With the COVID-19 outbreak this year, many businesses have adapted their processes and methodologies to accommodate a changing workplace environment. To address the realities of a distributed remote workforce, TSG has been working in recent months to improve the collaboration capabilities of the Alfresco Content Accelerator (ACA) and the Alfresco Enterprise Viewer (AEV). This post will provide a recap of those features as well as overview some recent additions.
Document Collaboration – Becoming More Important
In the past, TSG has always advocated for collaborative interfaces to be separate from Document Management interfaces. See these posts from 2011 and 2014 where we discuss how it’s not realistic to have “one repository to rule them all”, as well as an integration approach with collaborative tools. While our views have not changed overall, the realities of COVID-19 forcing a remote workplace environment for many workers has made collaborative tools more important. In many organizations, gone are the days of asking a coworker to pop into an office to look over a document, image or email. Instead, at best users are utilizing a content management system to version content. At worst, users are downloading copies of documents and emailing them around or duplicating content in multiple systems in order to collaborate. These remote workforce realities are making real-time document collaboration more and more important in today’s workforce.
Case Folder Collaboration in ACA
In the Alfresco Content Accelerator, often users are working with groups of related documents, sometimes considered a “case”. In these case folders, users can execute actions on the case (ex: add documents, send email) or view any of the documents contained in the case folder. When thinking of collaborative features, we want to allow the user to easily be able to answer the questions such as:
- Are other users currently looking at the case folder? If so, who?
- What documents are the users currently viewing?
- How can a discussion be easily initiated from the interface with all of the people currently looking at the case folder?
The new collaborative features we are adding to ACA answer the above questions. Using the claims scenario as an example, a claims adjuster working in a claim folder can easily see when other users are working in the same folder:
Additionally, a user can also see what document(s) the other users are currently viewing as well:
If it is warranted, the claims adjuster can initiate a Zoom or Teams call directly from the interface so that the other adjusters can discuss the claim:
Document Collaboration in AEV
We’ve written some on the challenges of work from home. In the case of document review, certain documents can require extensive amounts of discussion. For one of our life science customers using the Alfresco Enterprise Viewer for clinical trial documents, some of the documents had more text in the annotations than the document itself. One of the key capabilities of the Alfresco Enterprise Viewer is the ability to have real-time collaborative annotations where reviewers are seeing each others annotations as they happen with the capability to quickly respond. The Alfresco Enterprise Viewer also provides for chat features.
As users add more and more replies or chat messages, it might make sense for all the reviewers to quickly jump on a video call in addition to annotating the document to discuss changes. To facilitate more efficient discussions, features have been added recently to allow for users to start a Zoom or MS Teams call with the users viewing document directly from the AEV interface.
More recently, additional exciting collaborative features have been added to AEV:
- Call as Record – The Zoom or MS Teams call can optionally be saved back to the repository in the case folder as a record.
- User Location Awareness – Users can now see where other users are in the document.
- User Location Following – Users can choose to “follow” another user. For example, if I choose to follow Alice’s location, my screen will automatically scroll to whichever page Alice is currently viewing.
Check out the screencam below to see all of the above features in action and let us know your thoughts below.