With the economy going south, and with corporate revenues headed in the same general direction, companies are desperately looking for ways to cut costs. One obvious target: T&E.
Of course, reining in travel budgets also means reining in employees. That, in turn, threatens worker productivity, which can negate savings from cost-cutting measures.
To keep workers in touch, but on-site, some companies are turning to collaboration software, which provides online workspaces that let users create, share, and track documents. (If eye contact is necessary, most of these products integrate easily with videoconferencing software.) The apps also archive all the discussions and negotiations that might otherwise be scattered among email, faxes, and overnight mail.
A number of industry players market collaboration software; offerings include Lotus Sametime, SAP Product Lifecycle Management, and Ikimbo Omniprise. But two of the more popular programs, come from less-well-known vendors.
ERoom 5.0, from eRoom Technology, allows users from inside or outside a company to access a workspace using a Web browser. As with an extranet, only invited users may enter. But an eRoom is easier to set up than an extranet and more customizable. The Web-based interface also helps workers get started on projects quickly, with little training — a big plus. Hewlett-Packard, which employs traditional ERP systems, added eRoom to collaborate with suppliers.
Then there’s Groove 1.0, the much-anticipated brainchild of Ray Ozzie, who created Lotus Notes. Groove enables workers to create ad hoc “shared spaces,” stored on their hard drives, where they can collaborate through file sharing, voice conversations, scheduling, Web browsing, and joint document creation.
Although based on a peer-to-peer model — where users communicate directly, PC to PC — the newly released enterprise version of Groove 1.0 features centralized administration that improves security, bandwidth usage, and IT reporting capabilities. Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline — whose R&D operations include more than 16,000 researchers in seven countries — is using Groove on a trial basis to support teamwork between employees and outside researchers.