Portal to ease collaboration in Maine

Maine Small Business Development Centers

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An organization focused on economic development in Maine is creating a portal so that counselors and clients scattered throughout the state can collaborate securely through virtual workspaces.

The Maine Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) is implementing Computer Associates International Inc.'s CleverPath Portal to provide the structure for information exchange and dissemination, said Scott Robinett, SBDC manager of computer and information technology.

"We had a front end for the public, but we were looking for a back end to share information," he said.

Robinett said the SBDC — which is financially supported by the state, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the University of Southern Maine — has 19 staff members who exchange information primarily when they meet face-to-face on a quarterly basis. The portal could serve as a communications vehicle for counselors in their service centers as well as provide them with more resources throughout the year.

The portal also is an answer to SBDC's participation in several programs, such as the federally funded BusinessLINC (Learning, Information, Networking, Collaboration) and Maine Technology Institute's FAST (Federal and State Technology Partnership) Tech Tracker mentoring network.

Both programs employ a mentor/protege relationship among businesses. A collaborative space within the portal will enable mentors and proteges to work more effectively by swapping confidential documents securely around-the-clock without having to set up face-to-face meetings all the time.

Robinett said that when the portal is developed, users will be able to log in, open up a screen and use a "library" to access information that can be added to their customizable workspace. The library, he said, could index links and information of interest to businesses and counselors. He added that a videoconferencing component might be added to assist users even further.

Although the SBDC's budget is tight, Robinett said he was able to work out something with Computer Associates. He expects to launch the portal with some applications next year.

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