For organizations that need broadly available team-based collaboration solutions, hosted Web-based applications provide easy-to-deploy platforms that can be shared even with third parties, such as partners or customers.
Several factors will play a role in determining the questions IT managers should ask when assessing hosted collaborative applications through an RFP, including the level of data security required and the need to collaborate in real time.
Hosted collaborative platforms are generally either asynchronous task-driven applications or synchronous applications that allow users to collaborate in real time through screen sharing.
The purpose of this sample RFP is to help managers evaluate asynchronous applications that allow users to share documents, tasks and projects, as well as create structured workflow applications such as a basic issue tracking or CRM (customer relationship management) app.
All RFPs should include requests for customer references, as well as evidence of a vendors viability and reliability. RFPs also should clearly state what goals the enterprise hopes to achieve by deploying the proposed technology.
* Which of the following features does your application include?
• Task management (indicate whether individual or shared)
• Project management (indicate features such as charting, job costing and so on)
• Contact management
• Group calendar and scheduling (indicate if resource scheduling is supported)
• Document library (indicate support for document management features, such as version control and check in/check out)
• Discussion forums
* Does the application allow users to build and share database-driven applications?
• Does the product allow users to store structured data?
• Can users build complex workflows? At what level?
* Which of the following application functions does your product offer?
• Rules-based workflow
• Conditional triggers
• User roles for application logic
• Other (please list)
* Which of the following alerting mechanisms for application workflow does the product support?
• In-system messaging
* What are your products user form-creation capabilities?
Applications will allow varying degrees of flexibility when it comes to creating data-entry forms. Some products allow users to build only two-column forms, while others have more sophisticated embedded form editors or allow users to import forms from other applications, such as Microsoft InfoPath.
* How many fields are supported per application?
* What is the database size limit?
* Can applications share tables?
* What user methods and tools for creating database applications are supported?
• Import from application (for example, from Microsoft Excel and Access)
• Import of structured data (for example, CSV [comma- separated values])
• Modification of prebuilt templates
* What real-time collaboration features are supported?
• Presence data (indicate whether SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] is supported)
• Instant messaging
• Persistent chat
• Web conferencing
• Application sharing
• Other (please list)
Database-driven applications can include a number of preconfigured applications, ranging in capability from issue tracking to human resource management. Having these applications available as preconfigured solutions can make it easy for users to get working quickly. In addition, they can serve as templates for creating other applications built on the same workflow. Companies should gather information about the availability of these applications and the ease with which they can be used to create other applications.
* Are training and help systems available for preconfigured solutions?
* Does the product allow users to write online help and training systems for custom applications?
* Does the product support a configurable home page? If so, which elements can be included?
• Application shortcuts
• A calendar
• Other (please list)
* Can administrators create home page policies for users?
* Can users configure their own pages?
* Does the application support dashboards for graphical presentation of performance metrics?
* Does the product support both user and administrative reporting?
* What methods are available to users for creating reports and accessing raw data for reporting using third-party tools?
In some instances, companies will want to present report data that would ordinarily be included in administrative reports, such as the number of minutes an individual is using Web conferencing. When evaluating a products reporting capabilities, gauge how easy administrative data can be blended with user data for management reports.
Administrators may need to use reports to look for violations of policy, such as building applications that include Social Security numbers. Does the product support reporting and alerts that watch for the creation of fields based on field parameters?
* Can the product generate reports and alerts specific to administration and security policies, such as when users are added and deleted?
* What are the terms and availability of basic support?
* What premium support services are available, and how much do they cost?
* Are there third-party developers and integrators that can help speed development and deployment of custom applications, as well as integration with other applications?
* What online help and training tools are available?
* What does the product cost, including base costs and costs for additional features?
* What is the impact on pricing when more users are added during the subscription term?
* What cost advantages will our organization realize by choosing this solution?
Securing these applications, particularly when shared with external partners, will be a complex task for administrators. Companies should look for tools, including application life cycle policies and reporting, to help manage data access. Most hosted collaboration systems allow users to manage their own applications, not only by adding features and creating new applications but also by adding and removing users.
* Which of the following user name and password features does the product support?
• User name must be users e-mail address
• User name can be limited by domain name
• User cannot change user name
• Administrators can define password complexity policies
• Directory synchronization
* Can administrators limit access to your application based on date, time and day?
* Can administrators limit access to an application by domain or IP address range?
* Does the application support user roles for application and field-level access?
* Can administrators set permissions on a field-level basis?
* Does the application have required or optional components that need to be installed on the users system?
* Does the product allow administrators to block user access to individual applications and the entire domain of applications?
Please provide references from customers that have completed a similar deployment, with similar numbers of users and applications, in the same industry.
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