Archive for the ‘Online Collaboration’ Category

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.

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.

SharePoint 2010 and Growing Businesses

ms2010It is usual for all Microsoft launches to be associated with a lot of hoopla and fanfare. A similar scene precedes the soon to come Microsoft launch of its 2010 series – SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2010 and Office 2010. A recent report on SharePoint 2010 by Forrester cut through the talk and came out with a rather strong conclusion – SharePoint 2010 may be overkill for some.

The exact phrasing of that conclusion evoked a kind of sense of deja vu here at HyperOffice. Isn’t it what we have been saying for SharePoint for years?

First, the report.

The new version of SharePoint has greatly bolstered its cloud capabilities and web 2.0 features, areas in which SharePoint was traditionally lagging.

According to Rob Koplowitz, a principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report, SharePoint 2010 is “evolving  SharePoint beyond its server application role to become a full-fledged platform reaching from the intranet to the cloud and out onto developers’ palettes.”

Sounds great?

Well, not if you are not looking for an application development platform, but looking for a set of tools, which will allow distributed teams to collaborate and work better.

Rob advices that new users should evaluate the software’s feature set and make sure it is not overkill. He says that SharePoint 2010 “can be a hammer, but not everything is nail.” He concludes that SharePoint 2010 is likely not a fit for those with basic needs.

This applies especially to growing businesses, which don’t have a complex technological landscape, have a small or no IT department, and need to enable their teams without going to through long and winding learning curves. They need a plug and play toolkit which helps them work together better (file storage and collaboration, wikis, intranet workspaces, task management, online meetings etc), as well as tools to help improve productivity (shared calendars, address books, email, to-do lists, email, mobile access to corporate data etc). At the same time, these companies need a certain degree of customization, which they can easily accomplish without much expertise.

HyperOffice’s web based total collaboration software approach suits this segment perfectly, which is why we have been positioning ourselves for this segment for years as a “Sharepoint Alternative” for growing businesses.

Although SharePoint 2010 is a lot more web savvy than its predecessor, its target audience seems to remain the same – large enterprises with a complex technological context and highly customized needs.  Some other basics of the solution remain the same that make it unsuitable for growing businesses – it’s server based, complex, and more an IT department tool than an end user tool.

HyperOffice Makes Deeper Inroads into Global Collaboration Software Markets

vncNext week we will announce a new partnership with VNC – a European distributor with resellers in Europe, Middle-East and Africa. This partnership represents another important step in gradually building a carefully selected and qualified distribution channel. There has never been any doubt about the importance of a channel to the long term success of HyperOffice. The challenge has been timing and finding the right partners.

Timing

For a partnership to be successful there has to be a viable and sustainable business relationship. In other words our partners have to be successful in generating revenues and profits in order for our partnership to grow and thrive. One way partnerships don’t last long and don’t make economic sense. A few years back when we were exploring different channel models and partnerships we quickly realized that the market was not yet ready for a broad scale push to cloud based collaboration and messaging.

As a result we felt our partners would likely run into undue friction in their sales and marketing efforts. Today, the market has changed dramatically. Cloud based collaboration has moved from a niche technology to mainstream. Businesses of any size and representing any industry are comfortable with this new technology and in most cases interested to learn more. Businesses are looking to their trusted advisors (resellers, consultants, vars…etc) to guide them through their options and to help them benefit from the cloud. Resellers and partners are now in a position where they can choose to embrace this new shift in how technology is sold, delivered and consumed and profit from it.

Right partner

In the traditional software/hardware sales cycle, a reseller’s economic incentive is aligned with the vendor and not the customer’s ROI. In other words the majority of the effort on the reseller’s part is focused on making the initial sale. Once the sale is made the end customer will have to spend time, more money or both to get the technology they just purchased, deployed. Even more troubling is the fact that they are fully invested in that technology and stuck with it.

This model does not work well for most organizations and in particular for smb’s who lack the resources and the time for needs analysis, contract negotiation, large capital expenditure, long term IT planning and deployment. In the cloud model on the other hand the economic incentives for resellers, customers and vendors are all aligned with maximizing customer’s roi and with maintaining it through the life of the relationship. In this new model the customer’s investment in technology is spread over the life of their contract and is not concentrated all upfront. As a result the customer is in control and can cancel a service with minimum downside if they are not happy.  Therefore, the successful reseller will have to adjust their business processes from sales and marketing to support to accommodate customers in this new world. The right partner for us therefore is an organization with:-

1.      An understanding and appreciation for cloud based collaboration

2.      The infrastructure, processes and mindset that can help customers drive value from HyperOffice long after the initial sale has been made

3.   The required credibility to serve as a trusted adviser to their customers and partners

An established distributor in the SaaS and cloud marketplace, VNC offers a deep understanding of the cloud based collaboration market, along with a mature sales and support infrastructure. The executives at VNC have managed to build and operate a thriving distribution business while keeping ahead of the market and identifying the next important trend.

