Collaboration 2.0: Make The Web Your Workspace

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Share and Share Alike
Web-based applications are highly mobile—they can go anywhere a user can access the web—from laptop to office desktop to a BlackBerry in a cab on the way to the airport. Today's content management tools tap into that flexibility with web-based document management. Instead of a closed Word session, documents come alive. Web-based document management provides a community desktop where employees can do more than just access content. They can see who's been reading, writing, and contributing.

For Koral Content Collaboration, one of the key differences between Web 1.0 and 2.0 document management is that the content user is given nearly as many tools as the content creator. "Web 1.0 was based on the notion of publishing," said Suster, "but in Web 2.0, it's publish and subscribe."

When Koral users first upload a document into the collaboration system, the information begins in a private workspace. When it's ready for distribution, the user can control which groups, divisions, or individuals can access the document. If they notice an error during the collaborative process, the creator can lock the document until the problem is fixed. 

Once a document is online, anyone who has subscribed to the particular author or subject will receive notification that new content is available. As other employees begin perusing the information, Koral tracks the collaborative evolution automatically. Each document management window lets the creator know which users have been reading the document. For more direct feedback, there is a user rating system, as well as a space for visitors to comment on the work. As documents are revised and updated, old versions are automatically cached and replaced by the newer version. And when changes are made, subscribers get a message to let them know there's new information available.

It's like Word meets the world—rather than working solo, users of web-based document management systems can invite coworkers to look over their shoulders and offer input right on the page, all without having to leave their cubicles. 

New Wave Networking 
Social networking used to be something that happened at happy hour or at tradeshows, but unless you counted water cooler conversations or chatting with customers on the phone, it was not part of the regular business day. However, some companies, inspired by sites like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, have taken networking out of bars and break rooms and put it online with private company networks. 

Enterprise networking may look more professional than a teenager's MySpace network, but the premise underlying each is similar: Find people who are interested in the same things you are and make the connection. Corporate networking spaces offer room for personalization, which is what makes profiles more than just another entry in the corporate directory. 

Web Crossing Neighbors was launched mid-2006, built on the premise that social networking can connect employees based on common interests and goals to make the most of the company's human resources. It's an enterprise application that allows users to build an in-house network of their own. Like its public cousin Friendster, a Neighbors-based corporate social network is built out of employees' personal pages. Members can upload pictures, make files available for sharing, post their own blogs, and open forums for discussion within groups. Colleagues invite one another to join networks, and groups form around shared connections. 

According to Jim Bert, vice president of business development at Web Crossing, "Social networking takes traditional message boards and forums to another collaboration level by allowing a much greater degree of personalization and sharing." It's a way to repackage first generation web concepts—like threaded online discussions and file sharing—into an application that's fun for users. 

People-Powered Participation 
In the Collaboration 2.0 workplace, all information that passes across an employee's desktop during the day is considered an asset. Capitalizing on those assets—not to mention managing them—has CMS developers rethinking where and how to build enterprise networks. 

No matter what the Web 2.0 application, success comes down to one critical factor: participation. For user-created content to be at its best, there must be an active and involved core community with members who are willing to stay invested in the information being presented through blogs and wikis. And unless contributors keep up with the flow of information, entries quickly grow stale. 

That instant information explosion can either be a blessing or a curse for companies, depending on how they're prepared to capture and keep that information. To retain value, 2.0 applications need to make employees want to participate. If they do, the company wiki might finally replace the water cooler as the place where collaboration begins.

Companies Featured

Ektron Inc.

Google Inc.

Koral Inc.

Socialtext Inc. 

Web Crossing Inc.  

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