Collaboration 2.0: Old meets new

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Take the essential concept of sharing, then add cloud, social, Web and mobile.

The concept of enterprise collaboration tools is nothing new. After all, Lotus Notes, a pioneer in this technology, dates back 25 years. And computing visionary Douglas Engelbart famously showed off early collaborative software in his 1968 "Mother of All Demos." Yet in the past few years a host of new collaboration products has hit the market, and they differ from their predecessors in ways both big and small.

Yes, the new tools, like the old, promote collaboration and idea-sharing in the workplace. But the new crop is, generally speaking, Web- or cloud-based instead of living on a server inside the firewall. They are also, mostly, much easier to use and set up than the older generations. There are also some new kinds of collaboration built around tools such as task management, chat, social networking and even document sharing.

"A common thread among these really highly disruptive vendors is they're always born in the cloud," says Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst. "They're not retrofitting something to the cloud. They are very easy to access and start using, even on an individual basis and certainly by a small team."

Ricoh once had around 500 SharePoint sites but has since shut down most of them. It retains a few because SharePoint has some advantages, Zentz says. For instance, it's ideal for managing workflows, she says.

That's exactly the environment in which SharePoint excels, says Gartner's Mann. "SharePoint works well in a largely curated, pre-defined environment," he says. "It's 'post your weekly report here' or 'request a bigger PC here.' It's not so much 'I need to get a group together to figure out what to do with a product launch next week.'"

Ricoh is using a wide range of features available from Jive. One of the most important is the Microsoft Office plug-in, Zentz says. "Five people can work on a presentation with seamless integration," she says.

In search of a better solution, IRB looked at Box and Dropbox, but the company wasn't convinced they'd be secure enough.

Then Corman came across Intralinks Via. "A key part is there's accountability that is built into the system," he says. "Now we can see whether an investigator has downloaded and viewed the documents. If they haven't, we can feed that information back to the sponsor." If the investigator, or researcher, hasn't looked at the documents, it typically means they haven't actually started work or they might be out of compliance. The sponsor, or drug company, might want to follow up with them.

IRB has about 30 internal licensed users authorized to create new work streams. Collaborators, who are invited to access the documents but don't have to pay to do so, include several hundred clients and several thousand researchers, Corman says.

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