Firm sets its Sites on groupware market

With 5,000 to 6,000 employees and volunteers divided into committees, sub-committees and working groups, the Standards Council of Canada needed some help with project management.

That’s why, about five years ago, it deployed a version of SiteScape’s Enterprise Forum, a groupware product whose seventh iteration was released early last month.

A Web-based architecture, it supports Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Netscape’s 4.0 to 7.0, and Mozilla browsers. It also now supports standard SQL databases such as Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server 2000, Oracle 8I and FrontBase. Instead of its proprietary database, FrontBase is now bundled with Enterprise Forum 7.0.

Peter Hurley, executive vice-president of engineering for Sitescape, said that “the movement from the internal database that we used…opens up a whole new ballpark for enterprises that have settled on one of the major databases in the industry, such as Oracle or Microsoft.”

Zbigniew “Ziggy” Ignatowicz, IT manager for the Ottawa-based Standards Council and beta tester of Enterprise Forum 7.0, said this new support for backend standard SQL databases allows for better integration with other applications and better reporting. The Standards Council of Canada uses Microsoft’s SQL database.

Not only does he like the product’s support for SQL databases, he also praised some of Enterprise Forum’s new document management capabilities, such as a new drop-and-drag feature.

“Instead of one by one, you (can) upload the entire directory stack to the server and replicate in the forums,” he said, adding this can be accomplished by simply dragging and dropping the folder to be copied.

Industry watcher Leonor Ciarlone, senior consultant at CAP Ventures Inc. in Norwell, Mass., said these new document enhancement capabilities are one of the most important additions to version 7.0.

Included is a new check-in/check-out addition. Hurley said documents saved in Enterprise Forum 7.0 have an edit option. When a user clicks on that button, it automatically downloads the file into a preset editor, where the user can edit it and resave it. While they are editing it, the program indicates that the file has been checked out so that others cannot edit the document at the same time.

Ciarlone also called Enterprise Forum 7.0’s enhanced portal support one of the key new features. It now offers support for portals by Citrix Systems Inc., Plumtree Software Inc., and Oracle Corp.

In addition, the new Focused Portlet feature allows the database administrator to tailor the portal to suit the user, adding individual discussion/document forums, calendars, search boxes or site maps to a portal environment.

Hurley said one advantage to having a portlet is, for example, if you want to have a help-desk for your customers. “You can show the SiteScape help-desk application right in the portal,” he said. “People can use it there, and the value is they see just that help desk, they do not see the rest of the SiteScape interface so they don’t really have to learn anything about the rest of SiteScape, they can stay just within the help desk.”

A pop-up help feature has also been added to the new addition, which Hurley said is excellent for new users because an eye icon appears in areas where help is often requested, such as filling out forms. Users only need to click on it to get assistance.

Other enhancements include a rich-text editor and integration with PlaceWare, a Web-conferencing and meeting application. Also, Enterprise Forum 7.0 is now compliant with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) accessibility specifications, and Section 508 specifications, a 1998 U.S. law that requires all federal agencies to make their IT accessible to people with disabilities. The Canadian government mandates compliance with W3C.

Although it is only supported on a Microsoft Windows environment, Hurley said Enterprise Forum 7.0 would soon support Solaris and Linux within the next couple of months.

Enterprise Forum 7.0 costs between US$49 to US$70 per user. For more information on pricing, contact SiteScape.

SiteScape is based in Wilmington, N.C. For more information, visit their Web site at, or call 1-910-256-5038.