Though collaborative software may not be considered strategic by all enterprises, it's playing a crucial role in helping Tyco Healthcare bounce back from a rocky 2002, a year that saw several top execs resign amid charges that they looted the company of $600 million.
Tyco Healthcare has embraced software made by Groove Networks Inc., first within IT to speed up the installation of Windows, and then within some financial departments that wish to monitor activities across various divisions. Eventually, the Groove software will help link various Tyco Healthcare divisions that used to operate independently, said Roy Wilsker, director of technology planning at Tyco Healthcare, a Mansfield, Mass., division of Tyco International.
In the past, Tyco Healthcare senior managers had less involvement with independent company divisions. Today, collaboration software is viewed as one way to change how the company works and thinks, Wilsker said.
Tyco Healthcare , which for years had grown through acquisitions, is now mandated by its new management to focus on developing products from within the company. Groove Workspace 2.5, to be released today, will play a key role in that mandate. The product improves integration with Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server software and Outlook e-mail client.
"We are looking to use technologies like Groove and SharePoint to change the way knowledge is managed within the company," Wilsker said. "We will use SharePoint for information that is more final and needs more visibility, and Groove where information is more fluid."
Some of the improvements being released by Groove Networks for Groove Workspace include the ability to let Outlook users take a threaded discussion and move it into an existing shared space. In the past, users were only able to place that discussion into a new shared space, said Donna Carvalho, senior product manager of Groove Workspace.
Groove will add a mobile capability that lets mobile users of SharePoint Team Services work together in a shared Groove Workspace. Carvalho said that when data is added to the Groove Workspace from the outside, it is synchronized, either automatically or manually, to SharePoint. Administrators were also given more control over the amount of bandwidth that can be allocated to each user.
The new version of Groove Workspace will also let users place Outlook contacts and Groove contacts into a single Groove contact list. Groove users can invite non-Groove users into a single shared space using e-mail. Also, the software now lets users sync up their Groove calendars and their Outlook calendars, so that anything in Groove that changes is updated in Outlook.
Groove Workspace 2.5 also adds Web services APIs, so Workspace data can be extended to applications and devices that people wouldn't otherwise be able to access. Today, Groove Workspace only supports Windows applications but, using the APIs, customers can get data in and out of Groove regardless of which application they are working with, said Matt Pope, product manager for Groove Web Services.
The improved integration with SharePoint Portal Services will help Tyco Healthcare set up ad hoc teams. The company's product development activities require fast and fluid setup. There is a lot of information that has to be passed back and forth, and the activities are often short-term. At the end of the processes, however, the company is left with a lot documents that have a long life, Wilsker said.
Groove's improved integration with SharePoint is a big advantage for any customer that wants to use virtual team spaces, said Laurel McElreath, service line director at EDS, which resells Groove and uses it internally in addition to other virtual team space technologies, including eRoom. Approved users can gain access to a wealth of data in a shared file, though only appointed individuals can manipulate the data.
Tyco Healthcare wants to be able to pull information into Groove Workspace from SharePoint group repositories, work collaboratively with a wider audience, and republish to SharePoint, Wilsker said.
The hope of using collaborative software is that it will provide a way to shorten the manufacturing life cycle. Tyco will also use more conferencing software to bring executives together for short events, thereby helping to cut down on lengthy travel time.
"All of this fits with our strategy of making good products as cost effectively as possible," Wilsker said.
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