The Heyday of Mobile Collaboration : 4 Important Mobile Productivity Tools

How’s this for an explosive concoction.

As of June 2010, 93% of Americans owned a mobile phone. Penetration in other developed nations like Germany and UK has crossed 100%. Not far behind are developing countries (Brazil – 100%, India – 56%, China – 59%). Now consider the fact that a growing percentage of these mobile users (31% in USA in Nov 2010) use smart phones – powerful, internet friendly and addictive phones like Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Nokia. Add to this mix the emergence of wireless technologies like 3G and 4G which make wireless data transfer a breeze.

No wonder data usage over mobile devices is surging! Or that the mobile internet is expected to exceed desktop internet by 2015. Or that the mobile platform is the new focus of diverse areas such as advertisement and application development. Indeed, this is the decade of mobile technology.

Business Impact of Mobile Market Growth

As expected, businesses are not insulated from these gargantuan changes. Especially since the new market is pushing the worker to be more “mobile” – on the road, working from a client site or home, or working with a globally distributed network of colleagues and partners. IDC expects a third of the world’s working population to consist of “mobile workers” by 2013.

Habituated to using their mobile devices for everything beyond talking and texting – checking email, browsing the web, posting on FaceBook and Twitter, playing with apps or finding their way with maps – workers increasingly see the mobile devices as ways to connect with work. According to a recent Forrester study, a whopping 49% of small business owners are reported to own smartphones.

Since workers need, want and expect to keep connected with work outside the office site, it is imperative upon businesses to provide them with the right tools to do so. Changing trends in corporate IT spend reflect this. The SMB Group found that mobile spending now accounts for almost 10% of all technology spending for U.S. small and medium businesses and amounted to $26.1B on mobile solutions and services in 2010.

The mobile tools that organizations need to provide employees range from access to essential business information like email, contacts and calendars, to mobile collaboration tools which allow them to share and work together on business information. Going forward, businesses fill feel an increasing need to provide employees mobile access to specialized business apps and work-flows.

4 Important Mobile Productivity Tools

Push Email. Push email allows employees to access and manage their corporate email accounts right from the native email app of their mobile device, and keep it synchronized.

Mobile email remains one of the top business uses of mobile phones. Nielsen found that users spent close to 42% of their mobile internet time on email. Much of this is business related email use. A recent study on Mobile Messaging from Osterman research found that more than 95% of respondents check e-mail after work hours. Email is one of the top business technologies, and companies will find that enabling workers with the ability to access email on their mobile phones will allow workers to keep connected with work, and in turn increase productivity and speed reaction times in business situations. In Ostermans study, 84% of respondents revealed that their senior manager’s ability to make critical, time-sensitive decisions will be affected if they do not have access to mobile e-mail.

Push Calendars. Push calendars allow workers to access corporate schedules from their mobile phone, and set up meetings and events and keep them in sync with their Outlook or other business calendars. In the face a hundred demands on their time, push calendars allow workers to be organized and keep on top of schedules, even when they are outside office and don’t have access to their corporate calendar.

Push Contacts. Push contacts allow workers to manage their business contacts lists from the address book of their mobile device. It is a great convenience to be able to quickly look up a contact on the mobile phone, when one does not have access to the company’s contact management system.

Collaboration Tools. Apart from essential mobile productivity tools, the demand is shifting to tools that not only let workers access important corporate information, but work together on this information with colleagues. Indeed, the ante is being raised to “mobile collaboration”. These tools, which may be accessed through native mobile apps, or the mobile browser, allow workers to share contacts, calendars, documents and other corporate information with colleagues.

According to Tonya Fowler, Global Director with Frost & Sullivan’s Customer Research Team “tools that enhance the mobile experience (i.e., such as Web-based collaboration tools) are likely to see increased levels of adoption sooner rather than later.”

Afterword

The above market movements have been experienced by us at HyperOffice as well. Mobile support has been a much requested feature by our users. We have made an effort to keep up with our customer requests as well as emerging trends in the market. Our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite has dedicated web interfaces for mobile devices, and all features may be accessed through a user’s mobile browser. About a year ago, we decided to take things to the next level and address some gaping lacunae in the market.We found that users increasingly want solutions that allow them to leverage the native apps of their mobile device. Moreover, there was a shortage of inexpensive mobile messaging solutions which worked ubiquitously across devices, rather than limiting users to a single, or a few choices.

