Collaboration platforms present unified front

Binding end-user access to once disparate technologies, vendors such as IBM Corp.’s Lotus division and Open Text Corp. recently launched products designed to pull a variety of point products into a single platform.

To that end, IBM added products and services to its Workplace platform, including an updated Version 5.1 of IBM WebSphere Portal, an Express version of Workplace for SMBs, an on-demand Web conferencing service, and a set of Workplace Solutions for vertical industries.

Workplace creates a unified front end for technologies facing suppliers, customers, and employees, according to Larry Bowden, vice-president of the Workplace division at IBM. Each of those users has different roles, but they are tapping the same back-end information sources through Workplace, he added. “Collaboration among peers within an organization is moving toward organizational productivity, which shifts toward (collaboration) between organizations,” he said.

WebSphere Portal 5.1 gains business process functionality through an integrated, choreographed workflow and a virtual portals capability that “virtualizes” an instance of a portal across a company.

IBM Workplace Services Express Version 2.0, aimed at SMBs, includes team collaboration, document management, Web forms, task lists, portal services, and drag-and-drop customization.

Also introduced was IBM’s Lotus Web Conferencing Service, for on-demand Web conferencing; Workplace Solutions, a set of 17 industry and role-based frameworks designed to help customers apply Workplace technology to specific business needs; Workplace for Business Controls and Reporting 2.5; and Workplace for Branch Banking.

Portal and collaboration wares are moving from a PC-centric model to a network-centric model for access and delivery, Bowden said. “Before, the portal was delivered to a browser or a PDA. Today, the portal is delivered to a rich client, (which lets) the user cache data and IBM dynamically deliver the portal to the user,” he said.

According to analyst David Ferris, president of Ferris Research Inc., the rich-client and offline-access capabilities in Workplace are the keys to making portal and collaboration technology more useful.

“Having a rich client embedded within the browser will give the user added functionality, ease-of-use, drag and drop, and offline use,” Ferris said.

Open Text also launched Livelink Touchpoint, a collaboration platform that unites Web conferencing, blogs, team workspaces, IM, and online presence into a single interface.

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