SiteScape Forum can create a mirror image of the way your office works

SiteScape Forum can create a mirror image of the way your office works

By Larry Stevens

Special to GCN

With SiteScape Forum's message board interface, users can schedule team meetings through shared calendars; the groupware has an easy-to-use pull-down menu.

A good groupware package should be able to reflect the office environment and function in much the same way.

SiteScape Forum Version 4.0, formerly the AltaVista Forum, from SiteScape Inc. allows users to create a secure virtual office that has a message board interface. Users can initiate and participate in online discussions, share documents, chat, schedule meetings using shared calendars and maintain personal home pages that include lists of favorite links.

The initial screen of SiteScape Forum looks like a standard message board. But unlike standard message boards, not all the entries in this screen are discussion topics. There are standard discussion topics, indicated by quotation marks. But there are also documents, indicated by an icon representing a sheet of paper; Web pages, indicated by an icon that looks like an eyeball; and surveys, indicated by a check-box icon.

Easy access

Most of the features are available from a pull-down menu. For example, to add a discussion topic, you select the Add Discussion Topic tool from the menu, enter the discussion topic name and a few keywords, then whatever text you want. You can allow or disallow other members of your group to change your entry. And you can have the system maintain either an access count or a list of the people who looked at the message.

Surveys are used to poll a workgroup to see what its members think about specific topics. To add a survey question, you select the Add Survey Question tool. Then you type in the appropriate boxes the question you are asking, the replies that survey participants can check, and comments. If the survey requires more explanation than can comfortably fit in the comments box, the survey's creator can attach one or more documents to the survey.

The person creating the survey can also decide if the results should be tallied and displayed in real time or only after the survey deadline date has passed.

To add a Web page to the program, you select the appropriate tool, then enter keywords, any comments and the uniform resource locator. If you add comments, a user selecting the message board post will first see the comments and can then move to the Web page by clicking on a link. If there are no comments, clicking on the post brings the user directly to the Web page.

Creating a workflow is almost as easy as posting a document, survey or URL. There are five steps to defining a workflow.

First, identify the stages of the workflow. For example, the stages for an upgrade to a new PC could be, 'User request,' 'Supervisor OK,' 'IS department OK,' 'Delivery and setup of PC,' and 'User training complete.'

Second, define any questions to be asked at each stage. For example, a question in the Supervisor OK stage might be, 'Does the user need to use an application that requires a new PC?'

Third, define the transitions criteria. This is a set of Boolean operators based on responses to the questions in the previous stage. For example, you can indicate that if the supervisor responds yes to both questions, the form will move to the next stage. If not, the request is returned to the user.

Fourth, define the access rights'who can view or make changes to the document'for each stage.

Finally, determine what notifications must be made as the document progresses from stage to stage. ''

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