Meetings are a missive drain on valuable time, but what other options are there to keep everyone on the same page?
E-mail? Inboxes quickly become filled with messages with the subject line reading “RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: july 10th meeting.” How can the modern office use technology to speed up productivity and keep employees out of the conference room?
One possible answer is web 2.0
Web 2.0 is a buzzword tossed around increasingly these days to describe the shift toward using the internet as an application platform. Simply put, it is using sites on the internet as programs. The idea is: web 1.0 was a viewable resource; web 2.0 is interactive; publishing becomes participation.
Web 2.0 is a new way of building websites. However, the technology behind these sites is old. The tools of web 2.0 sites are pre-existing standards that have been around for many years. All that has changed is the creativity of the programmers constructing the sites.
Because these are standards, there is nothing needed to use web 2.0 on your computer (except, in some cases, a browser update, which is free); most likely, you are already using it. Sites such as facebook.com ,wikipedia.org and flickr.com are all considered web 2.0. Although these sites are great examples of how web 2.0 works, they are not business solutions.
A client approached me just last week, needing his technology organized. In addition to receiving e-mails synchronized between several computers and a mobile phone, he needed something to manage his workflow and collaborate with his employees, while in a mobile setting. He was hoping to make e-mail cater to his needs, but e-mail has serious limitations. Once e-mails start flowing in, it is easy for things to slip through the cracks. He needed a program that would allow him to manage tasks for individual clients and allow him to delegate the tasks to employees.
After listening to his needs, I recommended the web 2.0 solution Highrise (www.highrisehq.com) from the company 37signals (www.37signals.com). Highrise is a client management system that lets multiple users work together gathering contact information, keeping notes on each client, and creating and assigning tasks for clients and general business needs. Multiple people can access the system, at the same time, from any computer with internet access, without the cost of expensive proprietary software.
The 37signals company makes several powerful web 2.0 applications. Basecamp is a project management and collaboration tool; campfire; an online chatting tool; backpack, a personal organization tool; and several other small web applications. The design of each program is to solve problems. From personal organization to client management, the developers at 37signals have developed intuitive solutions.
The great part about all the 37signals programs is scalability. No cost of server computers of client licenses; it is an easy-to-use solution without the cost of management. 37signals plans are sliding scale based on needs; no contracts, no sign-up fee, no termination and they allow upgrades, downgrades and cancellation at any time. They even have completely free low-end account.
37signals was instrumental in the growth of my company. Using its program basecamp (www.basecamphp.com), we were able to manage multiple projects, with notes and tasks, and set milestones to make sure everything was on track. We continue to use it to help us manage schedules and track time on the fo. With the browser on the iPhone I am able to use the full capabilities of the applications on the go.
There are many other companies on the web offering simile systems google has some great web applications (www.google.com/a/) accessible to anyone at no cost. Docs and spreadsheets is one of the most dynamic collaborative tools google offers. It allows for the online creation and collaboration of text documents and spreadsheets, downloadable into a number of formats for distribution, including microsoft word and excel.
Although these web applications are useful because developers build the applications for mass productions, they do not always fulfill all of a business’s individual needs. When customization becomes an issue, there is a helpful local option. Clearpage interactive (www.clearpage.net), located at the top of the tiger hotel, builds powerful web applications and site designs customized to specific needs. Its business management system stratus is a framework, which Clearpage can customize to meet the individual needs of clients.
Often web sites need to be updated, but there is no one with the knowledge or background to edit the site code. Clearpage uses web 2.0 to solve that problem with its system inside. The company has created a web-based “what you see is what you get” of WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig) site editor. This allows individuals, with permission, to visually edit the site content and basic design elements without any web programming knowledge. Recently, clearpage implemented a new design with the inside system for Coyote Hill (www.coyotehill.org).
Web 2.0 thinking has spawned great web tools and resources. The flexibility it offers means there are plenty of possibilities not yet conceived. Web 2.0 is bridging the gap between computer applications and the internet.
As we move toward mobility. These web applications will play an increasingly important role in bridging the gap among computers, phones and PDAs that lack internal applications and the ability to easily store documents. Proper implementation of web 2.0 applications will reduce the need for a personal computer, allowing the ability to edit anywhere on any device connected to the internet.
Originally Published in The Columbia Business Times