Team Spaces

Teams benefit greatly from having a single place where all project deliverables are kept during development. This allows current team members ready access the most up-to-date project documentation, and makes it easy for new team members to quickly learn about the team’s purpose and where each of the deliverables are at any given time in the project life cycle. Here are a few of the important features of a shared team space tool:

  • Easy installation&#8212Fast and simple client installation, or ideally no client installation at all (e.g., all browser-based with no downloads) makes it much easier for new team members to get up to speed.
  • Fast&#8212This cannot be understated. Slow tools mean they won’t be used, or worse, they will be used and will kill team productivity.
  • Intuitive&#8212Tools that are intuitive save ramp-up time for new members and help productivity for experienced users as well.
  • Platform agnostic&#8212For working with teams whose members use different computing platforms (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux, UNIX), a team tool that works equally well on all platforms is essential.
  • Easy to reorganize content&#8212It must be very easy and fast to move files around and reorganize a site as it grows.
  • Notifications&#8212User established notices for a variety of document state changes such as: modified, new document added, document deleted, etc.
  • Access controls&#8212Ability to setup user access levels allows some people read/write access and others read-only.

Product Comments

Microsoft Office SharePoint

Version 3.0 of this product is well suited for team collaboration behind a company firewall. With some effort and expense,
it can be made available to people outside the firewall (i.e., other companies, contractors, roaming employees, etc.). As expected, it has decent access control and excellent linkage with the Office product suite. The strengths of this product are

  • Entirely browser-based and compatible with most browser (except for Office links, which only work with IE)
  • Extensively customizable interface using only browser forms
  • Excellent linkage between the core Office applications (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and the SharePoint database for both documents and table data
  • The lists can be used for real-time checklists and data management
  • Good control for accessing any given file repository or list.
  • Integration with Windows Messenger for embedded presence information
  • Notifications

But, SharePoint has a few drawbacks:

  • The most powerful feastures, such as drag-n-drop file movement and Office file linkages, are only accessed using Internet Explorer (Microsoft’s browser) and Office.
  • Data are not encrypted, so extra work must be done to safeguard data when a system is setup to transfer data to outside parties.
  • The product is not designed to handle users from more than one user domain, so keeping track of users from more than one company is problematic.

Company site: Microsoft Office SharePoint

Lotus Notes

Sold as a business e-mail solution, IBM’s Lotus Notes also has some decent virtual team collaboration capabilities. Here are a few key features:

  • Inherently secure with end-to-end data encryption
  • Excellent access control down to the document level
  • Browser-based, but offers a thick client for developers and power users
  • Integrated conferencing tools for instant messaging, application sharing and whiteboarding

If your company has already standardized on the Notes platform for messaging, the collaboration bits are definitely worth a look.

Company site: Lotus Notes

EMC eRoom

EMC’s team collaboration platform is decent for small
teams and teams that include external business partners and contractors. Its biggest problem is performance. Extensive use of graphical icons appears to slow down its rendering speed. Here are a few key features of this platform:

  • Always-on end-to-end browser encryption
  • Excellent access control down to the document level
  • Easy drag-n-drop movement of files, including entire folders
  • Decent notification mechanism using e-mail and/or a real-time client
  • Easily modified to include external team members from other companies
  • Includes a secure IM client for convenient intra- and inter-company IM

Company site: EMC eRoom

Groove

Groove is a Microsoft product that integrates very well with SharePoint. It can be a standalone-team space, or act as a bridge between two SharePoint team spaces located in different companies.
It’s always-on strong encryption is so good the US Defense department uses it for battlefield information sharing. Its biggest drawback is that it is a very heavy client application that everyone on the team must install and learn. Here are a few key features:

  • Always-on end-to-end very strong encryption of every bit of communications between end points
  • Excellent mechanism for connecting together anyone, anywhere
  • Familiar Windows application interface with easy drag-n-drop file and folder movement
  • Many included tools such as whiteboard, notepad, lists, folders, instant messaging, etc.
  • Voice messaging and real-time voice capability
  • Enterprise administration server option allows for more secure control over content and user access
    throughout the system

Company site: Microsoft Groove

2 Responses to Team Spaces

  1. Justin Chen says:

    For really simple and cheap file sharing, you should check out Dropbox: http://www.getdropbox.com

    On the mac, there’s some nice seamless integration so you can just drag files to a local folder and have it replicated to folders shared with your teammates. I think the first few gigs are free.

  2. admin says:

    I think the technology in Groove (now part of Microsoft Office) is very cool. It is OOB secure with strong encryption, and it works peer-to-peer, with no need or concern about data store on servers anywhere. The only problem, you still need a relay server someplace that someone has to pay for. But, the concept was really neat.

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