The term "networking" has long held two different meanings in the world of business. First, there's the computer network—a collection of hardware technology that connects computers and enables the sharing of resources. Second, there's a social network of contacts that make employees a more valuable asset in their organization.
As the technology that enables communication improves, these two different views of "networking" are starting to converge. People now rely on the computer network to maintain and grow relationships in the human network. In other words, we now have a wide variety of tools to help us work better with each other.
Sure, we've had communication and collaboration tools in the past—e-mail and instant messaging, for example. And we've had workgroup solutions, like document managers and group calendars. But competing in a global economy means that scheduling conference calls around time zones and e-mailing attachments simply won't cut it anymore. Today's business environment demands a lot more—a virtual team workspace with application and content sharing, workflow tools, discussion boards and more.
> Introducing a New Generation of Collaboration Tools
Novell has long been an industry leader in workgroup communication and collaboration. In fact, Novell NetWare, with its stellar file system and drive mapping capabilities, was the first widely adopted software that allowed people to collaborate and share data. Today, Novell offers a contemporary version of these core workgroup services, but with the added benefits of Linux. The Novell Open Workgroup Suite, for example, combines a secure and flexible infrastructure with proven Novell services to deliver a complete workgroup productivity solution from desktop to server. A complete solution, that is, that provides platform and application flexibility and costs up to 70 percent less than competing product stacks.
But users today want to extend these capabilities with a new generation of tools that will help them make quantum leaps in user and team productivity. To address these needs, Novell recently announced a partnership with SiteScape, Inc. Under the terms of the agreement, SiteScape is releasing its latest collaboration platform to the open source community. Novell will then leverage this open source code to develop enterprise-class products that deliver two new capabilities to its customers: teaming and real-time collaboration. These capabilities will serve as a valuable extension of the Novell Open Workgroup Suite and significantly enhance Novell's ability to deliver innovative workgroup services on Linux.
The Novell teaming solution lets users create workspaces and invite other members of the workgroup to participate. The team can share and access documents, calendars, discussion boards, wikis, blogs and workflows. These features let the entire team share the different types of content they produce so they can work together more effectively. (See Figure 1.)
The real-time collaboration solution gives users the ability to IM with team members—either individually or as a group—and participate live in voice or Web conferences. The Web conferencing components let users share desktops, show slide presentations and participate in whiteboarding sessions. During a conference, a few members can split off into their own breakout session while the remaining participants stay in the main conference room. And if anyone on the team misses the conference, it can be recorded and saved so users can replay it later. (See Figure 2.)
When you combine all of these tools with the workgroup services in Novell Open Enterprise Server, the collaborative solutions in Novell GroupWise and the complete productivity toolset in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, your users will be able to work together in ways that were never before possible. They will have the advanced tools to manage the wealth of data that teams produce, as well as enable a higher level of collaboration among team members.
In other words, your teams will be able to provide more value to the organization than the sum of their individual contributions. You can install these tools on open source portals, such as those provided by LifeRay and JBoss, or on commercial portals, using products from Oracle and BEA. And you can use a wide variety of databases, such as FrontBase and MySQL on the open source side, and Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server from commercial vendors. These new tools are also integrated with the OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office productivity suites, and they support both the Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Outlook messaging clients.
On the back end, the Novell teaming and real-time collaboration solution runs on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and leverages the rich set of workgroup services that accompany it in Novell Open Enterprise Server. (If you've already purchased Novell Open Enterprise Server or the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, you're entitled to as many copies of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as needed to host workgroup services like these in your environment.) The new teaming solution uses a browser interface, so it supports users running Linux, Windows and Macintosh. The real-time solution requires a client that runs on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, Microsoft Windows XP or the new Microsoft Vista platform. Now that's a perfect example of why the recent interoperability agreement between Novell and Microsoft is so important.
