Archive for the ‘Collaboration Software’ Category

5 Benefits of an Intranet – Back to the basics

This post would qualify as a part of the “back to the basics” series. While cloud based business software has gained mainstream adoption over the past couple of years, many companies are dipping their toes in it for the first time, and are still asking the “why” questions.

This post answers the “why” for intranet software. Why should my company implement an intranet at all? How will it benefit me? Here’s why.

1) Productivity. An intranet is the “home” for employees (ideally) and the intranet desktop is probably the first thing they see in the morning. An intranet which gives employees’ access to all the tools and information they need to effectively perform that day’s tasks, every day, can go a thousand miles in improving productivity. Some examples of these tools and information are:

1. Latest events and meetings

2. Outstanding tasks

3. New discussions

4. Important documents

5. Relevant news

6. Email

2) Corporate communications. Since an intranet is an employees’ main window into corporate tools and information, and occupies a very important part of their attention space, it offers a great place for the management to communicate with employees. To exemplify, imagine a large corporation with thousands of employees around the world. If everyone logs into the intranet every morning, the management can:

1. Publish important announcements

2. Advertise new initiatives and policies

3. Communicate company history, culture and positioning

4. Recognize outstanding employees

5. Gather feedback in the form of surveys and suggestions

3) Streamline processes. Modern intranets contain not only static information, but the actual tools that employees use for work. This presents a great opportunity to use intranets as a place where companies can document processes, and provide the actual tools to automate processes. Many companies use intranets to automate anything from simple processes like employee appraisals to sophisticated processes like CRM and project management.

4) Spur Collaboration. Modern intranets have collaboration and social tools built into them. Not only can employees access work related information, they can also share and work together on it within the intranet. Networking tools allow employees to discover the skills and competencies of fellow workers and bypass corporate hierarchies to connect with them directly.

5) Knowledge management. In its very broadest sense, knowledge management means capturing, organizing and retrieving corporate information. With all tools and information within the intranet, and employees constantly adding new information in the form of comments, discussions, blogs, documents; the intranet serves as a centralized place to capture important corporate information. Tools like search ensure that employees across the company network can find just the information they need to perform their jobs.

How to set up an intranet (or extranet)

This is the second article in our series of “how to” articles. “How to create an intranet” is a common search, and therefore a common business query, but before we go any further, it makes sense to first deal with the question “What is an intranet?”

What is an intranet?

No matter how much you try to clear the waters, the confusion between the terms “intranet” and internet” remains. So, yet another time, an intrAnet is broadly a set of “internal facing” web pages and tools, or in other words, a website available only to the employees of a company. An intranet may also be sometimes referred to as “company portal”. This internal facing website, when extended to a company’s broader network of clients, partners and vendors, is referred to as “extranet”.

It might be pointed out that this article is intended to get you started with intranet creation, and point you in the right direction. Before you undertake intranet creation, you might want to study the larger subject area of “intranets”. Intranets can have far reaching impact on your organization in terms of employee communication, knowledge management, human resources, collaboration and more, which calls for careful planning around the structure of your intranet even before you start. Some very useful resources are the Intranet Benchmarking Forum and Step Two Design.

The tools and methodologies you choose will depend on what you expect to achieve from your intranet, and hence the type of intranet you choose to implement. The types are broadly as follows:

Static Internal website.

This is the most light weight type of intranet. Your intranet is just a set of static web pages that are available only to company employees. The objective of such an intranet is simply “top down communication” where the management wants employees to have access to certain information. This information could relate to company news, policies, products, strategy and vision, or motivational information like announcements, quotes or “employee of the quarter”. This website might be further broken down into sub sections for departments and groups.

In this case, the process would be much like creating a website, and you would simply look for a website content management system. The best tools in this case are open source content management systems like Joomla and Drupal. However, since Joomla and Drupal are server based systems, you would need to set up your own web servers. Companies are increasingly looking to move away from self-hosted solutions to cloud based systems. In this case you might want to try something like Weebly, Wix or Webs. You simply need to access these sites and can start implementing your intranet right away.

Intranet with tools.

Most companies are looking at intranets as more than a set of static web pages displaying information. They want it to be a “home” for their employees where they can not only view information, but also communicate, connect with other employees, and actually find the tools they need to manage day to day work.

Companies who are looking for such an intranet are looking for a software which will not only let them design internal web pages, but also have inbuilt tools – project management, address books, calendars, forums, social networking, document collaboration, IM and more.

