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By Daniel Rasmus

Collaboration is important to businesses large and small. It helps bring distributed teams together, facilitates better decisions, and keeps everyone in the loop. Collaboration also is a great reason to deploy iPads. When you need something, you need it now, not when you get back to your desktop. When you learn something, you want to capture it immediately. When someone needs you, you want to be able to respond quickly. Collaboration is very personal.

I had the opportunity to talk with Executive Brand Manager Jenna Balegno of Canter Companies, about its use of iPads for real estate field agents.

Canter Companies is a full-service investment firm headquartered in San Diego, Calif. that takes advantage of the ups and downs of California’s real estate market. During the last year, the firm realized its need for improved collaboration among its real estate agents, so it turned to iOS devices and HyperOffice software to better connect its teams.

Unlike products that deliver features via native applications, HyperOffice uses the iPad’s browser and the native Apple apps like Mail and Calendar. Once a HyperOffice user logs in, he or she receives an iPad specific environment that can be custom-built for each customer.

HyperOffice can include a full collaboration suite called Enterprise ($15 per month), which offers email. Organizations with an existing email account can complement it with collaboration tools by signing up for the Core service ($7 per month). For $35 a month, HyperOffice includes a bundle of other services, including customer login, email archiving, and directory integration.

Canter Companies stores all its shared documents, including forms, signage, and events information inside the HyperOffice repository. It also uses HyperOffice as the home for contacts, calendar events, and tasks, all of which synchronize directly to the native Contacts, Calendar, and Task apps on iOS. Email also syncs with the iOS Mail client. Canter is a Bring-Your-Own-Device environment where these capabilities are available to team members who own iOS devices and choose to use them for work.

The onboarding of new agents generates significant benefits for Canter. An introductory email directs the new agent to a landing page walking them through a new agent information form. Notifications sent from the new agent form lead to web access authorizations, business cards, and other new agent activities.

HyperOffice also includes an internal social media feature. Although the feature wasn’t a major component of Canter’s planned roll-out, Balegno says the social aspect of HyperOffce was a “huge added benefit” in keeping the company’s distributed organization informed, and is a way to rapidly answer questions from the field.

Here’s a work anywhere, anytime example: During the Cochella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, one of Canter’s agents needed to complete a transaction. She was able to engage with the company’s transaction system, through HyperOffice on her iPhone while still enjoying the music.

As the iOS market matures, and more enterprise level software will be deployed on it. The model of Apple apps combined with a browser experience will be a common implementation. Even proprietary “native apps” may be little more than wrappers around HTML 5 experiences. Make sure you understand service offerings and their iOS capabilities. Don’t discount offers just because they don’t offer a proprietary app.

Collaboration eliminates many of the shortcomings found in email. It creates a richer, more dynamic, more engaging, and more transparent work environment. The future of collaboration lies with mobile devices that can integrate collaboration directly into day-to-day experiences, anywhere, anytime.

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