By Jacob Morgan
Every Friday, I’ll be reviewing a vendor in the emergent collaboration space and will provide an overview on that vendor which includes aspects from leadership and vision to technology and market focus. If you are vendor and would like to participate, please contact me (my email address is in the sidebar as is my Twitter link). The goal of these posts is not to bash or praise vendors but to simply offer an objective view on what various vendors offer so that YOU can decide if they are a good fit for your business. Every post will cover the same elements for each vendors. If you have ideas or recommendations for other items to be covered in these reviews, please let me know and I will consider them. Other collaboration vendor reviews can be found here.
This week I’m taking at look at HyperOffice which has been in the business of cloud based business applications for the past seven years. HyperOffice is headquartered in Rockville, Maryland and currently has around 30 employees. It is privately funded and profitable. I spoke with the co-founder Farzin Arsanjani and Ross Savage (although I was never given his formal role or title).
HyperOffice offers extensive integration with Outlook and all Outlook modules (calendars, contacts and tasks). HyperOffice also includes push and sync capabilities for most ActiveSync, SyncML and other popular mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. Basic phones are supported with push email to SMS.
HyperOffice supports integration with Active directory and LDAP. Although out of the box integration’s with platforms such Sharepoint is not available they can still be done with some customization. The HyperOffice technology is quite modular and extensive APIs are available to embed HyperOffice components and applications within other platforms. Third party web-based applications can also be integrated within HyperOffice using single sign-on.
Free technical support is available for all customers with live telephone and chat support. This distinguishes HyperOffice with many prominent competitors who have only admin support for “critical” issues or others who charge additional support costs for this type of service. HyperOffice also has a ticketing system and support community with a good collection of articles and videos. They also have a professional services team that offers additional options such as training, migration, customization and strategy development to get organizations up and running with HyperOffice.
HyperOffice ranges from $3-$15 user (depending on the number of modules customers are interested in using) with an average cost of around $7-8. Discounts are available with longer and large engagements.
Maintenance & Upgrades
HyperOffice does 3-4 major product rollouts every year – around one a quarter. Patches don’t follow a definite schedule but come out on a need basis. There are around 5-6 patches a year on average. HyperOffice makes extensive use of customer feedback in its product development cycle and many features in the product reflect that. HyperOffice utilized a “feedback” button integrated right into the platform along with a “User Voice” as a forum where users can suggest features and enhancements and vote on them. Popular suggestions are made part of the product roadmap. HyperOffice also enters into high level OEM type partnerships, where its technology can be licensed, branded and deployed by large partners to their own customer bases. HyperOffice can be deployed as a private cloud/public cloud or via third party data-centers.
Overall direction and strategic vision for the company and industry
Being one of the early players in cloud based business solutions, HyperOffice understandably has big beliefs in the benefits of the cloud. There are a lot of great point solutions available today, but managing closely related activities with a multiplicity of tools has the potential of having a degrading effect on productivity over time – what HyperOffice calls “collaboration sprawl.” Convergence of collaboration toolsdriven by business needs is what HyperOffice sees as the inevitable future of the market. This is why HyperOffice is focused on an integrated environment, and positions this as one of its key benefits.
Mobility is another critical component of collaboration in modern teams and is another key cornerstone for HyperOffice’s strategy and future direction. HyperOffice offers extensive native support for major mobile platforms, and has a tablet interface to serve the growing demand of tablet computers in businesses. To build on its mobility capabilities, HyperOffice and has major plans of entering the mobile “app” market later this year.
“Social collaboration” forms a big part of HyperOffice’s future product direction where they want to focus on more social and open environments where employees can interact and work with each other.
HyperOffice also plans to make improvements to its UI to make it easier to navigate and understand. It will also allow social dashboard views for companies who collaborate in more social and open ways. However, HyperOffice believes that there is no one right way to collaborate, and depends on a company’s policies and culture. In line with that, the new UI will be an option for the customers instead of a replacement.
Other HyperOffice initiatives include entering foreign markets through localized partnerships and local language versions. They already have localized deployments in Japanese, Spanish and French. HyperOffice also plans to make it APIs richer and more open for better integration with 3rd party apps in popular categories like CRM and ERP.
