Online Collaboration Creates a Virtual Office
By Michael Gladstone
International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is an independent, nonprofit professional association that provides business analysis to the international business community. We have more than 26,000 members worldwide, 100-plus chapters in more than 60 countries, and about 30 employees in the Toronto area and across the eastern United States.
Because IIBA is a totally virtual organization, doing detailed project planning means that we need a "virtual office" where our employees can work together. Having the ability to share our desktops—and the documents on them—is essential.
The organization was founded nine years ago, and, until recently, it consisted primarily of volunteers. As a young association, we tended to live by the rule: If something is available free, we’ll use it. But as our organization matured, we realized that we needed to invest in more useful tools, including online collaboration software.
We had been using free online collaboration tools. These worked well at first, but then we began to run into problems, such as limits on the number of people who could use screen-sharing sessions at one time. We often need to include vendor partners in our sessions, so the limited number of participants offered by the free software was no longer acceptable.
Priority No. 1 for us at that point was a solution that could support many users. Ease of usability on both PCs and Macs ran a close second.
Since our experience with the free version of Mikogo had been good, it was at the top of our list when we researched paid options. We ultimately chose to stay with this product for the following reasons:
· Mikogo, in its paid version, allows a large number of participants—more than enough for our needs.
· The software runs on Windows and Macs, so it could support all of our employees and vendor partners. Because we work from home offices, using the equipment that’s there rather than company-issued computers, this capability was a must.
· The product is easy to use. As a distributed organization, we don’t have a help desk, so we need a tool everyone can use without any issues.
· The tool is always available when we need it but completely unobtrusive when we don’t.
For many projects, our organization holds weekly defect-management discussions. Being able to fire up a session that allows everyone to view the same thing at the same time is invaluable. It facilitates the discussion and eliminates confusion because everyone is literally on the same page the entire time.
At times, we use Mikogo to investigate technical issues with members or prospective members. If they are having trouble registering, renewing membership and the like, we can use this tool to remotely view their computer screen, see what they’re seeing and solve the problem using the remote support features.
Having this online collaboration platform for our entire staff and some partners has been an invaluable time-saver. All we have to say is, “Let’s start up a Mikogo,” and in just a few seconds, everyone is logged into the session and ready to work. For a distributed organization such as ours, investing in a tool that allows people located across several geographies to “be together in one room” is a no-brainer.
Michael Gladstone is CIO and executive vice president of International Institute of Business Analysis, iiba.org.