Fuel for Growth
Because the relevant working "group" is no longer constrained to those on one companys payroll, groupware systems will need to easily extend to any user with a minimum of hassle. "Increasingly, you dont build [products] within corporate walls, you build them within an extended enterprise, and that requires collaboration capabilities, especially with life cycles of products growing shorter and shorter," says eRooms Francois Gossieaux.
"Thats the next value youre going to get out of these applications," says netASPxs Tom Bailey. He sees significant potential for industry consortia to take a lead role in groupware-fueled knowledge management, identifying and promoting the experts on their rosters to the rest of the business world.
Of course, plans to open up wider data exchange and automation between an internal application and the rest of the world raise security questions, and integrators will have to juggle the promises made to the user community for transparent collaboration while protecting IT resources. It recently was revealed that a software flaw made it possible to attack an Outlook 2000-equipped PC through a vCard (RFC 2426) contact information attachment, one of the most innocuous (and accepted) personal data interchange formats around.
The type of open-access schedule some dream of also invites a lot of potentially dangerous or embarrassing casual snooping by an ever-growing population of groupware peers. "Hopefully, what youre doing at work is something youre proud of," says eCals Jeremy Coote. What about the nosy employee or interloping business partner tempted to gain insight into a major deal by scanning your appointments? "You just change the names of what youre doing," he says tongue in cheek. The issue is serious: As vendors push for more open and universal access to scheduling, there will have to be a reliable mechanism that balances the allure of one-click, no-discussion bookings with the need to be able to make meaningful and protected annotations in ones own schedule book.