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Groupware Finds Home in American Business: Collaboration Tool Analysis

What is Groupware?

Have you ever had to manage document collaboration in a hurry? No need to be ashamed if you said "yes." Virtually every American business has experienced moments of ad hoc team collaboration. In other words, the ideal business collaboration method involves meticulous record keeping and organization; all deadlines are met; nobody feels rushed. That doesn't sound very realistic, does it? The important thing is that even scattered, ad hoc business collaboration can be organized in such a way that important records of business documents and their version history can be kept. Groupware tracks all documents across email and hard drives, tracking changes and saved locations. Groupware also lets businesses review changes and merge them, simplifying an often difficult process. Groupware is time-saving software recognized by American businesses for solving the ad hoc collaboration challenges. Any given search engine search for "groupware" will undoubtedly yield a long list of sponsored searches in addition to the millions of indexed pages referencing groupware products, testifying to its usefulness among American businesses.

Groupware as a Collaboration Tool

Due to the fact that millions of groupware packages are available for businesses, users must do their homework to find the right groupware to suit their business needs. One of the best ways to start is to analyze groupware as a collaboration tool. Since businesses collaborate on virtually everything from budgets to marketing reports, presentations, and memos, businesses need a collaboration tool that works the way businesses work. The difficulty of some groupware packages is that even though they provide a virtual vignette of helpful tools, instead of groupware working for you, you are working for it. I do not think I would be alone in raising my voice against difficult and expensive IT infrastructure set-ups. Software that does its job after it is downloaded or installed is the best way to go. Be sure to be thorough in analyzing the costs, including the opportunity costs, of groupware as your business collaboration tool.

Having analyzed the set-up costs, it is time to move on to analyzing the usability of groupware as a collaboration tool. First, does the groupware package your business is looking at work only within your office, or does it also work with clients, investors, partners, and others with whom you collaborate? It is important to remember that no business is an island. A collaboration tool which cuts out those with whom you collaborate will not be very helpful. In other words, groupware which works with those outside your business once it is installed helps everyone to be on the same page. Being on the same page is important when working through the barrage of business collaboration documents being fired back and forth between email accounts. Email is an example of how collaboration is so often done online. Your usability analysis of groupware as a collaboration tool must take into account online collaboration.

User Friendly Groupware

Finally, after costs and usability are taken into account, let me offer some helpful tips on selecting a groupware suite with helpful and user-friendly technology.

First, find groupware with Digital Thread technology. Digital Thread is a technology that works for your business from the moment your groupware is installed. Digital Thread tracks documents and their changes across email and hard drives by tagging the metadata of the document. The document changes are literally threaded together like beads on a necklace, not a single one gets lost.

Second, find groupware that creates a Digital Signature. Digital Signature is a signature that is appended to an e-mail that informs the user which draft it is and by whom it was saved. Finding the latest version of a document is always very simple to track with a signature like this.

Third, find groupware that enables Version History. Version History displays the document genealogy as a flow chart. The who, what, when, where, and how of every document is displayed for simple tracking and record keeping.

American businesses recognize the need for document management that works the way they do. Often, the ideal business process is not realized, and more often than not, ad hoc becomes the business process. These tips are designed to help businesses make an informed decision on groupware packages that are flexible to their needs. Affordability, flexibility, usability, and organization are benchmarks by which effective collaboration tool analysis can determine your business groupware.

Joe Miller is an author of informational articles and online advertisements on business, technology, and health. Information on groupware is available at NextPage.com.

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