Collaboration applications often lack the business process integration that customers demand, resulting in considerable in-house effort to customize applications to fit a need. SiteScape Inc. has addressed this issue effectively with the introduction of five SiteScape Enterprise Forum 7.0 modules that target specific business processes.
In eWEEK Labs tests of four of these modules—Forum Proposal Collaboration, Forum Partner Collaboration, Forum HR Collaboration and Forum Program Management—we found that all offer compelling features to help companies achieve better process management.
As with other Web-based collaboration solutions, however, SiteScape will still require companies to customize the modules to tighten their alignment with business processes.
Prices for Enterprise Forum 7.0 and for the modules, which were released in July, is generally toward the low end of the competition. The system can get expensive in some configurations, however, largely because of the per-server fee. Enterprise Forum prices start at $99 per user, with a $10,000 server fee. The solution modules have a $49 user fee and an additional $10,000 server fee.
Although multiple-module discounts are available, Enterprise Forum could be costly for cross-discipline organizations in a chargeback scenario. For example, a marketing team may need access to three or four modules. Enterprise Forum can be configured with other optional components, including an eMeeting Web conferencing application, which costs $99 per named user and $999 per concurrent user, plus a $15,000 server fee.
SiteScape Enterprise Forum 7.0 modules
SiteScape Enterprise Forum 7.0 moves beyond basic collaboration through the addition of new process-specific modules for product, proposal, human resource and partner management. These four modules tie together the collaboration features in Enterprise Forum to help companies quickly organize business processes and see a faster return on investment. However, deploying the modules could be expensive in some organizations because of configuration pricing and training. SiteScape is at www.sitescape.com.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
Each module includes a well-designed dashboard that provides a summary view of critical information or entry points into various module subcomponents. In our tests, the dashboards presented tasks, discussions and calendars in a way that provided a good overview of the status of processes in each modules domain.
The Program Management module has two dashboard views: an executive view and a program view. The modules stoplight metaphor in the group task view presented an adequate progress summary in tests, but we missed having a Gantt chart view to see dependencies in action.
As with Program Management, the Proposal Collaboration module benefits greatly from the document management and group task features of Enterprise Forum. In our tests, the Proposal Collaboration module—which is designed to move request for proposal, inquiry or quotation documents through the process—provided the workflow cycle and visibility that ensured the accountability needed to bring documents to a finished state.
The HR Collaboration module is largely designed around forms processing and discussions. The module processed forms and hosted discussions well in tests. However, companies will need to commit to using the module extensively to reduce paper processing to realize a sizable return on the $49-per-user investment.
This module will also require the greatest degree of customization if companies want to use it to process human resources forms.
The Partner Management module essentially functions as a repository for providing information resources to partners. When combined with the eMeeting component, the module could provide a powerful, albeit expensive, way to communicate product information to business partners.
We found the product easy to use, but training will be necessary for anyone charged with managing the team work spaces in the modules. The modules include a number of easy-to-use wizards for adding components, such as discussions, to a work space. The wizards handle end-user customization as well as administration features. We liked that we could access the windows through a single view because doing so simplified administration. Only users with administrative privileges will see wizards that help with Enterprise Forum management.
Enterprise Forum includes a number of base-line productivity features that can be added to any of the team work spaces via the wizards, including contact management and sales management databases. Users can synchronize calendars in Enterprise Forum with Microsoft Corp.s Outlook calendars.
We also liked the way the reporting features in Enterprise Forum could be leveraged across the modules. Users can add their own keywords in the report generation process. This would be particularly useful when trying to find documents related to projects. Users can also create and store bookmarks to quickly find critical information in a team work space.
Another plus for Enterprise Forum is its relatively broad platform support from a client-and-server perspective. On the client side, Enterprise Forum can be configured for access from wireless devices and PDAs as well as from Netscape Communications Corp.s Navigator, Mozilla and Microsofts Internet Explorer on Macintosh OS X- and Windows-based systems. The server runs on Solaris 2.6, Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.3, and Microsofts Windows 2000 Server and Windows XP Server.
Because Enterprise Forum is extensible through its SQL database support, companies can leverage existing applications in each module.
SiteScape has also introduced a fifth module: Tactical Calendaring, Action Item and Meeting Management. The module, which we didnt test, is a program management tool for Department of Defense agencies.
Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.