WordFrame: social computing with a pedigree

Collaboration tools have been around for donkey’s years. Ever since Lotus Notes brought ‘groupware’ to our attention in the mid nineties, in fact. The problem with Notes and many of its …

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25th February 2008 at 1:11 pm

Collaboration tools have been around for donkey’s years. Ever since Lotus Notes brought ‘groupware’ to our attention in the mid nineties, in fact. The problem with Notes and many of its competitors is that they tended to be adopted by medium to large organisations. And, it has to be said, they needed a fair amount of technical mollycoddling.

Smaller enterprises had to bite the bullet or go without this kind of software until the advent of service-based tools such as blogs, wikis, chat and all the rest that you’ve heard so much about. These are services which enable people to publish information they want to share (blogs), collaborate on creating documents (wikis), find people who might be able to help them (profiles), pick up links to external information of interest (RSS), classify published information and documents (tags) and send messages to each other (email).

The trouble then is that if you want a comprehensive collaborative environment, you need to sign up for services from different providers. Or you need to accept that if you buy a wiki with blog features, say, it one or other of the functions would tend to be weak, depending on where the company started from.

IBM/Lotus is making promises about Bluehouse, a collaboration suite provided as a service to SMBs. It is currently in a private beta test phase at the moment. Another service, called WordFrame, was launched on February 21st this year.

Although the name is new, the underlying product has been around since 2005. It was called Blogtronix. As time went by, the organisation found itself serving two different markets: large enterprises and the financial sector on the one hand and small/medium businesses on the other. These are now handled by separate companies and the WordFrame version has been reworked explicitly to suit the needs of the SMB.

In theory, you can sign up, use a standard template and start using it straight away. In practice you will probably want to set it up in a way that suits your culture and your practical needs. As someone who’s set up a prototype, I can tell you that it needs a bit of intelligence and a bit of patience, but all the knobs and switches are there to shape a very powerful system in a small amount of time. A day or two at most for something that looks pretty good. However, the WordFrame folk are more than happy to tailor the implementation to your needs for prices starting at £1000.

If you’ve bought into the social computing idea but are frustrated by the multiplicity of providers, you might want to consider WordFrame as a possibility. Perhaps a good place to start would be the case study page on the WordFrame website.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. Thank you for the nice and true words, David. We also promise to make it even better in the coming months, plus a major overhaul in late 2008/early 2009! Geogre, WordFrame.com

  2. I’ve been working hard with the guys at WordFrame on getting this launched at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in London to serve their members. I’m happy to feedback my experience to anyone who’s interested.

  3. That’s very kind of you Stuart.

    Thanks.

    (Although I’m tempted to ask you to give a summary here. Like did you consider alternatives? Why did you settle for WordFrame? Is it giving you what you wanted? etc etc.)

  4. See blog on the launch of the ICAEW’s IT Counts on WordFrame: http://www.accmanpro.com/2008/03/06/icaews-it-counts-launches-yay/

  5. I read it at 5:55 am today. Well done all of you. (I’ve been in touch with Dennis and David about it.)

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