Linux, SiteScape Save the Green - page 2
Really Pursuing Standards
AltaVista Forum itself was undergoing some big changes at the time. In that same year, AltaVista partnered the small Massachusetts firm SiteScape as a reselling partner for Forum. After Compaq's purchase of Digital, Compaq approached SiteScape and offered to sell them the Forum software in December 1998. By the spring of 1999, the software was acquired and re-released as SiteScape Forum 4.0.
Throughout all of these changes, Ignatowicz stuck with the software, and continues to delve into the guts of the application to completely utilize the software as fully as he can. After implementing it in the ISO workflow, which was a huge success, Ignatowicz turned to other processes in the agency to see if Forum would be useful for them.
Besides the virtual-committee ISO solution, Ignatowicz has implemented Forum as an e-meeting server, a messaging system, the primary repository for the agency's intranet, a document management system, and a resume tracking system for the agency's HR department. Among other things.
While Ignatowicz used to run Forum atop a Tru64 UNIX system, he has shifted to the Linux version of the product, citing the open nature of the platform as a big plus for he and his IT team.
"Open source is part of the agency's mindset," Ignatowicz explained. "Plus there's the benefits of cost, and our IT staff finds it more interesting."
Forum's interoperability with Linux and Tcl-based code means the IT team can get further into the code of the application to adapt it to their needs. While not released under the GPL, SiteScape's management team does empasize most of Forum's code is visible to customers.
SiteScape's Alan Blume indicated that "nearly 95 percent" of Forum's code is visibly packaged with the application. Blume, who is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for SiteScape, has high praise for the work Ignatowicz and his team is accomplishing in Canada, since the Council is clearly getting their money's worth from the current SiteScape Forum 7.0.
If you ran into Blume at the front door of his company and asked him just what it is his company makes, he will give you his "30-second elevator" description of Forum: "SiteScape Forum allows you to share information collaboratively in a secure environment."
Emphasis on secure. Blume can cite a number of companies and government agencies that utilize Forum, and none of them sound like the kinds of organizations that would want their information and data showing up at random places on the Internet. Royal Dutch Shell, the US Navy, and the US Department of Defense were some of the companies he could list. There were an impressive array of more, but confidentiality prevented Blume from going on the record about those customers.
Blume indicated that Forum's flexability is a big part of its success, because the collaboration software lets users organize their information and documents in a variety of ways. Information can be organized in libraries, in teams, or as part of any workflow process the customer creates.
The system can also organize information based on a calendar--a huge plus for one of the Department of Defense projects, TCAMN, where information is stored as it relates to meetings occuring on any given date. This organization, coupled with the obvious need for security clearances to such information, is easily within the capabilities of SiteScape Forum, Blume said.
As part of its security features, Forum is fully PKI-enabled, too. This is likely very attractive to 70 percent of SiteScape's customers, who are government agencies in the US, Canada, and Europe).
Another big part of SiteScape Forum's ease of use is the fact that the client for the system is just an everyday browser. Optimized for Mozilla as well as IE, the client output can be customized to look very closely to legacy client applications that used to handle the same information. This can vastly reduce the costs of retraining and the slowdown that can sometimes occur when a switch to a new app is made in the workplace.
In fact, one of SiteScape's customers, TacIT, a major IT contractor for the DoD, was able to convert its legacy app to SiteScape's browser-based solution in just the course of a weekend with no worker downtime, because the SiteScape solution was identical in look and feel to the legacy app.
SiteScape is available on a variety of platforms, though of late his company is seeing a strong shift towards Linux. Given SiteScape's leanings towards open source with its own code, it is little wonder that, according to Blume, SiteScape encourages customers to shift over to a Linux-based solution to save costs.
Saving costs by streamlining work processes is a big part of Forum's success. The Standards Council definitely can attest to that. After they had completely switched over to Forum as a virtual committee solution, the agency saved about C$200,000 in the first year of operation on direct materials costs (paper, postage). On a budget of about C$6-7 million (at the time), that's a very big savings, and it does not count the savings of time that the agency enjoyed.
One clear benefit of the Forum software: the agency has a 100 percent vote rate now on international standards votes.
Ignatowicz is not done, either. He plans to implement SiteScape as a customer response management (CRM) system, with full archiving of all communications the agency has with sister organizations and industries. He even hopes to start a travel authorization system for the Council's volunteers as they pursue their quest for standards.