VNC is an ideal partner to take the next step with as we work to continue to build global marketing channels for the new generation of HyperOffice services and technologies.

Company.com launches to help small businesses collaborate online via social networking to save money and boost productivity.

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While social networking has been all the hype lately, it’s not clear/proven how small businesses will put it to work for them. New companies sprout up daily claiming to be experts to help you leverage social networking in your small businesses. Typically they focus on building a message, report, widget, video that will get passed around and people will hear about your business. Others advise you on how to protect you reputation in communities and use communities like LinkedIn to find leads and insert yourself in relevant discussions online.

How many communities can one possibly be active in? There’s no shortage of online communities; Salesforce.com has Chatter, Google just put out Buzz, LinkedIn is my favorite so far, and of course Facebook.

We come back to the question, how can businesses put social networking to work for them. I think Company.com has the answer. What they do different is structure the conversations and match up people so business owners and management can find conversations around their toughest problems. They do this by creating communities with experts they have vetted who contribute with solid advice. I’ve sifted through and have been impressed so far.

Company.com wants to be there for you from cradle to crave, by helping you find information around every step of the small business cycle i.e. how to raise finances, technology advice, how to streamline operations, advice on business strategy, and more.

They are backed by a very experienced management team – In my opinion the single biggest factor to the success of new business ventures. They also bring that human touch to helping businesses save money by vetting vendors, side-by-side comparisons, negotiating the best deal for their members- you- the small business owner. Not just another ad-based non-discriminating aggregator like business.com

They want to “help businesses make money and save money.” We’ll, we’re all for that.
At HyperOffice “ Our mission is to empower growing organizations with technology traditionally available only to large enterprises, and help them achieve business growth, competitive advantage and success.”

You can see why we decided to get behind Company.com and help small businesses compete with more effective and lower cost collaboration software. I hope you’ll check them out, and I look forward to watching them become a household name.

iPad, SaaS and Collaboration

It’s incredibly thin.

So we were repeatedly reminded by Steve Jobs in his famous iPad keynote. Steve Jobs exhausted almost every glowing adjective in the English dictionary in his keynote, and the tech media panned it with almost equal ferociousness. Some say it lacks key features, while others complain about the choice of internet service providers being constrained to AT&T, while yet others rubbish it as an over hyped laptop.

But Apple’s products are known to have staying power in spite of their critics (iPod was lambasted as over hyped, over priced). iPads and iPhones have proved to be massively popular and are a part of many of our lives now.

What does the iPad mean for SaaS and collaboration? Definitely good things. In recent times, forces have conspired to make software-as-a-service the most exciting business technology around – the obvious advantages, greater bandwidths, constrained budgets because of the recession, and to no small extent, the proliferation of internet friendly mobile devices like the iPhone (HyperOffice is iPhone optimized).

The iPad is definitely an additional thrust in that direction.

Sure, the iPad does not have native applications to help with business collaboration. But it is not mainly meant for native apps. The iPad is meant primarily to be a window to the web. A convenient, fun, highly portable window to the web. And that is all SaaS applications need – a device which allows access to the internet.

In its current form, it is more positioned as a device for personal information management. But so was the iPhone. If it catches on, (and Apple devices have a knack of doing that) it will not be long before, like the iPhone, users start looking at the iPad as a device to manage business productivity.

Being lighter and having a considerably longer battery life than a laptop, users have the temptation of carrying it over a laptop, and especially if you can use it to access all your important enterprise and personal applications on the net, why not?

Google Apps Learns Business Collaboration Lessons We Learnt Years Ago

A small company issuing such a statement for tech behemoth Google, may seem delusional on the face of it. But it’s happened before, for Google, a master of search and consumer markets, cannot be everything for everyone. Its not timeline1uncommon for it to learn lessons from companies that serve niche markets, and indeed, create new niches. The hotbed of dreams that the internet is, the best ideas come most often from small companies. A few examples are YouTube, aquired by Google; Orkut, which followed MySpace; Goog.gl, which followed tiny.url etc.

The story we are talking about right now is that of Google Apps, Google’s participant in the red-hot online collaboration market, with Google mega-tonne weight behind it (remember the “Going Google” advertising blitz?).

The Google Apps Story – Head in the Clouds or Clouded Vision?

Google Apps started out in 2006 as a bundle of productivity tools (GMail, Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Calendar etc). It was a proponent of the “purely online” model of where all productivity and collaboration software would lie on google-cloudthe Internet, and be freed from local desktops. This is indeed a visionary approach, because productivity tools available on the “cloud” are universally accessible from any Internet connected computer. This allows everyone on the team to work together on a common platform and common information without being tied to their local computers – an approach immensely suitable for collaboration.

