Just about everybody intuitively understands the potential value of collaboration. But the challenge with collaboration from an IT perspective is setting it up. Today the most widely used collaboration tools in IT are Microsoft SharePoint or Lotus Notes. Both can be deployed on premise or delivered as a service, but they still leave a lot to be desired in terms of ease of use and manageability. As a result, you see a lot of companies embracing Web technologies such as wikis because they are both free and easy. But wikis leave a lot to be desired in functionality.
Stepping into the gap between these two extremes is a provider of a software-as-a-service application called SharedDoc. According to CEO Caroline Vanderlip, the fundamental premise of SharedDoc is simple. Companies want a place to collaborate online that is secure, but doesn't require a lot of expertise to use or set up.
In the case of SharedDoc, customers post a document online and then send an e-mail inviting people to access it. Only people that have been invited can see the document. The service supports almost any document type, including Microsoft PowerPoint, and provides a pretty clean interface to navigate the comments surrounding any document.
In contrast, offerings such as Lotus Notes betray a big enterprise mentality that comes with more complexity than the average company needs or wants. And despite anything Microsoft says, SharePoint is basically an unmanaged repository for documents that take up too much space on Microsoft Exchange. Wikis, meanwhile, are easy to use but fraught with security and compliance issues and Google Wave doesn't scale all that well beyond a handful of users. And even then, it's a little tricky to follow conversations.
So while SharedDoc might not be the most technically elegant application ever built, it is simple to use and, at least for the moment, free to use until the application formally comes out of beta in 2011. When all things are considered, maybe SharedDoc is going to wind up being "the Goldilocks of collaboration software" in that despite all the other choices, SharedDoc may prove to be just right as far as the average end user is concerned.