Collaboration tools keep projects on track
eRoom, SiteScape are evenly matched
Many companies would like to replace cumbersome paper trails — as for a purchase order or an ECO (engineering change order) — with electronic ones. Collaboration software allows the creation of these types of electronic workflows while simplifying communication among team members working on mutual projects.
Although many products offer features such as shared calendars to support collaboration, suites specifically oriented toward collaboration are less common. Some, such as Groove Networks’ Groove, are peer-to-peer applications, offering easy setup but more difficult administration and control. Documentum’s eRoom 7 and SiteScape’s Enterprise Forum 7.0 are server-based products that provide scalable, secure collaboration environments aimed at large enterprises or multiple companies.
Both can set up multiple servers, each running a Web server, a SQL server, or the collaboration server, making them scalable up to thousands of users. Both products install rapidly, at least in the base configuration with the default database server, though administrators should expect to invest considerable time in setting up the groups, users, and desired functions. Fortunately, templates provide a starting point for setting up workflow, chat rooms, message boards, file sharing, and other tools.
Each of these products provides a powerful toolset for aiding collaboration; which one fits your organization will depend on your needs.
The two products’ capabilities are evenly matched. So SiteScape’s advantage is its support of multiple servers, including Windows, Linux and Solaris; eRoom 7 is limited to Windows. On the other hand, a simple $200 per seat pricing model distinguishes eRoom 7, which will make it more palatable to smaller organizations that may balk at SiteScape’s $5,000 per-server-plus-$99-per-user fees.
eRoom 7 is the latest version in a long line of collaboration products, and its maturity shows in many small ways, including improved search, security, and user management and a single console for administration. Further, eRoom offers excellent integration with other Documentum products such as ECM (Enterprise Content Management).
Installation is straightforward, especially for the standard version, which includes its own SQL Anywhere database. The advanced version uses Microsoft SQL Server and is necessarily more complex to install, although not enormously so.
eRoom 7 installs on Windows 2000 Server or Advanced Server only. You must restart the server after installation, then restart the IIS server. This is no problem if the server is a dedicated collaboration server, but adding collaboration functionality to a corporate portal server would require some planning.
The advanced version integrates well with ECM but requires two separate SQL server instances, one for the Content Server and one for the eRoom server.
Once installed, eRoom 7 uses the MMC (Microsoft Management Console) for server administration, although administrative tasks can also be accomplished using a browser.
To test the product, I created a dozen users and three processes, or eRooms as Documentum calls them. Each process had a different set of user permissions and different requirements for document flow. I created all the test environments easily, starting with the predefined templates provided.