Based on that, we introduced HyperSynch, a fully hosted add on push messaging service to our suite, which allows users to push and sync business email, contacts, calendars and tasks with the native apps of almost every major mobile device in the market including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile and more.

Feb 2011 Upgrade – The HyperOffice secret!

Many of our clients have taken notice that our updates and upgrades have been coming more frequently with vigor and purpose, and now it’s time to share the secret to what’s behind HyperOffice’s steady and rapid growth. Our clients! We’ve come to the conclusion that HyperOffice is chock-full of unique clients that are not afraid to chime in with ideas and requests and it’s been helping us deliver the most versatile, complete, and customizable solution in the cloud today.

With the launch of our new feedback system ( http://feedback.hyperoffice.com ) we’ve seen clients submit over 400 votes on enhancement requests that THEY want to see in THEIR product. These clients drive HyperOffice to be the best collaboration suite available today. Our most recent release addresses 90% of submitted product bugs and implements some of our most client requested usability enhancements. Take a look at some of our most popular requests below.

1. Immediate training and webinar assistance during the trial through our new webinar button

2. Meeting rescheduling behaviors have been revamped

3. Icon consistency across all sections for a more intuitive experience

4. Enhanced user interface notifications

5. Improved user profile loading system to enhance overall speed

6. Overall speed of site publisher has been increased

7. Personal Desktop administration has been enhanced specifically the Group News and Company Announcements sections

8. Task notification emails now include specific change content

9. Global company signatures have been added for companywide announcements and confidentiality tags

These are only a handful of the implemented requests we’ve received and we are always eager to hear what our clients have to say and give them what they want.

Email Archiving and SMBs

“Email archiving” wouldn’t normally ring a bell for a small business owner. The general impression is that the regulatory requirement of keeping all company email records for a certain number of years, falls only on enterprises, and hence the inapplicability of email archiving software to smaller businesses.

This is not totally accurate, since there are certain categories of small businesses, which are affected. There are thousands of small companies in the financial sector, for example, that are affected by regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC and National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD).

But the general indifference of SB owners towards email archiving does not come as a surprise, given the price points, which more than outweighed any benefits. It typically involved purchasing and implementing specialized software like MS Exchange, and setting up dedicated servers – running up costs from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

However, thanks to the cloud revolution, email archiving is another area that has moved to the cloud. Companies can now access email archiving tools over the internet for a reasonable monthly fee, without the need to host solutions in-house. Given this substantially reduced price point, small business owners would do well to consider the benefits. Specifically, the benefits are as follows:-

1) Safeguard Mission Critical Data. It is not an overstatement to say that information that is critical to any businesses – client communications, documents, records, contracts, invoices – flow through its email system. Often, this information is lost or locked away in individual inboxes, frustratingly inaccessible when needed the most, and hostage to a fickle email system or a disgruntled employee on his way out. Email archiving ensures that all this information is stored, backed-up and safeguarded centrally on an ongoing basis.

2) eDiscovery. Email archiving solutions have search and discovery tools built into them to ensure that companies have access to the specific information they need, when they need it.

3) Legal Concerns. Although a large majority of small businesses are not required by law to store and conserve their business email communications, they may find themselves in a messy litigation, and required to produce historical email records under a subpoena. At other times, the presence of historical email records may help the small businesses owner in building a case in litigation against, say, a defaulting partner.

4) HR Benefits. The HR department may find email archiving to be an invaluable tool at their disposal, and a protection against staff email misuse. Numerous situations can be thought of to exemplify this – an in house investigation, monitoring for workplace harassment, or arbitration of employee tribunal cases before going to court.

Given the above benefits, small businesses may want to give email archiving a long and hard thought.

