A Case of Connecting Busy Bees

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The Solution
Jive's Clearspace collaboration software for the enterprise was designed from the ground up to be cohesive and easy to install. Built to J2EE Open Standards, its wizard-based setup impressed the One Economy team. "The total evaluation period for One Economy was less than one week, and when we pulled the trigger, our trial account was converted into our hosted production site in a matter of hours," says Ritchie.

Dave Hersh, Jive's CEO, says "One Economy had both persistent and short-lived projects; they had started using collaborative tools but in a point-solution manner. Clearspace provided them a framework for more easily connecting those silos of information and leveraging the information throughout the organization more effectively." Hersh believes that Clearspace's flexibility was key given One Economy's wish to customize the user experience. "Our customers all have unique use cases; there are very few 'plain vanilla' implementations." An easy to use web-based administration console and CSS allows users to mash up content and use plug-ins based on topic, not content type.

Ritchie says that the ease of implementation of Clearspace was impressive, especially after the difficulties experienced with Sharepoint. "Our team was CSS savvy and really liked the simple, standards-based layout that Jive offered," he says. As an example, One Economy wanted to have a metablog on The Buzz's home page that would roll up new content from the blogs maintained by each different department. After struggling with weeks to implement feature using Sharepoint, Ritchie says that with Clearspace, "it took us literally ten seconds to solve that puzzle." The new metablog works as an announcement center; for example, it's an efficient way to have a finance department employee remind everyone that timesheets are due.

Another key benefit to One Economy was the fact that Jive offered the option of a hosted solution. "At the same time we were implementing Clearspace, we were the midst of a transition stage with our server architecture," recalls Ritchie. "The ability for Jive to offer us a turnkey hosted solution for The Buzz was a major incentive." After about four months of the hosting arrangement, One Economy was able to move The Buzz back in house. Beyond some limited issues getting the Tomcat servlet container to work transparently with Apache, Ritchie says the installation was simple.

The Outcome
Ritchie and the One Economy management team were pleased to have found a tool that let them deploy The Buzz so quickly; within a matter of weeks from the time they began their evaluation. Even better than the quickness with which Clearspace enabled One Economy to launch The Buzz, however, was the user reception.

Ritchie says, "Clearspace gave us the ability to jump over the problem of portal pain – getting people to make use of the portal habitual. It let us leapfrog to where we have an easy-to-use, intuitive interface that people want to visit." Six months after The Buzz went live, Ritchie has yet to schedule a training class, because it has been so intuitive for employees to understand. "The usability curve was very advanced," he says.

As an example of The Buzz's hive of activity, Ritchie says that the portal is now the common source for marketing copy, logos, and press releases. "Outside of the D.C. headquarters, people never knew where to find those marketing pieces before," he says. Now they're easy to locate on The Buzz, no VPN required.

One drawback to the Clearspace deployment, according to Ritchie, is that it is the only J2EE application in the One Economy technical infrastructure. "It's a bit of a red-headed stepchild," he says, "in that the vast part of my day is spent in a PHP environment." He says it's an adjustment each time he has to step back into the J2EE environment to troubleshoot or modify something in The Buzz.

As for future directions, both Jive's Hersh and Ritchie foresee a need for improved support for voice-based conversation. Ritchie notes, "Our CEO is very busy and often on the road. His assistant uses a handheld device to record and post audio blogs as downloadable MP3 files. We are encouraging Jive to implement native audio blogging in Clearspace." For his part, Hersh confirms this, saying that "audio is a part of our product roadmap."

After only six months of experience with the Clearspace platform, Ritchie isn't ready to provide hard and fast ROI numbers. However the speed with which The Buzz was rolled out to users, and the rapid adoption of the portal as a means of cross-company collaboration and sharing, has had one tangible effect: no more "team" email blasts. "There has been a huge cultural shift for our employees," says Ritchie, with employees very quickly coming to rely on the centralized collaboration possibilities provided by One Economy's efficient portal. "I rarely see an email that doesn't direct the reader to further information available on The Buzz."

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