Once upon a time, we used a tool called eRoom in order to collaborate and share documents online. It worked in most situations but on a global scale it failed miserably. Then, we found the new tool out by Microsoft – SharePoint. This is a terrific online collaboration tool to share documents, calendars, contacts, tasks lists, etc. It takes tools that project managers need and puts them together and then puts them online. I know some people aren’t big fans of Microsoft and their products, but if you’re going to take a bite of the apple go ahead and eat the whole thing. That is to say, SharePoint integrates very nicely with Office 2003. You can view contacts, calendars and tasks from the SharePoint site in Outlook and manage document edits in Word and Excel.

To be totally honest, there are a couple of areas where the usability needs some help. For instance, in order to edit a document, you must first select to “check out” the file so it is locked from others who might make conflicting edits at the same time. Once you are finished updating the file, you then must select to “check in.” This seems straightforward but it never fails that someone checks it out, makes their edits, then fails to check it back in. Fortunately, an administrator can perform the check-in but at the risk of losing the editor’s changes. Also, there is no built-in function to send e-mails to the entire SharePoint site – the one useful thing that eRoom did. You can work around this by selecting all of the contacts from SharePoint in Outlook then sending an e-mail to the group.

We currently offer SharePoint services through a third party but hope to purchase the server solution soon in order to make this already inexpensive solution more cost-effective for our clients.

Since we’re on the topic, does anyone else have experience with SharePoint, eRoom, or any other online collaboration tool?