At HyperOffice, we constantly look to bring more and more features and functionality into our messaging and collaboration suite, to ensure that our customers don’t have to shop around as their needs expand. After expanding our email/messaging capabilities with push email support for almost every major mobile platform a few months ago, email archiving was the logical next step. Email archiving is currently in beta, and we hope to make it widely available very soon.

HyperOffice: 2010 in Retrospect

2010 was a pivotal year for HyperOffice. Not only did we find ourselves right in the eye of the convergence of multiple market trends, but HyperOffice grew and matured as a product more than ever before in its history. Our efforts did not go unnoticed, as our brand is stronger than ever, and rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in the industry, backed as they are by astronomical marketing budgets.

The Market

2010 will be looked back upon as the year when cloud computing finally went main stream. It was great to see our vision of more than 10 years – the ability to access business applications over the internet without expensive infrastructure – finding not only wide acceptability, but wide adoption as well. Vendors have shifted from selling the model to arguing for the superiority of their cloud products over others.

Apart from the mega success of cloud computing, we found ourselves plonk in the middle of two sub trends in the larger growth of the cloud.

Cloud collaboration was one of the main areas of growth in cloud computing. Studies from Sandhill, Forrester, MarketResearch.com, AMI all found collaboration as one of the fastest growing SaaS segments in 2010 and beyond. This is understandable as collaboration software caters to a supra trend afoot in business today – increasingly distributed teams which need to work together and coordinate effort. As insightfully observed by the editor of CloudAve “cloud has the necessary DNA for collaboration”, since it allows people anywhere to contribute to a shared system.

Another trend in evidence was the convergence of messaging and collaboration software. HyperOffice has been offering integrated business email and collaboration tools since before 2005. Companies have found that having their messaging and collaboration solutions in separate silos is expensive and inefficient. Integrated solutions are a counterweight against the temptation to use email for everything, and great synergies arise from data of different types – documents, emails, tasks, contacts, discussions – being able to freely interact in a unified system. Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 from industry heavyweights have validated this approach. HyperOffice however offers the best solution with a laser focus towards SMBs.

The Product

Without doubt, 2010 proved to be the year when HyperOffice evolved and grew more than ever before in its more than 10 year history.

Late in 2009 we released the beta version of the biggest ever overhaul of our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite, rebuilding it ground up in AJAX. Over early 2010, we put the beta through months of rigorous testing, made hundreds of enhancements and thousands of bug fixes, before finally making it widely available. Apart from a completely redesigned modern interface and more tightly integrated features, our users get countless new features like full text search, color coded calendars, database applications and web forms, wikis, drag and drop publisher and more.

Keeping with the mobility revolution, push messaging was a natural extension to HyperOffice’s capabilities. Although HyperOffice was already optimized and available on mobile browsers, we increasingly found users wanting solutions which leveraged their mobile phone’s native mail, calendar and address book applications. Moreover, most solutions in the market work only with single devices, or require expensive server based implementations. To fill this gap, HyperSynch was born, a mobile messaging add-on to HyperOffice which allows users to push, sync and share mail, contacts, calendars and tasks across mobile platforms including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, Android and more.

Since the mega upgrade, HyperOffice has undergone four upgrade cycles implementing more than a 100 customer requested enhancements. Most notably, we bolstered our project management features. HyperOffice is now a full blown project management solution with sophisticated project management features like task dependencies and interactive Gantt charts to handle complex projects. New features like the ability to convert email to tasks demonstrate the benefits of having integrated messaging and collaboration and tools.

The Brand

HyperOffice’s developments have caught the attention of end users and tech experts alike, and our brand is stronger than ever. HyperOffice is one of the most well recognized names in a jam packed online collaboration market. Our developments kept making it to leading publications such as NY Times, ZDNet, GigaOM, Entrepreneur.com, CMS Wire, eWeek, Information Week, MSP Mentor, PC Magazine, PC Today, Information Today, Small Biz Mag and more.

Can HyperOffice out simplify Google Apps?” asked Christopher Dawson of ZDNet. PC Magazine listed HyperOffice as one of the “Top 10 Apps that can make you productive”. “HyperOffice to Take on Google Apps, Microsoft Web Apps?” was CMSWire’s reaction to our mega upgrade. HyperOffice was compared to MS SharePoint in Entrepreneur.com’s “Collaboration or aggravation?

