project management, shared calendars, wikis, shared address books and so on.

A permissions system allows only members to access group information and tools. Advanced permissions help distinguish the rights of members within the same group. This helps implement organization policy controls based on organizational roles. Policy control within Wave would have been a nightmare.

A single person can be a member of multiple team or project workspaces, just as is the case in organizations.

The workspace also helps achieve the HR objective of engaging and motivating employees. A workspace desktop is where a motto of the month may be displayed, or an “employee of the month” be recognized.

An Important Lesson

The Wave story also has strong lessons about how Google operates. It is well known that Google’s profits are overwhelmingly generated by its advertising business. Its Google Apps and enterprise software wing forms only a fraction of its profitability, and accordingly reflects its importance in the larger Google scheme. If Google finds something is not working out for it, it will simply drop that module/function/product or divert resources, manpower and development effort away. It is not primarily concerned about how much energy and resources business users may have expended transitioning to it. The skewed negotiating power of large vendors and small sized customers was nicely elaborated by Phil Wainewright in his article “Web giants and the helpless individual.”

A smaller company like HyperOffice, on the other hand, has a single minded focus on its collaboration business. Having no other product line or services, we devote all our energies and resources to our collaboration offerings  to ensure continued patronage from current users and win new users in a competitive market. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that our very livelihood depends on this.

Conclusion

Even if Google Wave had been successful it is hard to imagine to be used for more than as “email on steroids” or an ad-hoc collaboration tool. It didn’t having the makings, or maybe never even intended to be a full blown organizational collaboration software.

However, Google Wave has certainly left a legacy. It has pushed the limits of “real time collaboration”, and used cutting edge internet technologies in innovative ways. As Michael Arrington says, maybe it was just ahead of its time.

It will certainly be remembered as a daring attempt to topple email from its four-decade reign.

The Push Battle: Comparison of Push Email & Mobile Messaging Solutions

The era of the “mobile worker” is upon us. Employees are increasingly likely to be at home, traveling, on-site with the customer, or located in distributed offices. According to an IDC study published in Dec 2009, the world’s mobile worker population will pass the one billion mark by the end of this year.

This has spurred the demand for mobile messaging solutions – solutions that enable access to business information like email, calendars, contacts, tasks etc on mobile devices. This has been added to in no small measure by the comeuppance of swanky and powerful mobile devices like iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, which users now see as business devices.

Keeping with the trend, we added HyperSynch to our HyperOffice online collaboration software earlier this year, a service that lets users push email, contacts, calendars and tasks to their mobile devices, and keep them in sync across the cloud, their mobile phone and Outlook.

Solutions already exist in the market, ranging from powerful server based enterprise mobility solutions to personal information managers. With HyperSync, we sought to overcome three shortcomings we felt existed in the market, keeping our target small to medium sized company segment in mind.

Many solutions work only with a single device, forcing companies to purchase business mobile devices based on their mobile messaging software. Ideally a solution should enable any mobile phone employees already have.

The most well known solutions in the market are server based enterprise solutions, simply out of the reach of SMBs cost wise.

Other solutions are personal information managers, not ideal for team scenarios, where users also want to share information.

Based on the above, we have created a matrix comparing HyperSynch with well-known mobile messaging solutions in the market for users to see which one best fits their needs.

HyperOffice Up in the Air (Waves)

Apart from reflecting the buoyant mood here at HyperOffice, the blog title also literally reflects the coverage HyperOffice has received from tech media in the past couple of weeks. Since we launched the new version of HyperOffice, we have continued to attract the interest of well known bloggers, journalists and analysts following the collaboration software market. Shahab Kaviani, our Vice President, Marketing had the fortune of being interviewed by the very best in the market over the last few weeks.

Our positioning of bringing integrated online messaging and collaboration software with a laser focus on small to medium sized businesses seems to have found resonance in this fast evolving and growing market. Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS have popularized the “integrated” approach, but their focus remains towards the juicier enterprise segment.

Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC, interviewed Shahab for TMCNet.


Laurie McCabe of SMB Group, consulting firm focusing on the specific tech needs of small to medium sized businesses, interviewed Shahab for their “SMB Spotlight” podcast series.

Phil Wainewright, writer of the influential “software as a services” blog at ZDNet, and Managing editor at eBizQ, interviewed Shahab for eBizQ’s podcast series.

Make way for the all-new HyperOffice Collaboration Suite!

As you know, we announced the general availability of the all-new HyperOffice on the 20th of May. This announcement official ended a 6-month beta involving rigorous testing by thousands of our users, resulting in hundreds of bug fixes and enhancements.

The beta was steered by a “Product Development Committee” comprised of in-house experts and HyperOffice users. We made frequent trips to customer sites and conducted detailed customer interviews to get the new version just right.

As you know, the online collaboration market keeps growing like there is no stopping. New participants are entering the fray every passing day, Microsoft just launched its new collaborative range of products – SharePoint and Office 2010, even as Google and Microsoft fiercely wage the collaboration battle.

Being a pioneer in the online collaboration domain, we plan to ride this wave at its crest. The all-new HyperOffice has generated a lot of excitement in the market, and the whos-who in tech media had great things to say about the product. With our experience and depth of understanding of the market, our laser focus on small businesses, and a supercharged HyperOffice Collaboration Suite, we are hoping this will be a critical point in our company’s growth.

Here’s what the media had to say:-

Christopher Dawson from ZDnet, one of the world’s top authorities on Google Apps and online collaboration wrote in Can HyperOffice out-simplify Google Apps?

HyperOffice takes the relative simplicity of Google Apps and provides a turnkey SaaS solution”

David Roe from CMSWire wrote in his article HyperOffice to Take on Google Apps, Microsoft Web Apps?

While the release will give small companies the ability to collaborate with inexpensive and accessible tools, the release should also stir up the already turbulent and cloud app invested waters which Google and Microsoft (news, site) (with its upcoming Web Apps release) have been fighting in for months.

Matthew Weinberger of mspmentor.com wrote in his article HyperOffice Launches New Version of Cloud Collaboration Suite

I had the chance to take the new version of HyperOffice for a spin and came away intrigued – it feels almost like a desktop operating system in the browser window, and for the most part it had the responsiveness to match.

HyperOffice Nudges Google, IBM Aside with Cloud Apps for SMBs wrote Clint Boulton from eWeek in Dec when we had launched our beta.

HyperOffice launches new beta to take on Google Apps wrote Chris Kanaracus of IDG back in Dec.

It is great to see our vision resonate with the market. As Christopher Dawson said “there are many ways to skin the cat” (meaning many ways to serve the online collaboration market) and we hope to continue bringing a very distinct and compelling approach to this “skinning”.

Small Businesses Serve Small Businesses Best?

In a recent article at eWeek, Nathan Eddie wrote about a very interesting survey conducted by online marketer WebVisible. They survey found that 83% of consumers surveyed prefer smaller, local companies to larger chains due to lesser prices, higher quality goods and more personalized service.

Although the survey wasn’t conducted with the online business collaboration market in mind, the conclusion applies.

In a market dominated by Google and Microsoft, and their ability to monopolize airwaves, we found that one of our major unique selling propositions was the ability to offer personalized services, being a small business. We found that a certain segment, the small business consumer segment, especially valued this.

Google and Microsoft claim to be “everything for everyone” – the two are having a well-chronicled battle for the enterprise segment, and at the same time regularly talk about being imminently interested in the SMB segment. But their business model, and size, doesn’t allow for them to offer truly “personalized” services – hand hold customers with free training and consultation to get them started; have real people around to call when issues arise; allow for exceptions; or offer concessions and be flexible in diverse business situations.

All this is especially important for cash constrained smaller businesses which may not have an in house IT department. Offering such services to millions of consumers is not viable for mega businesses, which is why they cultivate a vast network of resellers and MSPs.

