P2P Collaboration Tools at Work

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Collaboration Counts
One entrenched legitimate P2P solution that is providing security and management tools for existing applications like IM, email, and software programs is Groove Networks' Groove Workspace. Founded in 1997 by Ray Ozzie, who created IBM's Lotus Notes, Workspace is Groove's desktop collaboration software that enables file sharing, secure discussions, projects, and meetings. It can be used as a standalone product or with Groove enterprise servers and hosted service.

As a client-server application, Lotus Notes was one of the first successes in enabling workers to share information; they could post messages in databases that others could read and respond to. Ozzie says his light bulb moment for creating Groove Workspace came about from watching the way his kids used computers. He saw his daughter collaborate with classmates on homework using AOL's Instant Messenger and his son play Quake, a networked computer game, with friends. He recognized that these kids were able to connect and communicate immediately, either through chat or in real time over speakers, and it was a concept that he knew could work for businesses. Since its founding, Groove has benefited from a partnership with Microsoft, which has invested $51 million in the company. With Microsoft's seal of approval, P2P continues to make its way into the mainstream.

"Groove is currently the big guy in the peer-to-peer space," according to Outsell's Strohlein, who uses the product and notes its ease of use both on and offline. For instance, Groove automatically saves offline work and synchronizes these changes with other team members when a user reconnects. "Groove is getting good traction, and has benefited from its collaboration with Microsoft," Strohlein says. Groove Workplace's integration with Microsoft products enables tasks like automatic synchronization of Office files, synchronous "real-time" editing, and links to Outlook, Messenger contacts, and Project files. Groove's Mobile Workspace for Windows extends centralized Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services content and collaboration capabilities to mobile workers and to third parties beyond network firewalls.

While Groove works for businesses of various sizes, large enterprises like Hewlett-Packard use Groove because it provides a secure place where project participants communicate and work together either on or offline, effective for team members whether they're in the office, at a client site, or traveling. "We view Groove as a true paradigm shift in how teams will interoperate in the future," says Craig Samuel, CKO of HP Services.

P2P Meetings
In addition to its partnership with Groove, in 2003, Microsoft acquired PlaceWare, a P2P Web conferencing and collaboration tool. While necessary, corporate meetings are often criticized for inefficiencies, which include timing, location, and costs. Meetings have also become more problematic given increasingly global and mobile workforces, who need the information, but often can't make it to the live show. Web conferencing offers a viable solution because it cuts down on travel costs, helps in time management, and provides opportunities for efficient, ongoing collaboration. Microsoft now offers Microsoft Office Live Meeting, an upgraded conferencing service formerly known as PlaceWare Conference Center, designed to be an extension to its new Office System. The service provides a desktop console and includes viewing options for meeting participants including feedback capabilities such as a question and answer manager, and chat.

Understanding the importance of finding effective solutions for communication, training, and project management, Aerospace giant Honeywell International knew it had its work cut out for it after its merger with Allied Signal in 1999. For instance, in times past, staff training proved to be a costly and lengthy enterprise; Web conferencing offered a cost-effective option. Honeywell began using PlaceWare in 2002, and has come to rely on it. "Honeywell has been using the Live Meeting service for years around the globe to conduct training, meetings and events, and it has steadily increased our productivity," says Lee Allen, manager of ebusiness operations at Honeywell. "Live Meeting has enabled broader, timelier participation of employees, customers, and business partners in these meetings and events. That participation, in turn, has helped Honeywell become more agile and better equipped to make smarter, faster decisions."

Brainstorming Power
As company teams gather together to share ideas and strategies, elements such as visualization play an important role in projects. For instance, Mindjet's MindManager X5 Pro XML-based business mapping software is a P2P solution that can also be used with Groove Workplace. MindManager allows users to create concise representations of ideas and knowledge. Within the collaboration market, the product stands out because it captures information in a visual map, allowing teams to see these ideas and information in context.

Alan Homyk, general manager of Con Edison's Bronx Westchester Electric Operations, has been an active user of MindManager since 1988. "One project of which we are particularly proud where we used MindManager had to do with the World Trade Center tragedy," says Homyk, noting that a Con Ed location is only about a mile away from the site. "Unfortunately, I was in the law department when I saw the second jet hit. I will never forget that image."

Despite the shocking events he had just witnessed, Homyk and the Con Ed team sprang into action because lower Manhattan was in a blackout. "We organized into teams," he says. "Our chairman said our mission was to get the lights back on." Homyk was tasked with managing and sending out workers. "Of course, there was a hazardous environment present, including clouds of cement dust, smoke, oil, and various environmental contaminants," he says. "Our concern was that we didn't want any of our people to be harmed by the aftermath of the disaster.

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