Collaboration service on tap from Flypaper

Start-up Flypaper Inc. this week will unveil a hosted service that it says will help customers quickly and easily collaborate online.

Flypaper's platform uses a browser-based authoring technology that lets users design a custom portal into the collaboration features they choose, ranging from online calendars and discussion groups to document libraries and issue trackers. Flypaper offers more than 70 collaboration features.

"What we're doing is providing collaborative tools that bolt on to existing e-commerce systems and help companies to accelerate the interaction between the vendor and the buyer," Flypaper CEO Andy Leak says.

What is interesting about Flypaper, says Bob Zurek, senior analyst with the research firm Forrester, is " the way the collaborative portal can be created, so it doesn't take an IT person necessarily to assemble. ... All the components that they have can be quickly put together in the environment."

Flypaper is flying into the scene with a pretty impressive list of customers, 85 in all - including Texaco, Compaq, Johnson & Johnson, Charles Schwab and Enron. ISVOR, the human resources and training subsidiary of Fiat, plans to use Flypaper for its joint venture with the Dilts Strategy Group to provide human resources services, including leadership training, to three Fiat subsidiaries in the US.

John Dilts, CEO of the joint venture, says his team decided to use Flypaper because of its flexibility and its ability to scale quickly. He says the joint venture foresees rolling out Webcasts and video-on-demand learning tools to tens of thousands of users.

"When we compare what it would cost to build this kind of collaboration site from scratch it would be exponentially more expensive," Dilts says. "We don't know ultimately the number of users we're going to have and so we wanted to start out small, but have the ability to scale."

In addition, Flypaper is able to integrate with technology the joint venture already has in place, Dilts says. Leak says that's another plus that Flypaper offers. The Flypaper platform is wrapped by an application program interface and uses an XML interface or extensible components to allow swift integration, he says.

While so-called wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) technologies allow business to get collaboration environments up and running within minutes, they don't support brand customization or integration with legacy applications, Leak says. "What we're doing is providing that same speed, get up and running in minutes type of an approach, with the ability to totally customize and integrate with your legacy applications," he says.

Flypaper's platform is hosted on Linux-based servers at an Exodus data center. Costs start at US$12 per licensed user per month, the company says.

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