Know thyself

Before considering specific Web-based collaboration products, federal officials need to think hard about their requirements and corporate culture. That's advice from Ron Simmons, who as knowledge officer for the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of the Chief Scientist for Human Factors has several hundred employees using Web-based collaboration software.

"As with any other IT project, if you look at hardware and software first and go out and hire a contractor without specifically knowing what you want and how your end users are going to react to it, you could get in trouble," he said. He also recommends starting with a small project and an inexpensive product to help gauge your actual needs.

When investigating potential solutions, eRoom Technology Inc.'s Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Francois Gossieaux recommends looking for the "six Cs":

Comprehensible The solution should be easy to learn and use. Contagious It must hold benefits for outside users. Complete Does it have all the tools end users require in order to get their work done? Customizable Can it be easily tailored to meet the needs of all of your users, including future scalability requirements? Cross-enterprise It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure the product is truly Web-based. Connected Not only should it integrate with the broader business processes and systems, but it should synchronize with each user's workspace, including e-mail, calendars and task lists.

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