This article is the third of a series of articles exploring specific aspects of groupware. The brief informational articles in this series discuss some of the technologies associated with groupware, as well as some of the characteristics of groupware. Some of these characteristics may go hand in hand with business collaborative needs. Other characteristics go beyond what some groupware providers have to offer. The purpose of these articles is to equip the groupware user or investigator with helpful knowledge about the product in order to enable more effective use or to lead the investigator to the groupware service he or she is looking for. This third article explores groupware as a document manager, and provokes a critical approach to finding the right groupware to meet your business's needs.
A good litmus test to determine the value of groupware as a document manager consists of the four A's: Ad Hoc Management, Accountability, Accessibility, and Affordability.
Is Groupware a Document Manager able to Handle Ad Hoc Collaboration?
A document manager is organizational software that tracks and organizes documents. In today's fast-paced business world, most of the document collaboration that takes place is ad hoc. In other words, documents are continuously fired back and forth in B to B and B to C communication, consisting of multiple individuals. As drafts of documents and presentations are passed back and forth, they are archived in email boxes, saved on hard drives, and passed through servers. If groupware is to be considered an effective document manager, it mush somehow be able to track and manage documents, even in an ad hoc setting.
Is Groupware an Accountable Document Manager?
In other words, as a document manager, can groupware account for the documents and their versions? Can it answer the who, what, when, where, and how questions that inevitably arise? Finding groupware that utilizes Digital Thread technology informs users where a document is saved and which version they are viewing. All tracking information is then collected into a digital flow chart displaying the version history of the document.
Is Groupware an Accessible Document Manager?
Often, document manager software systems require IT infrastructure and limited usability. Unless everyone with whom a user collaborates is a user too, the groupware isn't very beneficial. However, groupware technology uses existing IT infrastructure and opens up accessibility to everyone with whom a user collaborates. Digital Thread still ties together document versions made by non users. Non-users receive digital signatures with attached document versions. Non-users cannot, however, access a version history, nor can they receive digital signatures in projects with other non-users.
Is Groupware an Affordable Document Manager?
The easy answer to that is "yes, it can be." In other words, groupware packages are produced in the business market in the millions. Just check out the search engine results page of any search engine after searching "groupware." As of today, Google results include 4,870,000 indexed pages, Yahoo yields 4,820,000 indexed pages, and MSN yields 961,866 indexed pages.
Sifting through these results is impossible, though this article hopes to simplify that process through helpful information about effective features and technologies needed to meet today's business needs without costing too much. Groupware without an expensive IT infrastructure is available with simple installation and affordable set up. The cost of time, training, and setup are minimal. Groupware is meant to work for the business. Don't get stuck looking for products that work the other way around.