HyperOffice was reviewed by Edward Mendelson, an eminent software reviewer for PC Mag, known for his rigorous analysis of solutions. We were more than glad with his comments – “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.”, and that some of our key messaging points were echoed in his review – “Bottom Line – (HyperOffice is) A fully hosted alternative to building your own Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers.”

As one of the oldest players and thought leaders in the SaaS collaboration market, the opinions of our leaders were frequently sought by analysts and experts. Shahab Kaviani, our Executive Vice President Marketing and Product Marketing was one of the panelists in Small Business Tech Magazines nation wide SMB Tech Tour. Phil Wainwright, one of the leading minds on SaaS, interviewed Shahab for his podcast series on ebizQ. Shahab was also interviewed by Laurie McCabe of the SMB Group, as by Peter Radinski and Rich Tehrani from TMCNet.

HyperOffice was also one of the solutions covered by SMB Group’s study “Moving Beyond Email: The Era of SMB Online Collaboration Suites” along with eminent names like Google Apps, Microsoft BPOS, IBM LotusLive, VMWare’s Zimbra and more.

In Conclusion

The ultimate test of any solution are its users. The SaaS game is not only about getting new users, but keeping and satisfying current users. We believe we did a great job of that this year, by making an effort to provide them great service in addition to great technology.

2010 was a year of great satisfaction, a testimony to everyone’s effort in development, service, marketing, sales and administration. But our eyes are now firmly focused towards the future. We’ve got all the right cards – experience, technology, and brand – and when the cloud surge takes place in 2011, we want to ride it right at the crest.



Make Way Fmail, Gmail. All hail Hmail!

Most of us get entangled in the frenzy of the moment, the immediate bickering in our environment.

But the discerning ones amongst us can take a step back, and see clarity in the chaos, a method in the madness, a sublime logic in a torrent of haphazard information, if you will.

What will you make of the mountain of coverage surrounding the recent launch of Fmail (Facebook Messages)? “This spells the death of email!” some say, “Fmail will kill Gmail!” others pitch in, “Apocalypse!!” What are you supposed to make of it all??

Look closely…

Email, Fmail, Gmail……

Can you see it yet? The pattern?

Yes! Evolution, development, progress are what you see! And the logical next step is the series is, you got it, Hmail!

The Evolution of Email

HyperOffice Mail or Hmail brings the next level of what businesses want from email – Email deeply integrated with all the essential productivity tools in the organization. Pundits for years have waited on the death of email (like vultures hovering over a weak animal?). But rather than growing weak with age, becoming passe’, email keeps going from strength to strength.

Yet, the weaknesses of email are widely recognized as well. Email overload is one of the biggest bottlenecks in information worker productivity today. Some of us feel like we spent our entire work lives sifting through our inbox, which fills out faster than we can ever hope to empty it. We are all Sisyphuses trapped for eternity in our inboxes.

Email is evidently ill suited for some purposes – document collaboration, schedule coordination, task tracking and group discussions. Better “collaboration tools” have been invented for a few years now, to best handle each of the above areas – document management, shared calendars, project management and discussion forums respectively. No wonder collaboration tools have become almost universally adopted across businesses.

But such creatures of habit we are, almost Sirenlike, email uses false promises of simplicity to tempt us to use it “just this once”, to delegate a task, share a document, or coordinate a meeting. The torrent of mails that follow has only us to bear!

But what if the other collaboration tools were integrated in the same system as email? What if using the right tool for the right purpose was as simple as using email, since they are in the same system anyway? What if with a single click, you could push information from email into the right system – a task, a document?

That is the promise of Hmail. Collaboration software tools integrated with email, in a single seamless web based system.

Read the following article for detailed benefits of integrated email and collaboration software.

The Wisdom in Web 3.0

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T.S. Elliot


Technological innovation isn’t simply accelerating; the rate at which it’s accelerating is itself increasing. On a daily basis, the geometric rise of computational power makes possible new advances that were incomprehensible a decade before. As you hurtle ever-faster towards the future, you’d be forgiven for keeping your head down, heeding only every fifth technology promising to “change the way we [blank] forever.” – Windows 7, Unicode 6.0, HTML5, 4G, USB 3.0, H264, and a cyborg partridge in a pear tree. Right?

