Groupware applications, project tools, Web portals, and other apps for IBM i facilitate messaging and collaboration between employees.
Teamwork is essential to successful businesses, and teamwork can't thrive without information sharing. Particularly among workers with similar jobs in the same organization, staying abreast of what one's counterparts are up to, what they've recently learned, and what new policies and practices the enterprise is following can all be key pieces of data on any given day.
While the general public may think of communicating with peers in terms of Twitter, Instant Messaging, and Facebook, business users know that effective collaboration can be just as important to functioning in a stagnant economy as photos of Junior making mud pies can be to Grandma. And although the IBM i world may not be as cutting edge as the Apple iPhone 4S, there are nevertheless a number of applications for the i platform that support collaboration and messaging between coworkers, as well as between enterprises and their partners.
Application types that support messaging and collaboration are groupware, communications managers that facilitate communications via portable devices, document-management apps that provide workflow features, Web portals, and software-project development tools that offer built-in collaboration features.
In this article, we'll review the various types of applications that provide messaging and collaboration services and then list each separately by category at the end of the article with a brief summary of each. Just to be clear, we won't be covering applications that provide messaging services between the IBM i systems/applications and IT personnel. Although that's a valid form of messaging, it more logically belongs in an article about system management and operations than it does here, where we're discussing messaging between people.
Groupware and Other Software Collaboration Types
Groupware lets people who are in different geographic locations communicate with each other and coordinate some of their activities. Microsoft's Exchange and NetMeeting products are commonly known PC applications that support groupware functions, and IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino products are the best-known applications of this type for the IBM i.
Communications-management applications handle messaging between applications and users and portable devices. IBM's Lotus/Domino products are also the most common in this area for the IBM i and client machines.
Workflow is another feature that aids in collaboration, usually on documents, orders, or other text communications. Workflow features in document-management applications let teams of people provide input on wording of documents, as well as channel documents that need a chain of approvals to the next person on the list that needs to review them. Other features provided by this product type can include tools for building new approval chains, recording changes and movement through an approval chain for auditing purposes, and other archiving and control capabilities. For a list of document-management solutions, please see "Document Management: A Cornucopia of Solutions," previously published in MC Systems Insight.
Workflow capabilities are also featured in enterprise resource planning (ERP), project-management, and business-analytics applications because those applications often require information flows to particular users or processing of data in a specific sequence.
Wikis, or Web sites with multiple interlinked pages, have become a collaboration tool that lets colleagues share useful information about customers, products, sales techniques, and other topics useful in carrying out business tasks. Because wikis are Internet-based, there aren't any IBM i-specific products that support them, but there really don't need to be. There's a useful comparison chart of wiki software products available from Wikipedia, some of which run under Java, WebSphere, or Apache Tomcat and are usable on IBM i systems using those. There are some wiki-building applications available on a hosted basis, such as Atlassian's Confluence, that let users on any platform build wikis using Microsoft Word and other common tools.
Closely allied with wikis are Web portals, which are secured Web sites through which enterprises can offer virtually any kind of information to their employees and business partners. Portals can also offer forums in which authorized users can collaborate on any topic or process, and customers can track their orders, help requests, or other items of interest.
IBM i shops that use more than one programmer will be aware of another software type that features collaboration, namely application development tools designed with team development in mind. This kind of software enables developers in one location or multiple locations to coordinate work on a software project. It also provides a means for managers or interested end-user stakeholders to track project progress. Group software frameworks feature a repository and tools for change synchronization, version controls, and work-overwriting protections.
Below is a list of groupware and communications-management products that run on the IBM i, or else on Lotus Notes clients for use with IBM Lotus products, along with brief descriptions of the products and links to appropriate Web sites. In addition are lists of some representative products in the areas of document management, ERP, Web portals, application construction, and other software types that support workflow or enable other forms of collaboration between coworkers.
As always when looking for products or services, be sure to check the MC Press Online Buyer's Guide.
Groupware and Communications Management Products for IBM i
Domino offers a server-side home for workgroup email, calendaring, scheduling, and collaborative applications. Other members of the product family include these:
- Domino Express—Domino Express provides messaging and collaboration services for enterprises with 1,000 or fewer users.
- iNotes—iNotes is the Web client for Lotus Notes.
- Lotus Forms—Lotus Forms is the product family's application for generating electronic forms.
- Lotus Forms Turbo—Lotus Forms Turbo is a more automated version of Lotus Forms that lets users build e-forms from a Web browser.
- LotusLive Engage—LotusLive Engage serves up Web-based collaboration help such as Web conferencing and Instant Messaging.
- Lotus Sametime—Lotus Sametime provides Web conferencing, Instant Messaging, video chat, and voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology.
- Mobile Connect—Mobile Connect secures mobile-device access to Domino services and online host applications.
- Notes—Notes is the application system's desktop client.
- Notes Hosted Messaging—Notes Hosted Messaging offers messaging and collaboration services for enterprises with more than 1,000 users.
- Notes Traveler—Notes Traveler replicates Domino services to mobile devices.