Like most Novell technology, these new solutions use open standards and open source components to provide a flexible, low-cost alternative to market competitors' products. Novell adds the enter-prise-level features, testing, service and support that customers need to confidently integrate this technology into their environments.
SiteScape is releasing its latest collaboration platform to the open source community. Novell will then leverage this open source code to develop enterprise-class products that deliver two new capabilities to its customers: teaming and real-time collaboration.
> Map Your Apps
It's important that new workgroup solutions complement and integrate with your existing tools, so Novell has included several features to help you take maximum advantage of the technology you already have. When new messages are added to the discussion boards, for example, the system can automatically forward the post in an e-mail to each member of the group. And when users reply to these e-mails, the replies are automatically added to the discussion board. It's a nice way of making sure the team workspace always has the most up-todate information.
Also, these new tools integrate with the productivity applications (including both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org) your users are already familiar with. When users interact with the team workspace to view and open documents, they can preview 100+ file types—even if they don't have the software in which the file was created. If they do have the required application, they can easily open the documents for editing.
These tools also take advantage of the proven workgroup services in Novell Open Enterprise Server 2. If you're trying to open the door to collaboration while protecting confidential information or intellectual property, there's nothing stronger than the identity-driven and policy-based access controls in the Novell Open Enterprise Server file system. And if you're concerned about where to store the plethora of documents your teams create, you can select Novell Open Enterprise Server as your storage repository and take advantage of its stellar storage management capabilities.
Of course, you can also store documents in a database managed by the team workspace (so you can take advantage of its additional document management features) or in other storage systems you've already set up (so you don't have to migrate your data away from existing locations). Whatever location you choose, the workspace will manage the documents and allow users to access them regardless of the original location. In fact, if you e-mail a workgroup document as an attachment, the system also includes a reference to that file in the team workspace. It looks and works the same from the user's perspective, but it's just one more way to ensure team members always have the most up-to-date versions of their files.
If you've already purchased Novell Open Enterprise Server or the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, you're entitled to as many copies of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as needed to host workgroup services like these in your environment.
> Supporting Team Members
Standard collaboration tools certainly don't support the convergence of computer networks and human networks. In fact, using conventional technology to work as a team can be downright difficult. First, logistical limitations often prevent teams from being staffed with the right mix of talents. Second, even when the right team does get together, it's hard to work effectively through the volleys of e-mail attachments virtually any task requires.
In this scenario, each team member becomes an isolated filing clerk, juggling attachment versions while trying to figure out who's doing what—and when. The result is a lack of clarity and alignment on most teams. And it's not because team members don't want to cooperate; the tools they have—e-mail, personal calendars, personal address books, etc.—simply don't do enough.
A workgroup using the new Novell teaming and real-time collaboration tools has several more options at their disposal. As users get active with these teaming and real-time collaboration solutions by posting questions, responding to inquiries, reading comments and putting together ad hoc meetings, they will start to experience the cross-fertilization of ideas and share new ways of carrying out objectives. Just like what naturally happens in the hallways and around the water coolers of any geographically centralized group of employees, the workgroup simply connects the appropriate people so they can naturally work through what needs to be done.
For example, imagine a team is working on a sales proposal. It probably involves several people such as John the sales engineer, Mary the project manager, Alex the writer and Lauren the salesperson.
As they consider the necessary items for the proposal and come up with a bid, problems and questions are bound to arise. With these new Novell tools, they can just hop online for a quick voice meeting while showing the documents and spreadsheets for all to see.
They don't need to worry about making sure everyone gets an email of the right document versions before the meeting. They have real-time access to all the freshest costs Mary has researched, so they don't need to worry about using stale numbers by mistake. They don't worry that Lauren is in Germany, Mary and Alex are in the U.S., and John is all over the place. And because the solutions support teams that extend beyond the enterprise door, they don't worry when Emily, a freelancer, is added at the last minute.
Because there are fewer mix-ups, delays and details falling through the cracks, they get the business while their competitors scramble to get things in on time.
