I've been doing a fare amount of business development and solutions architecture for multiple clients, of late. So Patrick, another Statera Principal, and I have been using Microsoft Office Groove 2007 to collaborate on those other projects along with other consultants and clients. Since using Groove we've noticed a marked productivity increase as many of us are out of the office with our primary clients. In just a short time Groove has become a "must-have". The following is a quick overview on some of Groove's features.
First, Microsoft Office Groove 2007 is an application that allows teams to work together inside collaborative Workspaces. Groove enables collaboration by bringing people, tools and information together regardless of geographical constraints using without the need for servers. Peer-to-peer collaboration isn't new, we've all seen or heard of applications like Exchange, Outlook, eRoom, Napster, Bit Torrent, the list goes on.. Groove itself isn't new either and, in fact, didn't start out a Microsoft product. It was acquired by Microsoft from Groove Networks in March 2005 (a topic for another post perhaps). Groove works by providing Workspaces where documents, tools and other data are synchronized through the internet so that each member of the Workspace is notified of changes. Members are able to synchronize to multiple machines making it easy for those without laptops or when members are working offsite. Groove users can create Workspaces and invite other users to contribute. As Workspace members accept the invites the Workspace data is sent to the member's hard drives. This local instance of the Workspace allows for offline functionality and Groove handles synchronizing the project information once the users go back online.
Microsoft Office Groove 2007 is the client application where all of the collaboration is done. Groove server infrastructure is not required for full functionality. There are, however, three Groove server components that can be implemented to provide bridging (store-and-forward services), data and customization services, and central administrative controls for mid-sized to large organizations. This post will not address those server components. However, from what I've read Microsoft plans to migrate some, if not all, of the server components into a future release of Microsoft Live Communication Server.
As a note: Live Communication Server and Office Live Communicator are the main instant messaging server and client. This is a limitation to a client only implementation; however, I use Live Messenger for this type of communication so it hasn't been a problem. On the flip side I find that this dis-synergy between Office, in general, and Live Messenger (/Live Contacts) is not impressive (being nice here). Looks like my assumption was wrong and I take back the stricken comments above. I've found that Groove works seamlessly with Windows Live Messenger. Too quick to judge sometimes.
The Groove Launchbar, shown on the right, is where you manage Workspaces, send invites, manage membership and perform other common tasks. A number of tools can be added to customize functionality for each Groove Workspace such as calendars, discussion forums, file sharing, issue tracking and custom forms.
As you can see by the small burst icons there are workspaces that have some unread content and need my attention. In addition to the passive alerts in the Launchbar's Workspace Panel, Groove prompts you with unobtrusive "toast" messages letting you know that there are unread data to be actioned.
The Groove Workspace Explorer is where the real work is done. There you can add the tools, as appropriate, for the project and dive into the data being shared. Along the bottom of the Workspace Explorer you can see each of the tools that have been added and where there are new data to be actioned within those tools. Below is a snip that shows the Files tool and some of the files that we're sharing within a particular Workspace.
There are three Workspace tools that I'd like to highlight: the Meeting tool, Discussion tool and the SharePoint Files tool. The meeting tool provides a place to setup and manage meetings including the ability add attendees, agenda, meeting minutes and to create action items. The Discussion tool is a threaded discussion forum allowing you and your team easy access to relevant information and rapid review cycles. And the SharePoint Files tool provides access to SharePoint document libraries directly from within the Groove Workspace Explorer. Together with the Issue Tracking tool and others such as persistent chat, instant messaging and InfoPath integration, Groove helps your team move quick and cover more ground.
I encourage you if you're a Microsoft Office user or have an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that covers Office to get the bits and start using the 2007 Microsoft Office system including Groove. Get your colleagues engaged and have at it.
Here are some other Groove links:
Office Groove 2007 Website
Download a Free Trial of Microsoft Office Groove 2007