Companies big and small are constantly seeking tools to bring their workers closer together. We are a workforce who is spread out geographically. Even if workers are located in the same locale, with today’s matrix organizations, an individual is a part of multiple projects that creates a tug of war for attention and focus. This is where the promise of web-based collaboration becomes apparent.
37Signals’ BaseCamp, covered before, provides a popular web-based product tool, but what if you’re a team or workgroup who is looking for something a little more robust?
Jive Software has released version 2.0 of their Clearspace product. Clearspace differs from other product offerings by focusing their product on the people who will be utilizing the collaboration tool. Unlike Microsoft SharePoint, which focuses on documents, ClearSpace wants to ensure user adoption by adapting many of the Web 2.0 strategies used by FaceBook, MySpace, and other social networking sites into the enterprise environment.
Bring Social into Work Collaboration
Users who log in to Clearspace will first see their personalized home page. Dubbed “iGoogle for your work life,” this web page is a widgetized window into your working world. You can customize your activity streams and you can see recent activity on users by hovering over their name. Presence indicators allow you to see the person’s availability for an IM conversation.
The startpage shows you status of all your projects, to-do lists, and related information. You can update your status, similar to Facebook. For example, you could state, “Jason is unit testing his code for the calendar widget”. You can also set announcements, use polls, and see tag clouds for Clearspace content. Check out the video below, courtesy of Dennis Howlett’s review of Clearspace 2.0.
Getting Work Done
Clearspace wants to be the hub of your project management. With their management utilities, you can create project calendars, milestones, assign tasks, discuss project status, and upload documents. Using their customizable interface, you can drag projects you want to keep an eye onto your homepage and keep tabs on the project via RSS feeds.
As a unique feature, Clearspace allows you to collaborate on documents with people outside your corporate firewall, similar to the functionality in Google Docs. Clearspace can also search and interact with data within Microsoft SharePoint.
The Competition is Stiff
Microsoft SharePoint is a leader in enterprise collaboration. As a SharePoint user and proponent in my day job, I’m familiar with its shortcomings. SharePoint has features such as shared calendars, task lists, document libraries and a few collaborative web tools such as blogs, wikis, and message boards. However each component is shut off from the others, making the creation of a cohesive project website tedious. SharePoint requires a high degree of trial and error and end-user training. With SharePoint, Microsoft has focused on function over user-friendliness.
Jive seems to have heard the battle cries of disgruntled employees who want to effectively collaborate with their teammates and co-workers. Clearspace, with its streamlined UI and usability, helps individuals and teams create intranets that blend attractive aesthetics and functional project sites.
Clearspace’s focus on giving its users the ability to set up a workspace and presenting the information that is of interest to them is a strategic advantage. FaceBook calls itself a social utility to keep you in touch with the people around you. Clearspace has taken strides to be the work utility to keep you in touch with the projects and co-workers who you depend on day-to-day to help you get your work done.
There are two purchasing options for Clearspace, a hosted model and a licensed/self-hosted model. The Licensed model sits behind your company’s firewall and is priced at $5 per user per month. For more information on hosted model pricing, see Jive’s website.