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Accelerate team collaboration: Communicate instantly with an extranet

By Laura Schweiker

Accelerate team collaboration: Communicate instantly with an extranet

An extranet is a web-based tool that provides a secure environment for the organization and exchange of documents and information among a defined group of users.

Extranets are often used to support team collaboration in circumstances where the team members are geographically dispersed or are drawn from variety external organizations. Examples include a group of departments within a company that collaborate on a common project, or service companies that collaborate with a variety of outside clients, customers and partners.

Extranets are gaining rapid popularity because they address the most fundamental issue of 'real-time' group communication with customers and collaborators. They work on a basic concept the person who creates information is instantly available to the person who is using the information. Hence, a company can get instant feedback from their key customers about their new products, which is strategically important to shorten product cycles. Secondly, various departments of a company can instantly interact with its collaborators' so that information flows smoothly. Sharing of information between various departments and external clients and partners make corporate data ubiquitous, which is must for growth. Companies use extranets to:

Exchange large volumes of data
Support team collaboration in project development ad execution
Share product catalogs exclusively with wholesalers
Collaborate with other companies to develop joint development strategies and training programs
Provide or access services provided by one company to a group of other companies. For example, the parent company manages online banking application for its affiliates
Share news of common interest exclusively with collaborators

Implementing an extranet: It's better to outsource!

Given the complexities of creating and maintaining an extranet, it is often best to outsource the development and hosting using an Application Service Provider (ASP). An ASP supported extranet eliminates capital investment, software installation, and risk of technological obsolescence.

Another important factor leading to the development of outsourcing of extranets has been the growing complexity of software and software upgrades. Distributing huge, complex applications to the end user has become extremely expensive from a customer service standpoint, and upgrades make the problem worse. In a large company where there may be thousands of desktops, distributing software (even something as simple as a new release of Microsoft Word) can cost millions of dollars. The Application Service Provider (ASP) model eliminates most of these headaches.

In addition to all the above-mentioned quantitative savings, an ASP gives the companies several important quantitative savings that will also be of great benefits to customers of hosted software applications. A few of these quantitative savings include, flexibility, the ability to mitigate risk, the short implementation time, scalability, and the ability to focus on core competencies.

About the Author
Laura Schweiker writes extensively on the use of technology by businesspeople and is an evangelist for document sharing and extranet solutions.

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  Some other articles by Laura Schweiker
How to Share Important Documents in a Spam-Free Environment
How to Share Important Documents in a Spam-Free Environment An extranet is a web-based tool that provides a secure environment for the organization ...

Extranets: Better than email for group collaboration
Companies increasingly prefer using an extranet over email to communicate with their team members, clients, and suppliers for document sharing because it ideally suits the groups engaged in collaboration; whereas, email is best-suited for ...

Bringing Architects and Their Partners Together: The Power of a Secure Extranet
An extranet is a private network within which document sharing can take place by specific groups of users outside the organization through a network ...

The unhappy client: How to fight back and keep the business
Historically, there have been unavoidable situations that test an agency's client relationships. Today, there are tools that can minimize, or ...

Surviving the RFP: How to answer the "how will you work with us" question
The very survival of your agency rests in your success in winning new business. Yet everyone hates receiving RFPs. Why? Because ...

Extranets for Litigators
Over the past few years, the use of extranets and intranets by law firms to share critical documents with co-workers, clients and co-counsel has been firmly established. One area in ...

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