Also an approach divorced from realities of business environment.

What has happened since is a gradual concession on Google’s part to business realities, and a growing awareness of business needs. This is understandable, as Google has traditionally excelled in consumer markets, which account for all of its major successes (Google Search, GMail, Google Talk, Picasa, Orkut).

Why Experience Matters

HyperOffice, on the other hand, has been serving the growing business markets since 1998, when the first incarnation of HyperOffice was born.  We may not have Google’s resources, but organizational learning is not merely a matter of shoveling in the bucks. Over 10 years in business we have done thousands and thousands of implementations across industries, faced and resolved countless operational matters, received feedback from users on a daily basis, built our solutions bit by bit around real operational needs, learnt how to promote adoption within our users’ companies, and learnt how to smoothly transition customers into fully empowered users.

Google Apps has tried to make up for this by roping in channel partners. But most of these partners lack our depth of experience, and indeed there is a divergence of interests, as consultants share Google Apps time with other profitable solutions, and the intermediate level creates a disconnect between what end users want and what Google develops.

We Beat Em’ to It

Office 2007 Support

In June 2009, Google added support for Office 2007, where docx, xlxs or other 2007 files could be imported and converted into Google Docs’ online formats. This reflected a concession on Google’s part that MS Office was vastly popular with businesses, a fact it couldn’t ignore. But it felt that business users would be happy, as long as they could convert MS Office into Google Docs, and work on Google Docs. However, fidelity between MS Office and Google Docs remains an issue as importing MS Word into Google Docs invariably results in messed up formatting.

A lesson HyperOffice learnt 5 years ago. HyperOffice has long learnt that business users, as well as others in their business network, are so used to working with MS Office that they’re just not comfortable shifting to drastically new formats. Since 2005, HyperOffice offers document collaboration features that allow business users to collaborate online on any common file type including different versions of MS Office.

Outlook Synchronization

In June 2009, Google introduced Google Apps Sync, a utility that allows users to sync mail, calendars and contacts (not tasks) between GMail and Microsoft Outlook. Google realized that MS Outlook was so popular with business users that they virtually “lived” in it, and synchronization with it was a must.

We learnt that around 4 years ago. HyperShare was launched by HyperOffice in 2006, which allows users to sync mail, contacts, calendars AND tasks between HyperOffice and Microsoft Outlook.

To-do Lists

In July 2009, Tasks were added to GMail, a rudimentary feature which allows users to manage personal to-do lists.

HyperOffice has had task management features since 2002, where users can manage not just personal to-dos but also team projects and tasks where task timelines can be set, responsibilities be assigned and progress be tracked.

Shared Folders and Batch Uploads

In Oct 2009, Google introduced shared folders and batch uploads for Google Docs users. Shared folders allowed users to share entire folders with specified users, instead of each file individually. Batch uploads saved users the cumbersome process of uploading documents one at a time, and allowed multiple files to be uploaded and converted to Google Docs.

HyperOffice has had shared folders since it launched its document management features in 2005. HyperDrive rests on the users’ desktop like any other desktop folder, and allows users to simply drag and drop multiple files to their online account, and synch documents across computers and with their online folders.

Forums

In Dec 2009, Google added forums to Google Apps, which allows users to have threaded discussions.

HyperOffice has had forums since 2002, when we realized that discussion forums were an efficient way of having and retrieving discussions rather than overwhelming everyone’s inbox with email discussions.

File Storage

In January 2010, file storage capabilities were added to Google Apps can upload and store any file format on their Google Apps account (not just Google formats). A further concession from Google’s “purely online” approach. However, although Google touts that people can now collaboratively work on these files, there are no collaborative features to speak of.

Since 2005, HyperOffice has not only allowed users to store files of any format, but also includes collaboration features like versioning, notifications, permissions, audit trails which allows users to see who made changes, when they were made, revert to earlier versions, keep participants informed when changes take place, manage access etc.

HyperOffice Keeps Upgrading

Even while Google learns important lessons about the needs of businesses, HyperOffice has continued to upgrade its suite, and offers many features that Google hasn’t gotten to yet. Some recent updates – we added simple do-it-yourself database applications and web forms in October, full document search and an incredibly easy to use site publisher in late October, and group wikis in December.

THE Lesson

But our most important lesson, which Google is yet to learn is – business users, especially small businesses are looking for more than just software tools. They want assistance at every step – from being trained to use the software, to having real people who treat their problems at priority, to having business advice about how to best use software tools. They want to be less and less involved in the technical side of software, and simply concentrate on doing their work better. And it is this lesson we have incorporated in our business model.