Is there a Huddle in your future?

David Tebbutt takes a look at what Huddle, the rising star of UK internet startups has to offer SMEs by way of social software and collaboration.

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24th November 2008 at 10:31 pm

A few months ago our beloved leader did a podcast with Alastair Mitchell of collaboration software company, Huddle. As in “let’s get in a huddle.” As you will learn from the podcast, getting distant team members into a physical huddle to hammer out issues was quite an expensive and time consuming process.

The answer was to replace travel with collaboration software and, while they were at it, to make participation in projects as easy as possible. And you don’t have to belong to just one team or ‘birds of a feather’ group. Anyone can belong to any number of groupings, whether internal to the company, external or personal. Or any mix thereof. One log-in gives access to the lot.

These collaboration areas are called workspaces. The program is documented and presented in a number of languages – facilitating collaboration (but not automatic translation) among geographically disparate groups.

Once in a workspace participants can, for example, see what each other are up to, have conversations, share files (collaborative editing involves a check in/check out system to prevent clashes), share screens and share on-screen whiteboards.

It’s easy to get started. One workspace is free. But, as with most online business services, you need to start paying according to the number of workspaces you have and the amount of memory you’re using up. The one thing that you don’t have to worry about too much (except in their use of resources) is the number of users in a workspace. Prices start at £10 per month.

In a nice touch, the company will provide charities with up to ten workspaces, encrypted access and 10Gb of storage absolutely free.

You don’t need an IT department, the service is securely hosted for you. Although if you have one, they’ll be interested to know that they can program access to Huddle through an application programming interface (API). If you are really worried about letting data out of your company Huddle can allow you to host it yourself while still running all the collaboration elements on your behalf.

Although it serves all sizes of organisation, the company provides an enterprise class service and counts some large customers among its clientele. Organisations like Boots and Abeerdeen City Council, which said of the service, “It is certainly refreshing to use a product that doesn’t cause more problems than what one started with.” I won’t even hazard a guess at what that might have been.

The service brings all the usual benefits of social software, not least an absence (or significant reduction) of email. If you want, you can be notified of changes by email or RSS newsfeed. Alternatively you can just log in to your home page through a web browser and see what needs attention.

At the end of October the company made its service available through the LinkedIn networking service. Four more similar arrangements will be announced in the next quarter. December will see a new and improved user interface. And voice conferencing will be arriving soon, through a white label arrangement with a major service provider.

Huddle certainly has the ring of a potential success. Large enterprises need to feel that their suppliers will be around in twelve months time. With the clients it has and a new round of finance in the offing, the signs for Huddle appear to be good.

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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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