Again, here companies have two choices of the kinds of tools they want to use. They could use an out of the box, cloud based intranet software like HyperOffice. Here, you don’t have to set up your own servers, and can simply access all the tools you need to build your intranet through a web browser. Moreover, it is a very easy to use solution, meaning you can set up an intranet without any specialized expertise. This solution is ideal for small to medium sized businesses.

Other companies might want to host their own intranet. Such a company can use a solution like Sharepoint or Drupal. These are powerful systems that allow you almost any degree of customization you want. But consequently, these are sophisticated systems which require in house web servers, SQL databases, and experts to implement and manage them. These might be the best choice for enterprises with ample resources and highly intricate needs.

What does strategy have to do with buying business software?

I came across a very interesting article by Daniel Rasmus, which was in turn was inspired by an article by Doug Henschen late last year. The article talks how more and more business intelligence vendors are adding collaborative capabilities to their suites. Multiple players have tried to do this, including Microsoft with Sharepoint, SAP with StreamWorks and IBM with Cognos 10.

While it’s always good to have a few extra features in your software, things start getting a little confused when your CRM provider also includes email, your email application also includes shared folders, your collaboration vendor throws in light weight reporting and business intelligence tools, and your accounting system suddenly goes “social”.

It is understandable why vendors want to do this – the cloud deployment model offers a great opportunity to blur traditional software boundaries, enter high demand markets (is it a wonder that everyone is clamoring to enter the collaboration market), and make the user more committed to your solution.

But from an organization’s standpoint, solutions with overlapping functionality create a great temptation to use the tool immediately available to manage data (for example store an invoice in the “shared folders” section of your accounting system) and as a result fragmenting corporate data, and creating scores of mini information silos. As an organization increases in size, this potential for fragmentation grows exponentially.

Companies therefore need to take a careful look at their application portfolio, and decide exactly how they distinguish software categories, exactly what they want from each software category and how they will interact – ERP, CRM, Collaboration, Social. Special attention might be necessary in the area of collaboration, since it can have such a far reaching impact on organizational performance. Conceptual models might be of help here. For example I had proposed a model about how “social software” can best enter the enterprise.

Daniel Rasmus has the following incredible suggestions about how to see collaboration software in the organization (we suggest a similar approach : Whitepaper – Collaboration or Chaos).

Focus on deploying a set of collaboration tools that connect with other technology, not collaboration tools within other technologies. People only have so much time, and there are personal switching costs involved in deciding which tool to use to share something. There are also costs involved in remember where you shared something, or even in remember to check various locations to see if people have shared something you need to know about.

The best implementations of collaboration software should have a single interface that brings everything together for the end user, and makes the same conversations available on mobile devices that are accessible on larger clients.

But all of this goes to strongly underline one thing – the importance of a strategic, long term view while selecting your company’s software.

5 dirty Sharepoint Online secrets revealed



When you go through vendor feature datasheets, you get a view of features at a very high level. It’s only once you dive deep and actually start using the software do you get a sense of how it works. The experience might sometimes yield unexpected surprises.…

So while you might have absorbed some of Sharepoint Online’s marketing hype, here are some things they failed to mention.

1) You can’t cut/copy and paste documents and folders (let alone drag and drop). Sharepoint, supposedly a sophisticated enterprise grade solution, has somehow overlooked this very elementary functionality. The way you move information in Sharepoint is by using the “send to” function, which requires you to actually type out the entire url of the destination. Convenience be dammed!



2) Designing pages using the Ribbon pane is a pain. The default editing option for designing a page in Sharepoint is the famous Microsoft “ribbon” pane. The default view is a basic WYSIWYG editor of the kind you see in blogs and wikis. You can add Sharepoint modules by going to a separate “insert” tab, which opens a new navigation with a myriad choices. Inserting modules just dumps the default views into the page. You can customize how they look, but that requires still deeper digging. In this era of usability, there is no way to simply drag and drop elements and add information. Simplicity be dammed!

3) Sharepoint Online’s structure means features within features within features. The above themes are repeated throughout Sharepoint Online. Sharepoint Online admittedly has depth of functionality, but finding features means diving through layers and layers where each feature has sub-features and more sub-features. Sharepoint Online, keeping with its enterprise legacy, almost shows an IT expert’s disdain for user friendliness.