The Early Years

Web 1.0’s overly optimistic monetization of the Internet imploded, but thankfully left us with Amazon.com (whew) and eBay. Web 2.0 has shown even the most curmudgeonly Luddite that it’s not him/her against the Internet—our friendly Facebook pages are nodes on a global grid of goodwill (and a goldmine of marketing data) and LOL cats can make the upload-friendly H264 codec mentioned above sound  warm and fuzzy. Web 1.0 was brave, rugged and individualistic; 2.0 inclusive, accessible and egalitarian.

Move over for Web 3.0 – The Semantic Web

Not that Web 2.0 can be entirely spoken of in the past tense—but make no mistake, Web 3.0, the Semantic Web, is here. And while Web 2.0 brought people together, its successor is bringing information together. You’ll hear more and more about semantics over the next few years, and many of you readers might already grasp the technical details at a deeper level bouncy castle for sale canada than does this humble blogger. Regardless, humanity has generated massive stores of data during the short life of the still-adolescent internet (which we’re on a familiar basis with today, and therefore needn’t capitalize any longer), and has learned that more information doesn’t necessarily equal more knowledge. Commercials for Microsoft’s Bing search engine (watch) emphasize that a search isn’t simply (or even mainly) about finding matches for the words typed into the box; it’s about gathering the knowledge being sought.

Semantics is about embedding meaning in our information so that a given word, phrase, sentence, etc. displayed is part of a granule of contextual, standards-driven metadata tags. Rather than a human searching for an article and manually linking it to or syndicating it alongside another page, an article’s words, sentences, paragraphs, even images and videos can be, with increasing automaticity, associated with precisely relevant content on other parts of the web. A given word can have several denotative definitions, connotative meanings, and/or slang usages, and any one of those definitions could take on slightly or drastically different meanings in the jargon of myriad professions, fields, social units, geographical areas, etc. But weight that given word with contextual tags, and the intended meaning emerges—ready for association, translation, categorization, ad infinitum. It’s not totally absurd to think of Semantics as empowering data to “friend” other data, and only fairly absurd to conceptualize Web 3.0 as a great big e-Harmony service for information.bounce house

The Semantic Web and Collaboration

You might not have friended your co-workers, but your goals and objectives should be aligned and your tools should allow you to collaborate for better, faster results. It shouldn’t matter if your co-workers are in the cubicle next to you or in Madagascar. Collaboration isn’t talking about working together. It isn’t discussing what will be done between the current meeting and the next. It’s about actual making immediate micro-decisions within a team environment; the assembling in real time of a project by living, breathing knowledge bases. Getting up and walking across the office to discuss a topic with a colleague is still a nice thing to do; but we have the technology to automate inquiries and responses, tasks and tickets, change notifications and event reminders. Isn’t getting up and walking across the office to chat with a colleague so much better after you’ve cleared from your plates the morning’s dozen action items?

My roundabout point is that we, like the contextualized data of Web 3.0, are granules of information. Maybe your AOL-Time Warner stock didn’t do so well; maybe Twitter gives you migraines—but the Semantic Web is much more than an evolution of e-commerce and hashtags. It’s a rapidly expanding and interweaving net of data connecting partners in collaboration based on the information they seek and have; increasingly immersing us in knowledge; integrating knowledge bases with each other to achieve—with increasingly precise tools in the hands of increasingly knowledgeable people—wisdom.

The way we work is changing, and the rate of that change is increasing. But don’t worry; just think how great you’ll be at your job with a shiny, new-fangled wisdom base…

Facebook Mail, Gmail & the future of communication & collaboration software

facebook email killerYes, it is that time of the year again. When everyone predicts the death of email.

