Tools to Ease Collaboration

Companies roll out products that improve internal communications.

Organizations that have collaboration needs that go far beyond e-mail will have a diverse list of choices, thanks to new project management, instant messaging, and group calendaring and scheduling offerings.

Virtual Communication Services LLC this week will release Version 3.01 of its Enterprise VPMi (Virtual Program Management intranet) tool for project management. That follows on the heels of Asynchrony Solutions Inc.s release last week of its Envoke secure IM product and Dean Evans and Associates Inc.s release earlier this month of two products for group calendaring and scheduling, EMS (Event Management Systems) Enterprise 2.1 and Virtual EMS 2.1.

All the new products are designed to improve internal communications and make it easier for employees to work together.

VCS VPMi allows teams of employees to collaborate on projects to track their development and allows executives to monitor a teams progress. Its typically used as an add-on to tools such as Microsoft Corp.s Microsoft Project.

Version 3.01 of VPMi enables users to swap information with the Microsoft tool, said VCS officials in St. Louis. The upgrade also adds personalization capabilities so users can see the project information most relevant to them. A process map provides a visual representation of the project life cycle.

This is a key feature to Maryellen Kliethermes, software development supervisor in the finance department at Ameren Corp., which is using VPMi.

"You can track dollars, projects and hours and see the bigger picture in one shot," Kliethermes said. Ameren uses VPMi in combination with Microsoft Project to track issues and changes. The St. Louis-based company has more than 600 employees using VPMi to manage more than 150 projects.

Meanwhile, St. Louis-based Asynchrony made commercially available its Envoke secure IM software, which was first developed for the U.S. Department of Defense. Envoke supports secure IM, multiple-user chat and file transfer; it also integrates with other vendors collaboration tools.

Other Envoke features include message and event logging and tracking and message forwarding.

Separately, Dean Evans and Associates EMS Enterprise 2.1 and its Web-based cousin, Virtual EMS 2.1, provide group calendaring and scheduling capabilities. Both products can be used to manage schedules for conference rooms or use of other resources, plus schedule service requests, said company officials in Englewood, Colo. New features include a self-service interface that is configurable by employee authorization level and a drag-and-drop user interface for changing reservations.