IBM is targeting its Workplace platform at enterprise collaboration, but the killer app for Workplace may be multi-enterprise collaboration.
At least, that's the prediction of Alex El Homsi, president of CEO of Trilog Group, Inc., a Woburn, MA, ISV that has just released one of those solutions for Workplace: ProjExec3.0, a solution for multi-enterprise project management problems.
"Project management becomes harder when it's being done by different organizations," Homsi said. "You have different information systems, infrastructures, directories, even different processes and cultures. And once you have information that crossing from one enterprise to another, you get into ownership and security concerns." He said that such projects require a different management style, but that is beyond his company's purview. "The one thing we can do is improve the technology infrastructure" by providing a secure virtual workplace for co-locating distributed project teams – in short, providing a hosted portal that sits outside the IT infrastructure and provides a secure place for sharing information.
Of course, Workplace already has enterprise collaboration, but Homsi goes so far as to say that "the killer app for Workplace may be multi-enterprise collaboration."
ProjExec 3.0 is an upgrade to and rebranding of the company's Project Management Workplace 2.5 product. One of the differences, obviously, is the elimination of the name Workplace, which makes sense because, unlike its predecessor, the 3.0 version is available in a Standard edition that supports any J2EE-compliant application server.
The Workplace version is the higher end of the two products. It includes all the project management capabilities of the Standard Edition, but is further customized to take advantage of IBM's collaborative tools such as presence awareness, IM, web conferencing and e-learning, so that users can benefit for Workplace's team workspace.
According to Homsi, the decision to broaden the audience for the product came about after customers told him they liked the project management solution but didn't necessarily want to roll out Workplace. "There was no reason we could not provide the project management portal onto a standard J2EE portal," he said. Not surprisingly, he expects to sell more of the Standard version, since the J2EE market is clearly bigger in terms of market share.
Still, the Workplace version is not aimed at companies that have deployed Workplace. The version also works with Notes/Domino and WebSphere. "We've also integrated with Domino Directory, in order to provide an option to integrate with Workplace," Homsi said. "We also provide the same capability with Sametime. Essentially, we integrate with Domino messaging, and are looking at integrating with calendaring and scheduling with Domino, since there's no equivalent for them in Workplace yet. Basically, the idea of building collaboration portals for project management is to have a sophisticated Quickplace for projects."
Homsi also views ProjExec 3.0 as a functionally superior but more affordable alternative to Microsoft Project Server and SharePoint Portal. "The typical cost of ownership for Sharepoint for 20 users is $30,000 and we are a third of that," he says. "And when we say we're a third of the cost of Sharepoint, we're not even counting the hidden costs, such as the cost of bringing external parties into the intranet via VPNs." He adds that ProjExec 3.0 can be deployed on Linux, which is not true of SharePoint.
Traditional enterprise project management tools can be cumbersome to IT administrators. But ProjExec 3.0 virtually eliminates administrative overhead by introducing Site Manager, a capability that simplifies the hosting and management of multiple sites with multiple projects in a single role-based portal, regardless of whether users are pre-registered in the corporate directory. "You don't want your IT administrator to be managing external users," Homsi said. "They have enough on their plate with internal users."