As today’s ever-evolving marketplace illustrates, companies must be flexible to accommodate emerging trends in transactional models, customer support and marketing strategies.
But one thing executives can count on is the importance of effective interchange with consumers and partners. Companies that provide convenient and efficient lines of communication will keep customers happy and coming back for more, especially in an e-marketplace that often lacks attention to personal service.
To facilitate these communications, many companies use collaborative commerce (c-commerce) technology – software that facilitates business-to-business and business-to-consumer communications by offering services such as shared work spaces and discussion forums. Unfortunately, many existing c-commerce solutions, including products from CoVia Technologies Inc. and Comergent Technologies Inc., are expensive, require extensive IT support, and include complex client/server architecture that limits customization.
Enter TeamSpace, an economical hosted service from application service provider (ASP) Flypaper Inc. With this low-cost c-commerce package, users can create a branded portal in minutes by selecting from more than 60 out-of-the-box components. And TeamSpace can significantly improve the speed, reliability, and overall quality of your B2B transitions, thereby delivering quantifiable ROI.
TeamSpace can also be integrated with existing e-business software, such as CRM applications, to maximize previous investments. Overall, the product’s superior level of business-boosting performance, security and affordability earned it a score of Consider in our tests.
We began our TeamSpace portal project by using our Web browser to arrange and configure e-mail and discussion components. We then added components to store group documents and display communal calendars. In just minutes, our simple efforts yielded a very understandable application that we could immediately share with our customers and sales support team.
Next we created additional – and more complicated – portal pages to include several supplied components. For instance, we added an issue-tracking application so that our support staff could quickly resolve client-posted questions. We inserted an on-line product catalogue and shopping cart from the commerce component group to allow distributors to order specially priced merchandise. Even during these more elaborate exercises, we were not required to perform any coding. We merely made selections from pop-up HTML-based dialogue boxes and were instantly gratified.
Administrators can make a TeamSpace site public or private. A public site is viewed just as is any Web site and does not require registration. A private site provides several layers of user authentication and access control. Designers can restrict access to certain pages or even to component levels on a particular page, for example.
Setting up these precautions is straightforward. We easily created several access groups for partners and marketing and purchasing staffs and quickly added specific users to each group, depending on their roles in various projects. We also liked TeamSpace’s single sign-on login capability, which allows users to log on to Flypaper once and maintain a session across different hosted Web sites.
Unlike most ASP models with fixed functionality, Flypaper customers and partners can extend their service by renting plug-in components from the more than 40 companies offering added-cost modules. For instance, TeamSpace interoperates with Software 911 Inc.’s FAQ and customer support applications.
TeamSpace also provides a bevy of options for customization without any added costs or purchases. For instance, we included an SFA (sales-force automation) application in our portal using TeamSpace’s Integration Component. This object wrapped the output of a servlet into XML for display within TeamSpace. For more extensive personalization, TeamSpace also allows users to upload, compile, and publish custom Java components.
The only thing we found inconvenient is that TeamSpace offers no off-line mode. Unlike e-mail or other desktop client software, with which you can store calendar and contact information locally, TeamSpace requires that you be connected to the service to access this information.
Nevertheless, we recommend TeamSpace to companies looking to maximize partner and customer relationships. It offers high-quality content sharing and activity co-ordinating and expertly contextualizes disbursed transactional and customer data.
InfoWorld (U.S.) contributing Editor Mike Heck ([email protected]) builds Web and intranet sites for Unisys in Blue Bell, Pa.
Supplier: : Flypaper Inc.
Price: US$12 per user per month
Platform: Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0; Netscape Navigator 4.0 or higher
Pros: Allows collaboration via a Web browser; requires very little technical expertise or training; requires no additional software, hardware or hosting infrastructure; ensures security with several layers of authentication and access controls
Cons: No off-line mode