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Plenty of software tools can help you and your employees collaborate online. But Maynard, Mass.-based EditMe LLC has a fresh approach: It lets you decide which features you want to use for your business and then serves them up on a customized website.
Collaboration software, also known as groupware, help people work together and to access and modify common files. Online collaboration tools, such as interactive word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools, now come standard in several popular Web-based office products, including Google Inc.'s Google Apps and Microsoft Inc.'s Office 2011. And more sophisticated project-management and accounting tools like Salesforce.com Inc. and Intuit's QuickBooks Online offer small businesses an array of options, including tools to help small groups sell and ways to manage company books online.
That's more revolutionary than it sounds. Many entry-level collaboration tools, like Chicago-based 37signals LLC's Basecamp, offer easy-to-use file sharing and task management, but organizing company content like tasks and events within its system where others in your team can find it can be a challenge. More sophisticated options, like Bellevue, Wash.-based LiquidPlanner Inc., let teams share documents and intricately track their progress on projects, but can be so complicated that some in your shop just may not use them.
Meanwhile, EditMe -- which has 600 customers and hosts about 1,000 sites -- aims to shed the cookie-cutter approach and give companies the power to create a highly efficient, Web-based collaboration tool that meets their particular needs. It does require the user to do some serious tinkering to make it work, though. It also isn't much to look at. The interface is primitive by modern standards. But once you get the recipe right, there's real power in taking the do-it-yourself route to online business collaboration.
- A range of business collaboration tools.
Want to share files? Need a tool for sales planning and task management? Want to compare schedules? EditMe hosts user-friend tools for those tasks and others. It can take some effort to get it all to work for your business -- more on that momentarily – but, overall, EditMe offers an array of functions that can be quickly customized for many small-business uses.
- The price.
It's hard to beat these prices: Plans range from just $5 to $79 a month. Most small businesses may want to opt for the $20-a-month plan, which allows for unlimited users, 1,000 megabytes of storage, 1,000 web pages and support. That is a fraction of the $12-per-month, per-user fee that most Web-based sales and collaboration tools charge. The savings can add up quickly.
EditMe is like a giant whiteboard. You sketch in what you need it to do on different Web pages and then fill in functions as you need them. You may want to gather your team to share ideas for how you need to communicate and collaborate. Then you lay out your choices on the EditMe site as you see fit. It's powerful, simple and effective.
- Visual appeal.
EditMe's online design and layout are simplistic -- similar to the original shared Internet documents from the late 1990s. Users of higher-end tools like Salesforce.com, NetSuite Inc., or the even more basic Basecamp, may find EditMe looks like an entry-level tool. If an attractive user interface is critical to your business, EditMe is not the tool for you.
- Sparce guidance.
Creating your own business-process tools is a major cultural step in the life of a company. If you've battled it out with some of those aforementioned collaboration tools, EditMe may be an ideal choice. You already know what has worked for you in Salesforce.com or what didn't work when trying to share a Google Apps document. But if you're new to the world of online collaboration, be warned that daunting decisions may await.
Even basic issues like how to name files and where those files are to be placed eat up time and require patience. And there is little in EditMe to guide you. There aren't many forms, and there are no relationship tags or pointers on how groups should work together on the Web. You are building your own interactive work interface from scratch, so plan on investing plenty of time and effort to figure it out.
The Bottom Line
EditMe has a basic interface, comes with limited features and may require a great deal of effort to get it to function properly for your business. But it can be something of a silver bullet once you get it working properly. The software lets you take what you love and leave what you hate in business-process software, and creates an environment that's just right for your business. It does all of this at a very low cost.
Once deployed, EditMe could be that simple, durable solution that helps your firm get work done -- which is supposed to be what Web-based work software is all about.