As you know, Facebook announced it’s email feature yesterday, or should i say, emailsey feature, because it is not quite email. What is rather unglamorously called Facebook Messages, brings multiple formats of information – email, IM, phone text messages, in a single email style Inbox, and allows you to choose to recieve and send messages in any of these formats. There are no subject lines or CC fields, and all communications from the same person are wrapped in a mega-thread. At an invite only beta stage at this point, FaceBook will allow all users to request an @facebook address once this goes live.

Has email finally found its nemesis?

Facebook Messages give email a “social” spin and are in line with the “ongoing” style of conversations in Facebook. Although Mark Zuckberg emphasized that the new feature is “not an email killer”, this certainly is an effort to piggyback email’s popularity and wean users away from traditional email. Unlike the erstwhile Google Wave, which sought to replace email in epic fashion, Facebook Messages enter in friendly garb through the backdoor, with the covert intention of nudging email out. The Social Newtork would have us believe that it is all the frustration of being dumped by a girl, but clearly, a master strategist’s mind is at work, because this will give Facebook access to a large chunk of email users not yet on Facebook.

But as email has proved time and again, it is not going away. Since Facebook borrows from email’s structure, yet adds to it, there might be a gradual shifting of what people expect from email. You can be sure it will have some amount of success, because of the ready made user base of Facebook.

Fmail and Gmail

As expected, everyone is also assessing the impact of “Fmail” on Gmail, the new age poster boy of consumer email (not quite reflected by its market share). One can’t help but feel a little for Google. Before it could even fully bask in the glory of pushing out Microsoft and Yahoo out of their position of pre eminence, a young whipper snapper in the form of FaceBook has come along nipping at its heels.

Clearly, Facebook is not content with a position of being a mere social network. It seeks to be the internet destination of choice, or the internet ecosystem of choice, if you will, just as Google search has been for close to a decade. It is already well on its way, when it became the #1 most visited site in the US earlier this year.

If Fmail catches on, Gmail is clearly in trouble, in-spite of being the superior email solution, since users want access to all their information at a single place, and clearly social networking is today’s hub. When they spend a majority of their time on Facebook, they will have less of an incentive to leave and go to Gmail for mail, if they can have it right in Facebook.

Is this indicative of the future of business Communication and Collaboration?

Although there are no near term implications of Fmail in businesses, as Facebook is a pure consumer play company for now, one can speculate at its long term impact.

Fmail attempts to break down the barriers between different text based information, and keep everyone in the loop irrespective of device, and preferred mode of communication. This “convergence” and “device independence” is indeed the way of the future, and we ourselves have attempted to achieve this with HyperOffice for the SMB market.

However, for a Facebook/Facebook Messages type solution to work, the structure of businesses itself has to evolve. The very formality that Fmail seeks to get rid of is an important aspect of working in organizations. The stakes of improper communication are low in informal groups, but in businesses, where people communicate across levels of hierarchy, and across organizational boundaries, the stakes are high. The blocked, formal, approach of business email is ideal for this sort of communication. Imagine sending emails without a subject line!

There is of course the necessity for on-going emergent communication, as well as for real time communication and collaboration. Business communication and collaboration software like IM, forums, and document collaboration serve this need. But merging them in all in a unified format may lead to a new kind of chaos.

The sporadic, ongoing, real-time, minimalistic communication that Facebook encourages might be suitable for informal groups, but work groups need to create voluminous and structured information (documents).

Undoubtedly, as the Facebook generation ages, and enters the workforce more and more, they will bring along with them expectations in terms of working styles and tools. However, this will be a gradual and long drawn out process, as structure of organizations evolves to accommodate these new tools. Tools in the meantime, will continue to become more and more social, but only with much caution, when business benefits have clearly been established.

Tools which strike the right balance between socialness and structure will be the winners.

6 Ways to Increase Collaboration Software Adoption

The Prelude – grand talk of the strategic potential of a new IT technology, the manifold ROI, the sky rocketing productivity, the competitive advantage.

The Act – 5% of the employees use the software after 3 months of implementation.

It goes without saying. The bare minimum necessary condition for a software initiative to succeed is for end users to use the software. According to a 2008 study by the Sand Hill Group and Neochange, the most critical factor for software success is effective user adoption.

