SamePage Gets High Marks in Trial Runs

The WebFlow product is a boon to collaborative efforts at companies where employees must share information

Much has been written about the Internet "community" concept, but a product from WebFlow Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., is giving new meaning to the term.

SamePage is an application designed to let people collaborate on a document via the Internet ? or in other words, a workgroup product. Since its May 15 debut, more than 100 companies have either purchased the product or are testing it on a trial basis. Customers include Cisco Systems Inc., America Online Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java division.

Many of the initial installations have been with large corporations, but SamePage can be used by any size or type of business where employees must share information, said Richard Rebh, vice president of marketing for WebFlow.

SamePage can handle a project of any size, said Allen Weiner, director and principal analyst of on-line strategies at Dataquest, San Jose, Calif.

The product costs $3,500 for a 10-user system. Volume discounts are available. If you wanted to purchase Lotus Notes with a 10-user license and develop your own applications, the cost would be $2,100.

SamePage works by taking a document and breaking it into discrete portions that are converted into database records. Those records are coded with hypertext markup language and displayed as a new document. The HTML coding makes the individual record appear as one document.

Comments are attached to the record, or changes made, and the material is submitted to the database. When the submit button is selected, a document is redrawn to show a person's work.

Unlike Lotus Notes, it doesn't matter what platform users are on. As long as they have access to a Web browser they can use SamePage, said Rebh. Further, Notes works by letting people append documents to messages. SamePage flips the concept and lets people insert messages directly into a document. For example, Cisco's human resources managers use the system to send hiring managers resumes of potential employees. They attach a message requesting that the managers get back to them with a decision. Unlike e-mail messages, which can be deleted, there is no way for the hiring manager to delete the action message sent by human resources and ignore the request.

Peer pressure also plays a role in getting the manager to respond because everyone can see his message, said Rebh. Silicon Graphics also is using SamePage as part of its hiring process. The company follows a rigorous interviewing process, and SamePage is used to track an applicant's progress through the system. Interviewers can enter their thoughts on a person into the database so that future interviewers know what has been discussed.

One of the best features of the product is that all project members can find out what the rest of their team is saying at all stages of the undertaking, said David Mosher, head of system release management for Sun Microsystems' Menlo Park campus. A product such as Notes works on the pass-around model, and the person at the front of the line doesn't know what the person at the end of the line has said, according to Mosher.

Mosher is using SamePage to document product requirements. It's a task that used to take months and now takes weeks, he said. There have been huge productivity gains, he said, from not having to compile everyone's statements. SamePage is the best model for this kind of collaborative document sharing, Mosher said.

"The product has the look and feel of a winner," Weiner said.

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