SiteScape launches management tool

Team collaboration software vendor SiteScape Inc. began shipping a new product today that gives program managers a centralized, top-down view of the information, activities and progress of the programs they oversee.

The Forum Program Management software is an optional module that works in conjunction with the company's flagship Web-based collaboration product, Sitescape Enterprise Forum 7.0. SiteScape developed the new software with input from the U.S. Navy, which used the online tools to help manage a large missile development program.

Pete Gaston, SiteScape's director of product management, emphasized that the new software is designed to help run large, multi-faceted programs, not just projects, which typically have a more limited work scope than full-fledged programs.

In fact, Gaston believes customers will still use a project management tool such as Microsoft Corp.'s Project software to develop the work charts that match a project's specific tasks with appropriate resources.

But he contends these project management tools aren't up to the task of coordinating the multiple projects that comprise a large program. That's where SiteScape's new Forum Program Management software comes in, he said. It helps program managers understand how all the project pieces fit together and track progress on a large number of tasks, especially — and this is critical, Gaston said — as on-the-fly decisions change the program scope and work required.

Most organizations manage these program management issues on an ad-hoc basis, Gaston said, "using [Microsoft] Excel spreadsheets and paper-based processes for program controls."

Beyond its role as a communications platform, one of the chief benefits of team collaborative software like SiteScape's is its ability to gather a history of the teams' communications and other activities into one management space, said Mark Levitt, research vice president for collaborative computing at International Data Corp.

"People can go to that project or workspace and see what's been done and what's been posted," he said. "It's a way to get a new person up and running quickly."

The base platform for Forum Program Management, which costs $99 per named user, is SiteScape Enterprise Forum 7.0. It provides the Web-based tools that team members use to communicate and collaborate, such as document management facilities, discussion forums, decision histories, project calendars and team chat rooms. SiteScape introduced Enterprise Forum 7.0 last month, which includes first-time support for Microsoft's SQL Server and Oracle Corp.'s Oracle databases.

Besides the Navy, SiteScape also counts as customers the U.S. Coast Guard, the Bureau of Census and other federal agencies.

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