Unfortunately, this is also the hardest to achieve. A simple fact about human behavior is, people are resistant to change (Obama may disagree). There is no greater inertia than that of comfortable everyday habits. Every software implementation plan has to surpass this negative inertia to succeed.

This article lists some simple yet practical strategies you may employ for your new collaboration software initiative to be embraced by the largest number of employees in your organization.

1) The Software – The usability of the software itself is important is garnering adoption. The UI should be intuitive, easy to use and fast. The success of web 2.0 in large part is due to the point and click and user-friendly nature of the software. Employees these days are used to pleasing and fun software like FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube in their roles as consumers, and bring similar expectations to the workplace. As noted by Dion Hinchcliffe in his article, in case of complex enterprise software like SharePoint “inherent sophistication can also mean slow adoption and low engagement by users”.

Usability is one of the cornerstones of our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite, especially considering our customer base of SMBs, which do not have much in house IT expertise. Change

The software is important, but is certainly not enough to ensure wide adoption. It is to a large extent a human problem. Employees are by default going to be skeptical, and unwilling to step out of comfortable modes of action. If you are so used to setting up meetings through email, (notwithstanding the torrent of emails to schedule, reschedule that follow), going to the new company calendar is going to feel like a burden. These are humans that have to be convinced, and won over.

2) Undertake a Marketing Campaign – While launching software across the company, the owner of the initiative should assume the attitude of a marketer. Conduct training sessions, seminars, and circulate materials across the organization, telling everyone how the new tool will help them solve problems they face everyday, and how it will help them work better. The emphasis should be on their pain points, rather than solution features.

3) Reinforce Good Behavior – The more I think about it, the more sense Kurt Lewin’s Model of Change that I learnt in college makes. It is not enough to implement change, but the change has to be repeatedly reinforced, till it becomes the new state of equilibrium.

Reward good behavior. The simple act of applauding an employee who assigns a new activity using the task management system sends everyone a message.

4) Practice what you Preach – No one is going to follow the Law, if the Lawmakers are frequently found infringing rules. Who is going to take a manager seriously, who circulates a policy document by email announcing the new document management system!? The top management are looked up to as idols in an organization. Strict self-discipline is necessary in their part to set an example.

5) Use Fun to your Advantage! – As educators down the ages have learnt, fun and play are great tools for education. Use fun as an excuse to engage users with the software. Non-work related activities around the tool could reap benefits in the long term. How about setting up a poll within your tool to choose the venue for your next company outing? A discussion forum for informal chitter-chatter between employees around their interests? Or something evil, a flash game where players get points for shooting down a competitor’s logo.

6) Deprive Users of Choice – There is some essential information and tool that every employee needs to access during their work day. Make your collaboration tool the single point of access for these tools and information – company events updated only on the shared calendar; essential policy documents, order forms, contract templates available only in shared documents; reimbursement requests only channeled through the expenses application in the company portal and so on. That way, you will sneak the software into the users’ daily routine.

Is there a technique you learnt in your experience? Please share it with us and others!

October 2010 Upgrade – Project Management on Steroids and More

The latest release of HyperOffice implements more than 25 customer requested enhancements, with a major focus on delivering a more robust online project management tool including task dependencies, interactive Gantt charts, and more. Here is a list of the most popular updates. It brings users an alternative to project management tools like BaseCamp, which may bring robust project features, but lag in other collaboration areas.

Shared Tasks

Task Dependencies – Task dependencies now allow users to create project management workflows based on standard task relationships: Start-to-Start, Start-to-Finish, Finish-to-Start, and Finish-to-Finish. This allows users to reflect real life corporate projects, which are a network of interdependent tasks. Create complex relationships between tasks, such as, “task 1 cannot begin till task 2 is completed”, “task 1 cannot begin till task 2 has begun”, “task 1 cannot finish till task 2 has finished” and so on.

Interactive Gantt Charts: The new interactive Gantt Chart, offering drag, drop, and re-size features on tasks, allow users to arrange tasks and set task durations right from the Gantt Chart console.

Timesaver – Added ability to duplicate tasks to save time on common tasks

Timesaver/Feature enhancement – Users will now be notified as to which part of a shared task is changed by underlining the changed fields inside of the notification email

Timesaver/Feature enhancement – Added and improved recurring tasks and projects, which now appear as a new tab in task edit window.

