I had the pleasure of meeting with Farzin Arsanjani today, the president of HyperOffice. We explored the evolution of the collaboration market and his company’s product.
Here are my thoughts.
The collaboration market is a tough place these days, but it isn’t without its opportunities for smaller companies. Google, with Google Apps and Google Drive, along with Microsoft and its Office 365 and SkyDrive offerings would seem to have the market completely wrapped up. But that isn’t the case. Google doesn’t yet have a smooth, consistent approach to collaboration that incorporates everything people need in a work environment. And Microsoft has jumped in with both very large feet, but those large feet come with a lot of functional baggage and some very unhappy partners who used to do good business hosting Microsoft product like SharePoint and Exchange.
HyperOffice, (http://www.hyperoffice.com/), first launched in 2004, offers a complete, software-as-a-service, collaboration environment that doesn’t compete with corporate attention on advertising, search or desktop applications. The basic product includes e-mail, contact lists, calendars, projects, tasks, document management, instant messaging, polls, discussion forums, wikis and other collaborative functions in a shared work environment. Applications share a consistent user interface that helps novice users grasp the product quickly, but with plenty of flexibility to accommodate power users who want to create their own, customized work environments.
HyperOffice also supports intranets and extranets. People external to a firm can easily be added, and just as easily have their access limited to specific views. Easy to use editing tools give end-users access to sophisticated data and formatting without the need to know HTML or any other language (though customer code can be incorporated if the customers so desires).
Group and project functionality creates slices across the HyperOffice information repository, helping people focus on who or what they need to focus on. Noticeably missing from the current implementation is an enterprise social networking component, but that is now in beta. I’ve seen the demonstration and it compares well with other enterprise social networking products on the market. And as many customers now expect, the social component will become the default entry point to the HyperOffice experience. Social networking, however, isn’t a great place to manage a project, so the existing functionality of HyperOffice will allow people to select the level of collaboration structure required to get work done, and the common repository will allow them to span the features with updates or links so they can easily make their progress and their questions visible to others.
HyperOffice also support mobility by being compliant with browers on the iPad and on Android tablets. E-mail synchronizes with a wide variety of clients, including Outlook and e-mail clients on the iPad, Android and Blackberry.
HyperOffice focused on the small and medium business market, and I think that focus is appropriate. Their SaaS model will allow customers to grow, but I don’t think they have enough depth to go into the large enterprise market, though they could certainly work for subsidiaries and field offices.
The collaboration market needs products like HyperOffice so that when an organization’s experience with a large vendors doesn’t pay off, they have a credible product to fall back in to. But more positively, HyperOffice offers its own value proposition: ease of use without compromising functionality. Organizations seeking basic collaboration will find what they need in HyperOffice, and the addition of social networking will bring its suite of tools up-to-date. Unlike Zoho, HyperOffice doesn’t include an option for applications (like CRM), but trying to find the right balance between horizontal and vertical applications can be tough. I like HyperOffice’s hyper-focused execution model around collaboration. That said, so many applications are now “collaboration enhanced” (like SalesForce.com and SugarCRM), that it can be maddening for IT departments to keep their architectures rational.
Consider HyperOffice for pure collaboration needs in the small and medium business market. If you have complex, contextual collaboration needs and heavy application integration requirements, this probably isn’t the product for you. But most small and medium businesses just want a way to get work done more effectively. Those organizations should put HyperOffice on their collaboration short list.