4) Sharepoint Online is fragmented. Beyond feature accessibility, Sharepoint’s broad structure is laid out in the following manner:

A default team site section with its own navigation structure

A “my site” section a link to which is tucked away in the top right corner (not very obviously). This section has its own navigation structure with no obvious links back to the team site section.

A totally different account management console with a different url

Usability demands that everything a user needs should be easily and intuitively accessible from a single interface. And what this interface displays should be dependent on the users’ role. For example a site admin would have ready access to the account management section, the administration section, and the portal functionality itself, while a user would have access to only portal functionality, while a group admin would have something in between. In Sharepoint’s world users do all the hard work.

5) Social features in Sharepoint Online are primitive. Though Microsoft has emphasized that social features are an important part of Sharepoint’s roadmap, the current social features can be described as Neanderthal at best. In a world of slick social tools like Facebook, where we can easily communicate and get updates on people, information and groups right on our social wall; social features of Sharepoint Online feel like managing the software administration screens of yesteryear.  There is no concept of “following” specific documents or projects (you can get feeds on “tagged content”), no ability to comment on wall activities, and no concept of “groups” in the social context.

If all this daunts you, and you would rather prefer dragging and dropping for files and folders, drag and drop designing of intranet webpages, cutting edge social tools, a unified solution experience, and importantly, a solution which is pleasing to the eye – we invite you to try HyperOffice instead.

5 reasons you should replace Exchange public folders…and MS Exchange itself.

OK, this is an inspired article. But since the subject is so highly relevant to the cloud collaboration audience, I couldn’t help but do my own version.

If we see collaboration as evolution, collaborating with Exchange public folders would probably qualify as Neanderthal. But ironically, people continue to use it widely – probably because it is so immediately accessible, or they just don’t know better. Here are 5 reasons you can do (much) better:

1. Exchange Public Folders are not designed for document sharing and collaboration

This is in Microsoft’s own admission. Public Folders do not have the advanced features associated with document collaboration such as version control, audit trails, comments, notifications and so on. As your team grows larger, you need more than a network drive where everyone just dumps documents. Our HyperOffice is an online document management system which lets exactly track who made document changes, when they were made, make sure no-one’s changes are overwritten, have discussions around documents, and keep everyone related to the document in the loop.

2. Administration of Exchange Public Folders is a nightmare

In an era where everyone is used to simple administration screens to manage users and permissions, many of the functions in Exchange, including Exchange Public Folders, have to be performed through command prompts and special commands (reminiscent of the DOS era). For example to specify permissions per user you’ll have to use the Add-PublicFolderClientPermission cmdlet. For the non-geeky amongst us, this is extremely daunting. HyperOffice has a simple admin console which lets you manage users with a few clicks and fine tune permission per user, or even fine tune permissions for groups of users at the folder, subfolder right down to the file level.

3. The lifespan of Exchange Public Folders is uncertain

While talk of Exchange Public Folders being killed off has been around since 2006, we can be sure we are nearer than ever to that event. Microsoft itself is encouraging users to move to other Microsoft tools like SharePoint and Office 365 for sharing documents. While you want to jump from Microsoft frying pan into the Microsoft fire is another question, keeping all your eggs in the Exchange Public Folders basket is risky.

4. Collaboration is more than sharing folders

Even if Exchange Public Folders were a robust document management system, companies are increasingly asking the question – are our collaboration needs limited to sharing folders? Companies are increasingly looking beyond simple information sharing to complete collaboration solutions which include tools like task management, team workspaces, wikis, social networking and more. HyperOffice is a fully integrated suite of essential collaboration tools like document management, project management, email, contacts, calendars, social business, intranet and extranet workspaces and more.

5. The cloud is where it’s at

In an era where companies, large and small alike, are looking to move their systems to the cloud because of undeniable benefits, a larger question to ask is – should you be looking to move away from Exchange altogether to the cloud even for email? Many experts have emphasized the clear cost savings of cloud email. So maybe it’s time to say goodbye to servers, Exchange server experts, ongoing maintenance, and Exchange Management Shell scripting. HyperOffice is a cloud based Exchange Alternative which lets your team just get on your web browser and access enterprise class business email features (including mobile and Outlook synchronization) fully integrated with document management capabilities, and even more collaboration tools like project management and team workspaces.

What is collaboration software? Back to the basics


Overuse tends to suck a phrase of meaning, and the same may be said of “collaboration”. As an executive, you’ve probably been inundated with articles on “collaboration software” and its business possibilities. But it seems to mean different things at different times. Sometimes it means email, other times document sharing with Google Drive, and still other times managing projects with Basecamp. And when the social network Google + was launched, you were told enterprise collaboration was forever changed.

