Collaboration Tools Look Beyond E-Mail

Virtual work spaces and IM portals bring employees together for projects.

Enterprises looking to extend employee-to-employee collaboration beyond e-mail are getting new technology from Groove Networks Inc., Ipswitch Inc., IBMs Lotus Software division and Automation Centre Inc.

Groove last week debuted its latest flagship workgroup collaboration platform, Groove Workspaces 2.5, and a Web services tool kit, Groove Web Services. Workspaces 2.5 adds capabilities for users to integrate Microsoft Corp. Outlook e-mail messages and calendar entries, said Groove officials, in Beverly, Mass. Groove Workspace Professional Edition 2.5 includes a new tool set, Groove Mobile Workspace for Microsoft Team Services, that gives users offline access to Microsofts SharePoint collaboration tools and the capability to work securely with others beyond company firewalls.

Groove Web Services is an integration framework that makes Groove data and collaboration components available to other applications via Simple Object Access Protocol interfaces. Developers can use this framework to integrate Groove software with other applications running on the same or different devices within the same network.

Also last week, Ipswitch, of Lexington, Mass., unveiled its Ipswitch Instant Messenger software, which provides encryption, message logging and user identity controls, as well as support for global contact lists, in-line file attachments and configurable public user information. The software is not compatible with other instant messaging products.

Elsewhere in IM, Lotus, of Cambridge, Mass., and America Online Inc., of Dulles, Va., said they will pilot test more-extensive interoperability between their respective IM clients. Lotus Sametime IM client and AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, can communicate with each other in a limited way.

The pilot testing will integrate Sametime with AIM Enterprise Gateway and the rest of Enterprise AIM Services, allowing Sametime enterprise customers to more easily exchange IM with AIM users outside their organizations. No start date for the pilot has been set.

For its part, Automation Centre, of Tucson, Ariz., is taking advantage of Lotus Notes e-mail platform as a backbone for new collaboration capabilities in its Tracker Suite 6.0 process management software. The upgrade, available now, authenticates users via the Lotus log-in, then gives them access to Tracker Portal in a Notes client or Web browser. Through the portal, users can collaborate on documents, maintain human resources files and share buyer data. Tracker Suite 6.0 users can post business intelligence reports to a URL where others can access them. The software adds XML support.

AEP Pro Server, the engineering and technical services unit within America Electric Power Co. Inc., is deploying Automation Centre software to track engineering resources and use of engineering resources. "This application was Lotus Notes-based, and we already had [Lotus] installed—that was a main consideration," said Ron Kudich, manager of project controls at AEP Pro Server, in Columbus, Ohio.