Traction Digs in With Traction TeamPage

Traction Software has been around since 1996, but hovered under the radar until July 2002 when it generally announced TeamPage, a business information sharing system. The solution is sub-positioned as an enterprise Weblog, but with some important distinctions. "Traction is an enterprise product and a multi-user system," explains Traction CEO, Tim Simonson, "While most blogs are associated with personal publishing and the public net, our product is inside the firewall to permissioned audiences." Much of the technology is the same, but Traction includes templates for categories and views within the portal that correspond to specific projects or information that users are interested in tracking. Rather than having the option of only viewing headlines or news, it allows customized views. What makes TeamPage a blog is its focus on organizing information by time and topic—including conversation-like threads.

TeamPage is essentially a giant XML repository with an embedded Web server and database right out of the box. The latest edition is targeted at competitive intelligence and market research professionals who track information on an ongoing basis and need to create a durable archive of this intelligence. According to Simonson, this group has the challenge of collecting information from diverse sources, organizing and collating it in a central location, then disseminating it to target users in their business. They also need to respond to inquiries about information. TeamPage helps them answer the question: "What do we know about ‘X'?" at any given time.

Using TeamPage, clients can select and "instantly publish" articles to the blog that will also automatically site and link to the original source. Users can comment about these articles at the paragraph level and even set "to do" action points, based on the article, for members of the group. There is also a "Collector" feature that works kind of like an information buffet tray. Users can drag and drop information into a window and use a pull-down menu of options to shuffle and re-organize the information as needed. Then they can even turn it into PDF files on-the-fly.

Traction unapologetically draws from several popular email, portal, and collaboration tools in the market today in formulating its TeamPage solution. Simonson believes in building upon what is already familiar to business users; he explains that the home page is formatted "like a portal because it works like a Web page, not a new application" so it is familiar to users.

TeamPage leverages the strengths of email, which is perhaps the most natural form of communication for business users today. Simonson lauds email for its use as a communication tool, but says that the big question has always been: "Where do you put all of this unstructured data?" Simonson says, "content can be pushed into the system directly from a given email program at the desktop or email device. Just "cc" the system and that email will be published to the blog and can be searched in the future." Any number of email accounts can be created to correspond to projects that the company is working on at a given time. Once in the system, all information is fully indexed and TeamPage includes built-in Boolean search.

One of Traction's major clients is Verizon, who uses the solution to track a great deal of market activity. With TeamPage, each person involved in a given project contributes information that they think would be of value to the team. The next step, according to Simonson, is what sets Traction apart. "On a daily basis, the system collates the information and provides a summary that is modeled after column 2 of the Wall Street Journal and the industry newsletter Venture Wire," he says. "This keeps people peripherally aware of what's going on in these topics, but doesn't require them to read huge strings of email. People who need to see everything, do, but those who want to oversee a project receive a daily summary."

TeamPage is a Java application that runs on Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS X and also supports wireless access from Palm, Windows CE, or Blackberry browsers. The solution is priced at $10,000 per server and $125 per named user, plus an additional 20% annually for maintenance and support. A 15-user workgroup package is also available for $4,995. "There are a couple of products in the $100,000 range that are dedicated to competitive intelligence," says Simonson. "Those systems were very good at providing a silo of information, but this information wouldn't have been available to other members of the organization. [Traction] allows users to self-serve to the permissioned users. It is as easy as just writing to a Web page and just opening information up to the masses increases ROI dramatically."