Tools & Technologies

Colligo Contributor: A Rich Client for SharePoint

A couple of weeks ago, around the time I had severe RSI and couldn’t type (hence the delay in writing this up), I had the opportunity to speak with Barry Jinks, President and CEO of Colligo Networks. The company has been in business since 2000 and originally focused on enhancing Lotus Notes replication scenarios and enhancing collaboration among mobile work teams. In recent years the company has turned its attention to enhancing offline access to Microsoft SharePoint, a capability that Microsoft doesn’t do at all well.

Colligo for SharePoint is a family of .NET client applications that extend the power of Microsoft Office SharePoint to the desktop. They increase productivity and adoption by enabling users to instantly and securely access SharePoint content online and offline through a rich client interface. Easy to deploy, learn, and use, Colligo Reader for SharePoint and Colligo Contributor for SharePoint require no server modifications. They provide a new level of desktop support for all shipping versions of Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Office SharePoint Servers – including WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007.

Its flagship product family is Colligo for SharePoint, which is available in two variants: a one-way read-only option (Colligo Reader), and a bi-directional read-write option (Colligo Contributor).

What I found most interesting during my call with Barry was the subtle but significant transition that Barry and his team are implementing in their positioning of Colligo for SharePoint — no longer is it the offline client for SharePoint, but rather it is the client for SharePoint. With SharePoint being a Web-based offering, there are benefits of ubiquity of accessibility that can in some scenarios be offset by slow response times for particular tasks, eg, uploading documents. And what works quickly inside the office doesn’t always work as quickly over dial-up or wireless connections.

Hence at least half of those customers buying Reader or Contributor are doing so where the ability to use a rich client against a SharePoint site in online mode is a major decision factor. In the case of AAXICO (PDF), a current customer, Contributor was purchased primarily for its offline capabilities, but the online mode has proven very helpful:

Today, AAXICO’s international teams use Colligo Contributor to access and update their customer information when both online and offline. Opening documents, filling out forms, and creating follow-up tasks in Contributor is fast. Users find it much quicker to read and modify SharePoint content within Contributor and to periodically synchronize their changes to the SharePoint Server. AAXICO sales executives use Contributor both in the office and on the road while visiting clients and attending industry conferences.

“The faster user experience has been a huge benefit of using Colligo Contributor when online,” said Vieira. “Mobility is another. Now our international sales teams can use Contributor offline from anywhere in the world to update our SharePoint site.”

One of the cool integrations released earlier this year is an add-in for Microsoft Outlook:

The Add-in syncs SharePoint document libraries to Outlook folders. Content can be available online-only or cached for offline access. Emails and attachments can be moved or copied with a simple drag-and-drop or by setting Outlook rules. The Add-in captures standard message fields, synchronizing them to SharePoint. Custom metadata can be instantly applied.

I asked Barry why they’d been able to solve the problem of taking SharePoint offline whereas Microsoft hasn’t (eg, severe deprecation of capability in Groove, and numerous issues with offlining to Outlook — the subject of a future post). “It’s an issue of intent and focus”, Barry replied. “We have the features that customers need, but Microsoft just wanted to tick the offline box. We have a very good relationship with Microsoft, and are working closely with Microsoft Field Sales on customer engagements.” Barry reports that they’ve recently closed some 10,000+ seat deals, but maintained the confidentiality of the organizations involved.

Net-net: If you are a SharePoint shop, you should be looking at this.

(And finally, Michael wonders how long it will be before Microsoft acquires the company.)
(And yes, I know that Lotus Notes has always supported online and offline working via seamless replication.)

Categories: Tools & Technologies