Improving business operations through Collaboration network applications

An important feature of modern organizations is that people collaborate to perform work. Collaboration refers to efforts by two or more entities (that is, individuals, teams, groups, or organizations) who work together to accomplish certain tasks. The term work group refers specifically to two or more individuals who act together to perform some task. Workflow is the movement of information as it flows through the sequence of steps that make up an organization’s work procedures. Workflow management makes it possible to pass documents, information, and tasks from one participant to another in a way that is governed by the organization’s rules or procedures. Workflow systems are tools for automating business processes.

If group members are in different locations, they constitute a virtual group (team). Virtual groups conduct virtual meetings; that is, they “meet” electronically. Virtual collaboration (or e-collaboration) refers to the use of digital technologies that enable organizations or individuals to collaboratively plan, design, develop, manage, and research products, services, and innovative applications. Organizational employees may collaborate virtually, but organizations also collaborate virtually with customers, suppliers, and other business partners to improve productivity and competitiveness. One type of collaboration is crowdsourcing, which refers to outsourcing a task to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.
Collaboration can be synchronous, meaning that all team members meet at the same time. Teams may also collaborate asynchronously when team members cannot meet at the same time. Virtual teams, whose members are located throughout the world, typically must collaborate asynchronously. A variety of software products are available to support all types of collaboration. These products include Microsoft Groove, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Docs, IBM Lotus Quickr, and Jive. In general, these products provide online collaboration capabilities, work-group e-mail, distributed databases, bulletin whiteboards, electronic text editing, document management, workflow capabilities, instant virtual meetings, application sharing, instant messaging, consensus building, voting, ranking, and various application development tools.

These products also provide varying degrees of content control. Wikis, Google Docs, Microsoft Office Groove, and Jive provide for shared content with version management, whereas Microsoft Share-Point and IBM Lotus Quickr provide for shared content with version control. Products that provide version management track changes to documents and provide features to accommodate concurrent work. Version control systems give each team member an account with a set of permissions. Shared documents are located in shared directories. Document directories are often set up so that users must check out documents before they can edit them. When a document is checked out, no other team member can access it. Once the document has been checked in, it becomes available to other members.
Microsoft Office Groove.
Microsoft Office Groove ( groove/FX100487641033.aspx) is a collaboration product that provides shared content with version management. Groove’s core concept is the shared work space, which consists of a set of files to be shared plus tools to help in group collaboration. Groove users create work spaces, add documents, and invite other Groove members to a work space. A user who responds to an invitation is made an active member of that work space. Team members interact and collaborate in the common work space. Groove tracks all changes, which are sent to all members. When multiple users try to edit one document at the same time, Groove disallows one of them until the other is finished. Groove provides many tools, some of which include document repositories, discussion forums, to-do lists, calendars, meeting agendas, and others.

Google Docs. Google Docs ( is a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users. In contrast to Microsoft Office Groove, Google Docs allows multiple users to open, share, and edit documents at the same time.

Microsoft SharePoint.Microsoft’s SharePoint product
 ( default.mspx) provides shared content with version control. SharePoint supports document directories and has features that enable users to create and manage surveys, discussion forums, wikis, member blogs, member web sites, and workflow. It also has a rigorous permissions structure, which allows organizations to target users’ access based on their organizational role, team membership, interest, security level, or other criteria.

IBM Lotus Quickr. IBM’s Lotus Quickr ( product provides shared content with version control in the form of document directories with check-in and check-out features based on user privileges. Quickr provides online team spaces where members can share and collaborate by utilizing team calendars, discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and other collaboration tools for managing projects and other content.
Jive. Jive’s ( newest product, Clearspace, uses Web collaboration and communication tools such as forums, wikis, and blogs to allow people to share content with version management via discussion rooms, calendars, and to-do lists.

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