Remote workers need an easy way to access data and collaborate with co-workers, and if IT doesn't provide it, they'll find a way to do it without an IT-sanctioned tool.
Several companies that touch on collaboration as part of their offerings have released new features and capabilities in recent weeks. Here are three that may meet your business needs in 2014:
Box, which this fall launched Box Notes as a native content creation and editing capability, has added several new features to its overall offering, including updates to its Box for Enterprise admin console, a revamped Box Sync for business collaboration, and a new consulting service to help with implementation.
IT administrators can now set policies within Box based on keywords for when users attempt to upload sensitive or confidential information. Real-time notifications can be sent when users download large amounts of content. Box has also added workflow automation and central content and user management for administrators.
"What Box is doing is really going to alleviate some of the fears for cloud-based content," said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research in Toronto. "This is a really nice way of adding restrictions and controls."
Carl Samberg, IT service management director at FICO, an analytics software company based in San Jose, Calif., said his company started using Box for Enterprise for its new content management capabilities in beta form earlier this year after using SharePoint.
While SharePoint was good for storing large amounts of content, it was difficult to use for figuring out what was going on when things would go "sideways" for users, Samberg said.
"The content management piece from Box helps us help people find things," Samberg said.
Box said the new content manager is expected to be available in the coming weeks, and policies and automation in the coming months for Enterprise and Elite plan customers. The Box Sync update and consulting services are now available. Pricing for the business version, which includes content management and user management, is $15 per user, per month.
Harmon.ie aims to combine numerous Microsoft tools into one application for mobile workers. The Boston-based company has integrated Office 365, Yammer and SharePoint into their mobile collaboration app.
Yammer is now integrated onto the Harmon.ie for Mobile app, as well as the new cloud-based Harmon.ie Outlook Web app.
While mobile devices can be a powerful tool for productivity, the level of complexity applications create for an individual keeps growing day after day, according to Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner Inc., a research firm based in Stamford, Conn.
"The simplicity [that] a single application can give to an individual to do a task gets lost when a variety of different applications begin to compile on a device," Basso said. "Harmon.ie has a very viable vision of collecting several of these important applications under a single pane of glass."
Norman Spurr, senior applications manager at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, said CSIRO conducted a successful pilot with 50 Harmon.ie licenses this year on their Apple iOS devices, and they're looking to expand those licenses, finding useful deployment for both Harmon.ie Email and Harmon.ie Mobile.
Harmon.ie Email enables users to interact with SharePoint without having to switch context away from email, and adding that tighter integration with Yammer has similar benefits, Spurr said.
"The ability to sync content so it can be viewed offline is critical," Spurr said of Harmon.ie Mobile. "The use of Office Web Apps to render Office files without switching context is excellent. You finally get a native view of Office-based files on an iPad without losing formatting or having to switch to another app."
Harmon.ie Email and Harmon.ie Mobile are available separately for $4 per user per month on annual commitments. A combined product, Harmon.ie Connect, is available for $6 per user per month on an annual commitment. The mobile version is available for Android, iOS and BlackBerry devices.
Huddle Note is the newest collaboration feature added to the suite of offerings from San Francisco- and London-based content collaboration provider Huddle.
Catering to the needs of remote workers, Huddle Note allows for quick editing, collaborating and sharing of documents within Huddle's cloud as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Part of their most recent release includes a new iOS app.
Huddle Note allows users to create and edit notes in the cloud, share, review and approve documents from mobile devices, add comments, set approvals, or move or copy a note across workspaces. It is optimized for iOS 7.
Security has been a hallmark for Huddle, which has already replaced SharePoint in various areas of the United States intelligence community.
Huddle Note is intended for lightweight note-taking and sharing in a collaborative format, according to Vanessa Thompson, research manager for enterprise social networks and collaborative technologies at IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.
"It's primarily designed to support a document, but not as a replacement," Thompson said. "It's for the user who needs to do something quickly with a document."
Mobile is driving the use case for Huddle Note because workers are creating content in completely new ways, according to Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell.
"We're aiming to replace the legacy stack of content management," Mitchell said.