You probably experienced what may be described as information induced paralysis. OK, so “collaboration software” amazing. What next?

Time to take a step back and structure our thinking.

Collaboration software evidently has something to do with collaboration – or to work together. One might say that every business reduces to collaboration – humans working together to achieve a common objective. Collaboration software is therefore software which facilitates “working together”.

Although every business is unique, there are certain aspects of “working together” which are universal across business types – isn’t that the very basis of management studies? These universal activities, which you will immediately identify as happening in your own company are:

– Communication

– Sharing information

– Working together on information

– Coordination of efforts


Any software which serves any of the above needs can be validly called “collaboration software”. So, the authors were all accurate in their own place.

Collaboration software may be categorized in the following “types”.

Single-purpose collaboration software

These software target just one aspect of working together.

Email. Email is the grand-daddy of collaboration software and ironically, still the most commonly used. Its basic purpose is “communication” both internal and external. Its structure allows it to be used for other collaborative tasks as well, but as many would say, sub optimally.

Discussion boards. Discussion boards are geared for many to many communication – many people contribute their ideas. You may still use email for discussions, but at your own peril.

Document management.  “Documents” or structured units of information, are probably at the core of every business.  Most of our work days consist of creating, working together on, or sharing documents with others. “Document management” software enable companies to store, organize and access documents. Document collaboration features include version control and audit trails to manage multiple contributors, and permissions to manage access.

Project management. All business effort can be broken into a set of tasks, involving multiple people (inside and outside the organization) aggregated as “projects”. These tasks and projects have dependencies and sequence relationships. Project management software allow managers to assign tasks, set milestones, set dependencies and monitor progress and hence make sure everything is on track.

Intranets (and extranets). Intranets (or extranets when external parties are involved) are basically web pages. They may be seen as communication tools, where the management publishes policies, plans, or events for the employees’ benefit, or even uses as a device to motivate employees (through “message of the day”, “employee of the quarter” etc.).

Social tools. Social tools like networking, activity streams and wall messaging have often been called the new email. Their primary purpose is communication and sharing, but they are designed in a unique dynamic, people centric way, which feels like a big improvement over email.

Workflow tools. Although not commonly, workflow tools are sometimes seen as collaboration tools. A workflow is a business transaction as it evolves from inception to closure. Workflow software manage the information associated with a workflow as it evolves through different stages. Some examples are the CRM workflow and the support workflow.

IM. Instant messaging is geared towards communication which needs to be instantaneous.

Collaboration suites

Collaboration suites are a collection of multiple individual collaboration tools, with various points of integration. The philosophy is – no one tool is adequate for collaboration. All companies need different collaboration tools depending on the situation. So why not have them in a single solution?

Moreover, collaboration suites emphasize that different collaboration tools actually need to share information. For example projects usually have associated specifications documents, calendar events are often associated with project deadlines and so on. Having these tools in separate solutions creates non interacting silos, or what is also called “collaboration sprawl”. It is therefore efficient to have multiple collaboration tools in a single solution that freely exchange information. Our http://www.hyperoffice.com/collaboration-suite/HyperOffice collaboration suite is an example of collaboration suites.

Unified communications and collaboration

The concept of “collaboration software” might be stretched still further and involve audio communications as well. “Unified communication and collaboration” solutions add voice communications tools like audio and web conferencing, voicemail, and telephony on top of a suite of collaboration tools.

However, due to the sophistication and expense of these solutions, they are implemented mostly in large enterprises.

Traditional collaboration software vs. cloud collaboration software

Collaboration software may further be distinguished in terms of the method of deployment. Some collaboration software are deployed on company servers, and geared towards collaboration within the company. These may be called “on premise” collaboration software. Sharepoint is an example.

“Cloud” collaboration software is deployed over the internet and may be accessed through a web browser on any internet connected device. It is independent of the technological environment of the user. Cloud collaboration software is therefore suitable for distributed networks of remote teams, customers and partners.

The cloud is now increasingly seen as the natural deployment environment for collaboration software. Firstly, it suits modern teams which are increasingly distributed and mobile. Secondly, it is part of the general movement driven by cloud software, where business and IT is sought to be aligned by making software end user focused. Finally, the subscription based cost structure (software as a service) is ideal for small and medium sized businesses who want to avoid the heavy capital investment of on premise collaboration software.

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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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.