These efficiencies can be replicated with teams and projects of all description: engineers, salespeople and product managers responding to a request for quote; marketing teams organizing a road tour, media campaign or event; architects, contractors and inspectors coming together to review plans and code requirements for a construction project. Whatever the task and whomever you need to involve, the Novell teaming and real-time collaboration solutions can help you bring it all together.
> Running Teams Smoothly
Business leaders already know that teaming and real-time collaboration solutions will save their companies a lot more money than they cost. When workers aren't forced to trek across the world, country or city every few days or months, the travel savings alone is substantial. But consider the other benefits:
- Start with the right team. When a project needs to be done, managers are often saddled with who they can get instead of who fits best. When projects are run more collaboratively, people get up to speed more quickly and can function more effectively. It's not about big business or small business. Whether you're big or small, you need to tap the right talent, wherever they are, and establish the desired outcome and timeline.
- Create an integrated environment. Novell GroupWise already has advanced collaboration features such as team calendars, shared address books and instant messaging. And Novell Open Enterprise Server already enables secure file sharing and reliable document storage. These features are great, and users love them. But teaming takes these capabilities to the next level, letting you create an integrated environment—a teaming space—where every aspect of a project is tied together. You can hold virtual meetings that let you talk, type and share a presentation. You know who on the team is doing what, when things are getting done, and what's left to accomplish.
- Reduce wait time. Real-time conferencing lets you have your meeting now! Save time, the most precious asset, as well as travel budget.
- Review the full picture regularly. Managers can see the body of work as it evolves, because it's always in the shared workspace instead of someone's hard drive.
- Keep ideas (and document versions) fresh. Users won't get an outdated spreadsheet by mistake, because the latest versions are always in the teaming space.
- Handle team turnover seamlessly. Everyone knows that employee turnover costs money. And its not just the process of hiring new people; getting new team members trained and up to speed on current projects can take weeks or even months. But what if, from the project's genesis, you had a way to capture the contributions of every employee? These solutions help transfer the knowledge and experience supplied by current team members to anyone new who comes along.
All of these benefits can translate into bigger profits from increased sales, lower costs and better ideas. But when projects start going more smoothly, even with the natural speed bumps of doing business, that's when organizations reap the true benefit of these solutions.
> Getting the Software
Novell anticipates releasing these new collaboration solutions in mid-2007. Details on pricing were not available at press time, but two separate products will be available: NOVELL TEAMING (which includes document management, team calendars, tasks, wikis, blogs, basic task workflow, dynamic page content creation based on roles, searching and reporting) and NOVELL TEAMING + CONFERENCING (which includes all of the teaming capabilities listed above plus presence awareness, instant messaging and Web and voice conferencing). In addition, users will be able to purchase both solutions separately—or as add-ons to the Novell Open Workgroup Suite at a discounted price.
If you miss seeing these products at BrainShare 2007, be sure to visit the BrainShare session archive (novell.com/brainshare) and watch for more information on the SiteScape open source project.
Staffing teams with the right complement of talents, interests and availability is the first step toward better organizational productivity. And when you empower those teams with tools that help them respond to opportunities more quickly, resolve issues more easily, and eliminate the mistakes and latency that come with old ways of interacting—that's when you start realizing true value. And not just value in the form of better output. When individuals are part of effective teams, they have more confidence in their abilities and value to the organization.
What it all boils down to is that the way we work together on projects outside the four walls of our cubicle or building is important to the success of the team and the enterprise. We just need the foundation in place for those contributions to flow easily and seamlessly, and that's what the new Novell teaming and real-time collaboration solutions provide.
Now it's up to us; are we going to take advantage of the convergence of the human network with the technical one? Will we give our teams the tools to help them complete projects more quickly, solve problems more easily and meet goals more efficiently than ever before? With these new Novell teaming and real-time collaboration tools, we have every reason to make this our reality.