Similar themes are discussed in other articles I have come across recently. Keith Farrell asks the all-important question in his recent article – considering the multi-billion dollar size of the enterprise market, does Google even want your small business buck?

Phil Whitewright in an article last year titled “Web giants and the helpless individual” speaks about the frustration faced by users of big business web products experiencing mission critical problems.

With the inherent difference in the negotiating power of a small business user, and that of a mega firm with millions of similar small business users, such situations are bound to arise.

6 Essential Collaboration Software Tools

puzzlehandshake-300x230pxAlmost every passing day, someone launches a new solution under the banner of “collaboration software” adding to the myriad solutions already in the market, most of which are about as similar as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Besides there is a lot of high level, almost academic talk of the growing importance of  “real time” collaboration, “social software”, and “emergent structures”.  All this makes sense, as we have to wrap our minds around the dynamic forces at play in the business world, and find new ways to conceptualize and make sense of these forces.

But a no nonsense, pragmatic, on-the-ground picture also makes sense. This is because all the high level talk is not understandable to small business users, nor do they have the time and inclination to find out.

This blog post lists out the collaboration software tools that teams around the world are using in their day-to-day activities, tools which are easily recognizable and widely acknowledged for their effectiveness. These are: –

Email. Email has weathered recent attempts (read Google Wave) to topple it from its coveted position of the most loved software tool of information workers. In spite of being the grand daddy of software tools, email continues to be a big hit with teams. Almost everyone uses email to communicate, discuss issues, send files back and forth, manage tasks etc. A Jan 2010 study by Cisco found that 91 percent of the respondents use email most frequently for collaborating with others.

It is a different question whether or not email is the most efficient tool for collaboration, but try telling that to its fan base!

Document Collaboration. Documents are indeed at the heart of every company’s processes. Everything in organizations – orders, contracts, product design, specifications, marketing materials, policies, procedures, and strategies – is captured in a document of some kinds. To effectively manage documents, a company needs to achieve the following:-

–    To organize, store, secure, and backup documents.
–    To access them, and be able to sort and search information as needed.
–    Control who has access to which documents and what they can do with them.
–    To enable workers to work together on the same document.

A document management system enables a company to do the above.

Shared Workspaces. Shared workspaces are a virtual hub where each team can access team-related information. It is a combination of HTML pages and collaboration tools where team members can access and share files, coordinate schedules, manager joint tasks, have discussions and where team managers can publish announcements and share policy documents etc. Not only do shared workspaces help teams work better, they also serve as a forum where team members can be motivated and team spirit fostered.

Task Management. Scattered teams need a way to manage joint tasks where the efforts of team members have inter dependencies. Task management tools help a manager keep track of tasks and projects where he/she can assign tasks and responsibilities, set timelines, set sequences of activities, attach resources that will be needed for the tasks and track progress.

Task management tools also encourage transparency and allow a central view into team tasks where everyone can see what everyone else is doing.

IM. Sometimes team members across locations need to discuss issues in real time and need instantaneous inputs from others. IM or instant messaging allows team members to exchange text messages in real time.

Web Conferencing. The above collaboration tools all have their usefulness, but no team can completely do away with the human touch. But on the other hand, with globally scattered teams it may not be viable for everyone to meet in person.

Web conferencing or online meetings enable teams to interact using voice, video and other conferencing tools.  Team members can use their computer or phone to have virtual conferences on the go with large or small groups. This helps in team building, motivating employees and brainstorming issues. Tools like screen sharing, application sharing, file distribution etc. help make web meetings more effective. People also use web conferencing to hold virtual training sessions or sales seminars where anybody can listen in and participate even while sitting at home.

Traditionally, the above tools have been offered as separate solutions. But today, the thrust is towards integrated solutions where users can find all their tools in a single, convenient place, and benefit from data flowing freely between different tools. HyperOffice also aims at bringing such integrated solutions to its small business customers.