- QuickR—QuickR is the product family's team-collaboration application.
- Symphony—Symphony is productivity software for the Notes/Domino product family that helps users build documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and new Notes/Domino applications.
Kisco Information Systems
The SNDTWEET utility is a Twitter interface for the IBM i that lets users send short messages to a specified group of correspondents, or directed messages to specific Twitter users.
Castcadia is an email router for Notes traffic specifically designed to handle broadcast traffic. It gives administrators the ability to capture Notes broadcast requests, approve and schedule them, and move broadcast messages into a different traffic stream from other email. It also builds Notes distribution lists from a variety of sources.
Compliance Attender for Lotus Notes is an email policy compliance oversight utility for administrators. It captures email messages before they are routed, enabling collection, archive, quarantine, and disclaiming of messages to ensure compliance with messaging policies. It also archives email messages to a secure location.
Lotus Sametime users build Buddy Lists as a shortcut way of building a contact list. When changes occur in directories, user names, and other attributes, Buddy Lists don't automatically update. This product lets administrators index, view, update, rename, and modify Buddy Lists for groups and individual users.
Instant IMtegrity logs, saves, and archives Lotus Sametime Connect clients and AOL Instant Messenger client chats, maps anonymous AOL screen names to corporate user identities, and sends customizable company disclaimer messages to IM chat parties.
Instant Queue Manager creates virtual queues that automatically sort Sametime chat requests and directs them to the next available queue agent. It also creates and manages Sametime Instant Messaging queues, prioritizes lists of queue participants, and tracks all queue activity in a database.
Mail Attender for Notes enables email policy management for Notes and Domino installations, provides centralized control and authority over Notes email databases, identifies email messages related to a specific legal action, and prevents users from saving, sending, or deleting email messages that they shouldn't.
SecureIQ.trailer uses email headers and footers to provide legal security for email correspondence, integrates security disclaimers and other messages in outgoing email messages, and offers flexible rule sets for sending different disclaimer messages (or messages in different national languages) to specific groups of users.
Representative Applications with Workflow Features for IBM i
Tracker Suite is a product family that provides project management, IT management, human resources, and sales-force automation applications that use Lotus Notes/Domino as the foundation to facilitate coworker communication and collaboration.
Infor10 ERP iEnterprise (formerly Infor LX) is an ERP suite that helps manufacturing companies build and fulfill orders, handle pricing and promotions, and handle workflows of documents and related communications.
Presence is a workflow application for document management that automates document routing and processing, captures emails and other electronic and paper files to a central repository, and streamlines approval processes.
JD Edwards World offers a suite of applications for managing distribution, human capital, finance, and manufacturing operations, all of which include workflow features that help employees collaborate.
RJS Software Systems
Enterprise Workflow helps users manage collaborative document construction and distribution, features a design tool for creating new workflows, creates work logs and audit trails to demonstrate regulatory compliance, and works with processes as well as documents. The product also offers security controls, a Web interface, and hooks for integrating it with other applications.
SWING Integrator is a printing, reporting, and document automation solution for Lotus Notes that integrates Microsoft's Office and OpenOffice PC applications with Lotus Notes/Domino. It helps users produce highly formatted documents and charts using Notes data, updates Notes database fields from Office documents, integrates Office applications with Notes, and provides tools for building new Notes and Domino applications.
Applications with Web Portal Features for IBM i
BCD's Nexus Portal provides a single point of access for all enterprise information, supports IM and other communications between employees, and offers tools for generating additional portals.
BugBusters Software Engineering
Rendezvous/400 lets users add forums, chat rooms, private newsgroups, and customer-support facilities to existing Web sites to improve enterprise collaboration efforts.
Decision Assist is a business-analytics suite that includes applications for financials, business performance, and the healthcare industry. It includes a built-in data mart, a Web portal, and built-in workflow features.
Representative Application Development Tools with Collaboration Features
ARCAD-Skipper combines software configuration management and application development tools in a group environment that helps developers communicate within the product to maintain coordination of software features and project work.
The iAM Suite is designed to support team application development and deployment based on LANSA's multiple software-building products, as well as IBM i development languages such as COBOL, Java, and RPG.
Domino Designer is a development environment for building applications based on Lotus Domino that supports collaboration by development teams.
IBM Mashup Center promotes developments of mashup applications and includes repositories for sharing application components and communications between members of a development team.
Lotus Expeditor assists in the development of composite applications for client and server and includes collaboration tools for development team members.
Lotus Workflow specializes in helping developers build workflow applications based on Lotus Notes/Domino. It supports team collaboration as well as document sharing and approval routing between any number of interested parties.
Integrity is a software product-lifecycle management system with collaboration features that let users manage development artifacts, track development projects, and manage product requirements, software testing, and software configuration.
ALM is a software lifecycle-management application that offers communications between team members, control of software development and deployment, and management of IT services and other aspects of software configuration and deployment.
TURNOVER is a change-management application for developing, deploying, and maintaining server, Web, and client applications.
SEE/Change helps users control software development projects, track development activities for auditing purposes, and oversee all aspects of lifecycle management.