Finally, HyperOffice is a great believer in having proper strategies and detailed planning going into the cloud era. Sales cycles for cloud solutions have shrunk drastically, but it has lead to complacency. Companies hazard into implementation with unrealistic expectations and without planning, and this lack of effort up front later leads to problems and abandoned initiatives. Just because the tools are easy to deploy doesn’t mean that business considerations shouldn’t be addressed. Tools, especially in an area of strategic impact as collaboration need to be aligned with business objectives and have supporting business practices around them.
Key differentiating factors from competition
• Integrated suite
• Wide feature range
• Rich platform with extensive customization functionality
• Extensive native mobile support
• Built for small and medium size businesses
• UI is unique and intuitive
• Support is better than most
HyperOffice includes a robust site publisher tool with drag and drop capabilities which allows companies to build customized intranet and extranet landing pages without HTML expertise. Users can create web forms for their site visitors and collect that data in HyperOffice or use it to kick off workflows which integrate into Hyperoffice.
From an administrators point of view multiple layers of permissions and access control can be implemented at the group, folder, subfolder or object level. “Profiles” allow administrators to apply permissions to groups of users – top management, suppliers, field workers and so on. Users can customize their HyperOffice login pages and embed them on their own portal.
Time to go live
Technically you have access to HyperOffice functionality within seconds after you fill out a form. Implementation time depends on the size of the organization and ranges from an hour or weeks based on complexity.
HyperOffice is integrated suite of applications built on a shared services platform. It is designed to be massively scalable for service delivery from the cloud (database and file-system segmentation). It is built on an any-node-any-request architecture that allows it to ensure redundancy and high performance, and an incorporates a mobility framework for extensibility. Its web interface is built in Java and AJAX technologies.
Small and medium size businesses but have a lot of enterprise customers as well.
Capabilities (customer, partner, employee collaboration)
Employee, partner, and customer communities (private)
I must be on a roll with vendor reviews because somehow the past few companies I have been interviewing are either all profitable or break-even and self-financed. This is a bit amusing because the larger vendors in the space are not anywhere near profitable while the little guys are quietly churning a profit behind the scenes, something I love to see. The first thing you will notice right away is that the UI is unlike any of the other platforms out there. The navigation bar is vertically placed on the left side of the screen.
The platform itself is quite robust and offers a lot of functionality ranging from contact management, group creation, ideation, project management, and event web forms which can be placed on public sites which kick off workflows. Keep in mind though that HyperOffice is ideally geared for small and medium size businesses so integration with other platforms such as Sharepoint doesn’t come standard. Even though the functionality is there the biggest issue I see is with a fragmented UI. If you look in the sidebar you will notice that there are several tabs which the user can access but the platform feels like more of a way to manage an individuals work then it does collaborating with others. Although HyperOffice is adding more social features into the platform the fact that the user needs to click around on multiple tabs to access different features can be a bit cumbsersome. The good thing about many of the current UIs for collaboration platforms is that much of the functionality can be accessed and viewed from a single screen without having to navigate through different tabs. This causes the work and the experience to feel a bit isolated and disconnected even though a robust feature set exists. I also feel as though the UI is a little bit dated and could use a more modern refresh. I was told an update to the UI is coming soon so we will see what that looks like.
I love the superior mobile support that HyperOffice has, in fact it’s a strong focus for their current roadmap. Their support package is also probably the best I have seen to date among many vendors. Integration also seems to be a bit of a challenge so although HyperOffice as a platform has a robust feature set the reality is that many companies out there are already using an existing platform and would want a way to integrate and combine the various solutions. Currently this is a bit of a tedious process.
I really do want to like the product because I think it has amazing potential but for me personally the UI issue needs to be resolved and there needs to be more an ecosystem built around HyperOffice that allows for better integration with other systems. The company is profitable so I think it has a lot of potential as it continues to grow and evolve through 2012 and beyond.
HyperOffice is worth taking a look at especially if you are a small or mid size organization that is just getting started with collaboration (in other words not already using something). To find out more check out their website at HyperOffice.com.