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Collaboration: A new picture develops

This article appears in the issue November/December 2010, [Vol 19, Issue 10]
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Now the volunteers can log onto the organization’s StreamWork site and check the status of the event, find out what needs to be done and share information. “There is a discussion section for everything from sponsors to food and where we get our rented supplies,” Richardson says. “In addition, we can create links to websites where we have found good prices on items we need to buy, or other useful information.” An integrated spreadsheet allows users to create lists of contacts or any other type of record, and a timeline tool helps the group keep track of target milestones.

Widgets

One of StreamWork’s strengths, especially at the enterprise level, is its ability to connect to other applications. “StreamWorks can pull documents in from Documentum’s eRoom or from a content management systems,” says David Meyer, senior VP of on-demand, productivity and sustainability at SAP.

“As a Web-native application, it is designed to connect people through widgets or other apps, and it is easy for a new user to master.”

In many global manufacturing companies, large enterprises obtain supplies and components from much smaller companies, and they need to collaborate. “The solar industry is a good example,” says Meyer. “Supply chains are starting to go down to the level of small manufacturer, and they need to communicate with production monitoring systems to provide a view of capacity or inventory.”

A widget can bring that inventory into the StreamWorks space for quick monitoring, without the supplier having to learn or purchase another application. The owner of the inventory data can govern who has access and what data can be viewed. The small company is then able to see what supplies are needed, post messages to the team or add supporting documentation.

SAP is known as an enterprise resources planning (ERP) company, which Meyer sees as a natural base for collaboration. “ERP systems provide a lot of context,” Meyer says. “These are large systems that have a lot of the information people need to collaborate and make decisions.”  

Collaboration mashups

Mashups are a versatile software tool for integrating and sharing information on the fly to provide a view from multiple data sources. Presto, a mashup platform from JackBe, allows rapid development and sharing of enterprise apps. “Users can take apps, put them on a mashboard, wire them together and create a dashboard-like app that is a collaborative workspace,” says John Crupi, CTO of JackBe.

An example is the development of a performance dashboard for a data center. “Organizations often have a difficult time seeing everything that is going on in a data center,” Crupi says, “including the network, routers, trouble tickets.” Typically operational workers have to go to different systems and create a top level view in their minds. With JackBe, that information can be presented side by side in a dashboard that provides an overview. In cases where the performance of various parts of the data center may be interrelated, the mashup lets the different divisions work together more effectively.

Several years ago, JackBe added an Excel connector that takes any Excel spreadsheet and pushes it into a mashable service. “This data is live and interactive,” says Crupi, “and allows workers to collaborate rather than e-mailing the spreadsheet around to multiple individuals for updating.”

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