Fast Guide to Collaborative Software - Reference from


Fast Guide to Collaborative Software

Part of the Project management glossary:

How important is collaborative software? According to Eugene Eric Kim, founder and director of Blue Oxen Associates, the future of the free world may well depend upon it -- and no, he's not kidding! Fortunately, there's a virtual host of collaboration tools available, and collaborative capability is being built into an increasing number of other products as well. In our Fast Guide, you'll learn about collaborative work and the products and technologies that support it. We've got links about the state of the industry, current research, and real life case studies showing how collaborative software has been used to improve communication and productivity within the organization and around the world.

   Introduction to collaborative software
   Proprietary products
   Open source products
   Case studies
   Soft skills
   Research and news

 Introduction to collaborative software
These pages offer a good introduction to the area of collaboration and related products.

The UsabilityFirst Web site includes a fairly comprehensive section about collaborative work.

NECTAR is a research network focused on collaboration technologies. offers a good introduction to groupware.

Royal Roads University explores collaborative working in documents from its Masters program in Distributed Learning.

Johnathon Grudin's paper, "CSCW: History and Focus" describes the development of groupware in a historical context.

Chapter 1 of David Coleman's book, An Introduction to Groupware is available online from Collaborative Strategies.

The Data and Analysis Center for Software offers a selection of links about groupware.

Wikipedia has a good entry about collaborative software.

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 Proprietary products
In the beginning, there was Lotus notes... and then, as collaborative work became increasingly common, demand for products led to a growing market for groupware. Here's a list of links for the most prominent products:

Novell produced one of the first groupware products.

IBM's Lotus product group includes Notes, Quickplace, Sametime, and more.

Microsoft's SharePoint product group includes collaboration tools and services, a development platform, and a portal server.

Microsoft NetMeeting is an Internet conferencing product with audio, video, text chat, and white board.

Intuit's QuickBase has collaboration products for the Web or the corporate network.

Microsoft's Office product group provides communication tools for collaboration.

BSCW (Basic Support for Collaborative Work) offers a collaborative work space for local and remote groups.

Groupville offers a free three-user version.

Webex provides online meeting, web conferencing and video conferencing services.

Atom Suite offers project management tools.

Group Jazz includes shared communication, workspace, and business process management tools.

CollaborativeWorkspaces provides a secure shared communication environment for work groups.

Groove Networks Virtual Office offers communication, project space, and data sharing tools.

HotOffice Intranet Office Suite includes document management, bulletin board, and chat rooms.

FirstClass has groupware for business and education contexts.

Scrivlet is a tool for shared Web page authoring.

IBM WebSphere Portal for Multiplatforms includes portal development and Web content management tools.

CollabNet offers collaborative software development and business management products.

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 Open source products

Open source groupware vendors make their source code available; products are customizable to the criteria of each user/organization. Here's a list of some prominent examples. Many sites also have ongoing discussions, in case you want to get really nitty-gritty.

The Kolab Project grew out of a commercial venture called the Kroupware Contract.

More.groupware (according to Wikipedia's groupware entry, the best open source or proprietary product) provides just about any office application you might want, in a variety of languages. Their Web site also offers a test drive to check it out before you download. offers extensions to OpenOffice applications, a Sun-backed open source product group similar to, and compatible with, Microsoft Office products.

Phpgroupware offers 50 web-based applications, including a calendar, an address book, an advanced Projects manager, a to do list, notes, e-mail, a newsgroup- and headlines reader, and a file manager. The phpgroupware system also provides modules to set up and administrate the work environment.

Project/Open offers collaborative online project management products.

eGroupware provides a demo, an overview, screenshots, and a guide to open-source groupware deployment.

TikiWiki is a web-based Wiki Groupware and Content Management System (CMS).

Mayetic Village offers free collaborative Web space.

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 Case studies
See how various collaboration products have fared in the real world:

CollabNet profiles client projects using their products.

A Crosswind Technologies document describes "How Calendaring & Scheduling are joining the Web Revolution."

Microsoft describes Web-based collaboration at Procter & Gamble.

IBM offers a case study about Lion's Gate Entertainment.

Intuit QuickBase describes how collaborative software helped Fleet Insurance Services.

Intuit offers another case study in "Multi-office project management."

Novell describes how a California law firm benefited from its small business suite.

IBM offers case studies in its brochure, "Increasing productivity in an on demand world."

On, David Strom describes a case study in "NNTP server software eases workgroup communication." offers a selection of Web links about case studies.








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 Soft skills
There's more to consider in collaborative work than individual technical skills. Group dynamics come into play, and things really get complicated when groups meet virtually rather than face-to-face. The following content explores the soft skill set required for successful collaborative project work.

An Intranet Journal article explores the human side of collaborative work.

MIT's Technology Review explains the "Rules of the Collaboratory Game."

Usability First describes design issues related to the way people work in groups. reports on the importance of collaborative technologies and soft skills in small and medium-sized businesses.

A document from The Open University at Cambridge explores "Communication in Remote Group Working."

Extending the Work Group into Cyberspace explores the dynamics of establishing an e-mail news list for a work group.

Carleton University's Human Oriented Technology Lab reports on research into interpersonal aspects of collaborative work.

The University of Sydney's Science program provides an overview of interpersonal skills.

The Northeast College of Business Administration offers a document called "Surviving the Group Project: A Note on Working in Teams."

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 Research and news
The following links offer product reviews, how-tos, and reflections on the state of the industry:

Margie Semilof's article reports "Open-source poised to compete with Exchange, Domino."

IBM's Lotus software pages describe "Shrinking the world through collaborative technologies."

A review pits Domino against Exchange. reports that "You gotta have team work."

A ZDNet anchor desk article sees potential in Intuit's QuickBase and Microsoft's SharePoint Team Services products.

An eWeek article reports that "Simplicity Eludes Group Work."

XML Magazine has an article about "Wiring the Collaborative Enterprise."

Weblog Kitchen "explores current research in weblogs, wikis, and other hypertext systems."

A article is called "Collaboration nirvana: Are we there yet?."

CNET News has a story called "All take, no give: why collaboration fails."

Learn IT: Instant Messaging in the Enterprise

A article reports that "Open-source poised to compete with Exchange, Domino."

Johnathan Davies' article is about "Wiki Brainstorming and Problems with Wiki Based Collaboration."

Wikipedia provides a Perl Monks discussion on collaborative media.

 Blue Oxen Associates offers Eugene Eric Kim's article, "A Manifesto for Collaborative Tools."

This article describes the "Top 10 virtual office mistakes."

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UsabilityFirst's glossary has many groupware-related terms.

Words-to-Go: Groupware is a handy, printable glossary of abbreviated definitions of collaborative software terms, with (online)links to our full definitions.

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This was last updated in February 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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