eRoom adds workflow to collaboration software

eRoom Technology Inc. next month will add workflow capabilities, real-time communication and support for next-generation protocols to its Web-based collaboration platform.

The intent is to more closely align eRoom with corporate business processes, giving businesses the option to meld online collaboration into familiar work routines such as customer and product management.

Competitors such as iManage Inc., Intraspect Software Inc., Open Text Corp., Lotus Software Group and Microsoft Corp. are trying to foster the same alignment, as well as integrate collaboration into enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning and call-centre software.

In Version 6.0, eRoom is adding workflow tools for end users that let them construct what’s known as linear workflow, such as an approval process that pushes decision making up a management chain. The company also is adding a Workflow API tool kit that will let IT build more sophisticated workflow, such as those that incorporate processes based on certain conditional requirements or what-if scenarios.

“Having this workflow process built into eRoom will allow us to have consistency among our work processes across our offices,” says Jonathan Amsler, head of global knowledge management for Egon Zhender, an executive search firm with 50 offices in 35 countries.

Previously, Amsler struggled with Microsoft’s Project Central to build such workflow.

“The problem was we didn’t have central control over the way our work processes are executed in each office,” Amsler says. He says eRoom will change that. And he says he hopes to eventually use the new Workflow API to construct a circular workflow process that he could weave among the company’s Microsoft Exchange e-mail, its Candidate Inventory system and eRoom.

Version 6.0 of eRoom also adds Real-Time Collaboration Services, which allows for live document sharing and editing, chat and whiteboarding. Users also can invite non eRoom users into a live session and also render PowerPoint presentations in HTML. Previously, eRoom sold a separate server to provide those add-on services.

eRoom also is dipping its toe into the nebulous world of Web services, which promises to deliver component-based software. Version 6.0 will support XML and two of its derivatives, the Simple Access Object Protocol and the Web Services Markup Language.

“These protocols can provide a more efficient interface to third-party data sources, and we are clearly making investments toward Web services,” says Jake Sorofman, senior manager of product marketing for eRoom. “But only time will tell if Web services is a viable path. It’s not real yet.”

eRoom 6.0 is expected to ship by April 1. It costs US$16,995 per server and US$249 per user. The server runs on Windows NT 4.0 SP5 and above with Internet Information Server 4.0 and on Windows 2000 with IIS 5.0.

eRoom can be reached at