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FCW : September 30, 2014
collaboration-oriented extensions to Google Apps. Among them is Lucidchart, a tool for creating owcharts and other diagrams. The lab has also incorporated Smartsheet, which Stone described as a lightweight project management tool, and GQueues, a task management app. Outside the Google ecosystem, the lab s collaboration offerings include Atlas- sian s Con uence wiki software. Restrictions on travel have also raised the pro le of col- laboration tools. The General Services Administration s con- ference scandal and subsequent travel restrictions have limited agencies ability to conduct off-site meetings. "Before, we could reasonably justify getting a group of people together," Curtis said. "It is almost impossible to do that anymore." As a result, VHA conducts more virtual meetings. The agency uses its Lync system or services such as GoToMeet- ing or Cisco s WebEx for some meetings. But other situations require a more powerful tool that can support larger meet- ings in which several groups convene in breakout sessions to tackle speci c issues, Curtis said. VHA uses ThinkTank for meetings in which participants must brainstorm solutions to a problem or produce a set of positions on a given subject. In one case, VHA employed ThinkTank to conduct a virtual meeting that had traditionally brought about 200 people together in person. Curtis noted that the tool was able to accommodate the conference, including breakout sessions, and might be used again in that capacity due to travel constraints. VHA uses Adobe Connect in its work with DOD because the tool provides the Web conferencing portion of Defense Connect Online. The fundamentals Collaboration tools can be segmented in different ways. One approach is to break down the market according to functions: conferencing services versus le sync-and- share solutions, for example. Conferencing services include audio-only offerings, Web conferencing such as GoToMeet- ing and WebEx, and group video meetings via such tools as Google Hangouts. Solutions in the le sync-and-share category, on the other hand, let users share les with co-workers. Examples include Box.com and Dropbox. Beyond those categories, there are applications geared toward structured collaboration versus informal meet-ups and information-sharing sessions. Products in that cat- egory embed collaboration within a particular enterprise work ow. ThinkTank offers one example of a structured collabo- ration tool. The company s software helps meeting par- ticipants focus on common objectives, discover the best way to pursue those objectives and drive good results, Ricketts said. ThinkTank facilitates collaboration in the context of a particular process --- for example, by offer- ing ThinkFlows that guide processes such as audit, Lean Six Sigma, risk management, project management and strategic planning. Some companies divide collaboration tools into consumer- September 30, 2014 FCW.COM 31 Next steps • Collaborative mind melding. As for future collaboration tools, Dr. Clayton Curtis, an informaticist at the Veterans Health Adminis- tration, said he would like to see real-time mind mapping soft- ware. A mind map is a diagram that shows a main concept and its connections to associated ideas. Curtis said tools such as MindMeister enable the sharing of mind maps among a group, but he would like the ability to have a group uidly make changes to a mind map at the same time. • In search of experts. Often, just nding people to collaborate is the key problem. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is deploying an online tool that is designed to help research- ers discover one another, called Harvard Catalyst Pro les. Adam Stone, chief technology of cer and division deputy for policy and technology at Berkeley Lab, said the system creates researcher pro les by mining data from public databases such as PubMed. • Collaboration meets big data. Each collaboration session cap- tures a lot of information, and the collection grows even larger across an organization s worth of workgroup activities. Steve Rick- etts, chief marketing of cer at ThinkTank, said big-data analyt- ics is an emerging trend. "If you can...start to aggregate that data and start to see trends, the ana- lytics around that are extremely powerful, " he said. --- John Moore
September 15, 2014