Information sharing—new options emerge

Organizations that need to securely share information with customers or partners in a rapid turnaround environment are good candidates for this technology. Food Export Consulting Services (FECS), based in Portland, Oregon, provides services for companies that export food, agricultural and nutrition-related products to Asian and European Union markets. The services include product certification and compliance with regulations such as labeling.

The files that FECS sends in the course of providing those services are large, and include both regulatory documents and video files. Therefore, sending them via e-mail was not a good option, and other forms of transfer did not provide the tracking or revision control that was needed. In addition, many documents required extensive editing by multiple individuals. The company decided to use Content Circles for those functions as a way of expediting their collaboration process.

Content Circles has provided the document sharing, revision control and tracking capabilities that FECS needed to improve its collaboration. Adding or removing individuals from the circles is easy, which allows the company to be more agile as circumstances change. The company reports that its turnaround time has decreased and that customer satisfaction has increased.

A delicate balance

“Content Circles offers an easy way for securely sharing and managing content,” says Sri Chilukuri, CEO of Content Circles. “It aggregates information from desktops, content repositories, e-mail or any other source.” In contrast to files stored on a shared drive, Content Circles provides an audit trail of access and modification, as well as complete control over those files. “Once you put a file on a shared drive, you have no control over it,” Chilukuri says. “Anyone can change and resave it, and you won’t know.”

Most enterprises need control over their documents. Enterprise content repositories have considerable control, but lack flexibility. Individuals outside the organization typically cannot access them, and users do not automatically receive content changes. Content Circles seeks to strike a balance between control and flexibility. “Content Circles lets owners of a circle assign roles, so that only certain individuals can contribute or change content,” Chilukuri explains, “and only the owner can invite participants.” The software does not lock documents that are being edited, but it does alert members of the circle that the document is out for editing. If another user edits it at the same time, Content Circles flags the two versions as conflicting and provides a number of ways for resolution.

Meanwhile, traditional ECM vendors are not ignoring the customer interest in simplified solutions for information sharing. OpenText introduced the OpenText Thin-Client Viewer (formerly ViewCafe), a Web-based viewing and collaboration software product. It provides native file viewing for a wide range of formats and markup capabilities for editing. Thin-client Viewer can also operate as a standalone application that resides on the server, rather than a Web-based product. As a Java-based application, it can access information from document repositories via a network or the Internet, and is cross-platform, supporting PC, Macintosh or Linux/Unix computers. 

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