A Case of Connecting Busy Bees

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The Problem in Depth
One Economy was founded in 2000 to maximize the potential of technology to help low-income people improve their lives and enter the economic mainstream. In addition to the Beehive, the organization's portals include 247townhall.org, a site encouraging civic engagement; ZipRoad.org, to help parents find education resources in their community; and LouisianaRebuilds.com, which provides critical recovery information, resources, and services for victims of Hurricane Katrina who have returned home, as well as those who are still displaced.

According to One Economy's director of web development and information technology, Clark Ritchie, that vision of connection and community for external clients was not being carried out for One Economy's internal users. "We needed a platform for the most basic things, like file sharing and making better use of internal blogs, including our CEO's audio blogs. And we needed to get our employees to make the use of that platform habitual," says Ritchie.

The ability to share information across offices was particularly vexing. One Economy had a VPN in place for its offices, but it was cumbersome. It only supported two simultaneous users and few employees knew it existed, let alone how to use it.

"If you wanted to work on a document that might exist on our only file server, first you had to fire up the VPN," recalls Ritchie. "Then you'd copy the document locally to make changes. You had to email anyone who might be affected to let them know that you'd made changes. If you were lucky, the author would re-post the edited file to the file server." He says that there was serious overuse of the "team" distribution list, which included all One Economy employees, because people were unsure exactly who might need to know about changes.

Ritchie was looking for a software solution that would let him develop a clear identity for the portal--to be nicknamed The Buzz--through use of consistent style sheets and interfaces, and would also allow him to make changes easily and efficiently. He wanted a tool that would let users discover valuable content tidbits that were buried in the blogs and wikis being maintained in various parts of the One Economy organization.

Initially, Ritchie says, he "fell hook, line, and sinker for the marketing hype around Microsoft's Sharepoint," but that he and his team struggled with its implementation. After almost 100 man-hours of what Ritchie terms "trying to beat Sharepoint into submission" by customizing it for One Economy's needs, the IT team decided to take a look the collaboration software offered by its neighbor up the street in Portland, Oregon: Jive Software's Clearspace.

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