NewsGator's enterprise collaboration SW adds brainstorming

NewsGator's enterprise social-networking product, Social Sites, now has a component for employees to submit, discuss and evaluate ideas for business projects.

In its version 2.7, announced Thursday, Social Sites has a new tab in its interface labeled "Ideas," which provides functionality for what NewsGator calls "innovation management."

There are stand-alone applications for automating these idea-generation tasks, but NewsGator believes the functionality is important enough that it should be a standard component of Social Sites.

"Companies have to innovate their way to a better position in this economy," said Brian Kellner, NewsGator's vice president of products.

Social Sites as a whole is designed as an enterprise social-networking complement to Microsoft's Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The product's idea management component lets users draft ideas not only in written form, but also with embedded images, tables, links and other elements.

Once the employee submits the idea, colleagues to whom this person is linked via contacts list or workgroup membership are notified and can append comments to the document and vote it up or down.

However, the feature isn't meant to manage the entire evolution of an idea into a finalized project. "We focus on the front-end of the process: capturing ideas easily. We stop at the point where the idea is considered worthwhile and moves into a stage involving funding, proof-of-concepts and so on," Kellner said.

Once supervisors promote ideas into a more formal initiative beyond the brainstorming and evaluation process, the discussion can be moved into a community or wiki page in Social Sites for further collaboration or into a separate, third-party project management application.

Ideas get aggregated in a central repository where the list of submissions can be sorted and filtered based on different parameters, such as date created, number of votes and number of comments. Ideas also get logged into the individual profiles of the employees who submitted them.

Other enhancements in Social Sites 2.7 include an option for employees to get a daily e-mail digest with activity notifications from colleagues and workgroups to which they belong. Version 2.7 also lets employees who create community sections for collaboration within Social Sites to add blogs, wikis and announcement modules to them.

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