Contacts

Timesaver – Contacts will now be associated with whichever category they are created from

Timesaver – Group admins are now able to purge/delete all group contacts

Timesaver – Added ability to copy contacts using the right-click copy menu.

Mail

Usability – In the business email module, we have increased the limits on To/CC/BCC fields to 100 recipients, 100 recipients, and 50 recipients respectively allowing users to send out mass emails. However the aggregate number of recipients in all fields (To, CC, and BCC) may not exceed 200 addressees.

Timesaver – Improved folder creation system by allowing creation of a folder within a parent folder based on your location inside of the folder structure.

Documents

Timesaver – You can now edit folder/file names in shared documents inline from the web interface

Settings

Ease of Use – Time zone selection is simpler with fewer choices based entirely on your GMT adjustment.

Timesaver/Automation – Added ability to set default reminders for events inside of personal settings

Feature Enhancement – Portal administrators now have the ability to unlock user accounts whose accounts have had 10 failed log-in attempts within one hour

Microsoft BPOS is now Office 365

Office 365: What is it?

A couple of hours ago, Microsoft announced the beta release of Office 365, a cloud service that wraps its major offerings – Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office in a unified cloud environment.

Experts expected Microsoft to announce that it will upgrade the backend of BPOS to its 2010 range of products, and also include Office Web Apps, its much covered web version of MS Office. Since there was no mention of BPOS during the keynote it is unclear if Office 365 will replace MS’ Business Productivity Online Suite or be an additional product (Marie Jo Folie of ZDNet is of the opinion that BPOS goes).

The unexpected news is that Office 365 will also include Office Professional Plus, a desktop client which includes MS Office and some other collaboration features.

Crudely, Office 365 can be seen in the following terms


Microsoft gives the cloud a bear hug

This keynote is probably the strongest endorsement of the cloud by Microsoft yet, where they called the cloud a “once in a generation technology shift” and “of the magnitude of a change to the graphical user interface.”

We were glad to see much of our messaging echoed in the keynote – that the cloud changes the rules of competition by enabling small companies with the same technologies as enterprises; it allows cost savings of up to 50%; that small businesses need technologies that are easy to use and quick to deploy, and so on.

Microsoft would have you believe that it was all part of its “vision”, but the truth is, market pressures have forced it to give the cloud a central position in its strategy. Cloud computing for businesses was made mainstream by Google Apps in the last couple of years, but confidence was built slowly and steadily over years by early cloud players like SalesForce and HyperOffice.

Where HyperOffice fits in

We are more than glad when a large company like Microsoft endorses and evangelizes the cloud or software-as-a-service market. It validates the market, and we have to exert less effort trying to convince users about the benefits of the cloud, and can focus on telling them about what differentiates our product from others.

We know we placed our bets right – the online collaboration software market, which apart from HyperOffice, only had one or two other players in the early 2000s, and is now the most exciting market in business IT.

This news also further validates the integrated online messaging and collaboration software market, which breaks down the traditional barriers between “communication” and “collaboration” applications. We have been offering “integrated” solution for years now, and Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS have made this approach mainstream in the last couple of years.

We do not have the grand plans of Microsoft and Google, of swamping the enterprise market with cloud solutions. We are confident that HyperOffice brings one of the best solutions for our target niche – small and mid sized businesses – and of our ability to continue to operate profitably in that niche.

Microsoft BPOS, and its possible new avatar, Office 365, are ultimately refurbishments of its enterprise focused technologies, and retain some of the complexity. Companies with IT resources will find themselves best positioned to make advantage of these solutions.

HyperOffice, on the other hand, being a small business ourselves, we are more in touch with the needs of growing companies. SMBs need solutions they can implement without the benefit of in house IT expertise, and require strong customer support. HyperOffice brings users a lot more functionality “out of the box” than Office 365, developed over years of real experience with SMBs. Moreover, we bring a strong customer service ethic, and a service package (free training and phone support), which Microsoft cannot replicate with its network of partners.