Product Review: Real Time Collaboration on SharePoint with Sazneo

Written by Joel Oleson. Posted in Business Solutions

I recently spent some time with the people from Sazneo. The first thing I really noticed was their emphasis on providing real time actionable communication. They are focused on decision making and the ability for teams and people to communicate real time in the context of their data without having to factor in time zones or distance. Rather than taking you out of SharePoint, this tight integration provides rich chat and communication right in the SharePoint interface. If you've got users on the go, there's an iPad, iPhone, Android or BlackBerry web app to keep you connected.

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Figure 1: Sazneo on Office 365 – Real Time Team Chat

Understanding Challenges Today

Business users need results quickly. They are in and out of SharePoint sites and searching for the latest. They are looking for that unified experience of having their data and their tools integrated. The Sales Manager starts looking at sales data and he immediately wants to share the results with the team, but he's also looking for that real time feedback. If he was next to his employees, he'd pull them together and fill them in and get their gut reaction. This is real life. It's that question you've got of… is this good or is this bad? Sometimes you don't necessarily want to send an email, and email is so slow as well. You want to get the gut reaction of people who are online, and as well, when someone gets online you want to immediately get their thoughts. It's IRC, Chat, Instant Messaging done professionally with serious integration across devices and embedded in the browser that's cross browser compatible, supporting the old and new browsers alike. The latest release is Sazneo Embed, where site administrators can embed a real-time group messaging capability within the applications they are already using in less than 5 minutes and with no coding. You can see the power of having real time communication in SharePoint.

Something that is unique about Sazneo is that they started with a standalone group messaging service and their customers then requested they build Sazneo Embed to fit this need. People spend time in SharePoint, so it makes sense to give them the tools they need to communicate with their team in real time without needing to learn a new application.

So you've just uploaded a document to your SharePoint site. Now you hope someone finds the document. If they do, maybe they'll read it. The problem is you want to share the file and then get the reactions. How do you do this? Email it around? That's what most people do today. Fills up inboxes and most ignore the email anyway. What if you could stand over someone's desk and say, "Hey, check out that document I just sent to you? " You'll get a much more real time reaction. Real time communication provides that mechanism of having a conversation within a short period of time and to both ask for something and get results. There is power in being able to reach out and get real answers not just to documents, but to questions. You're on a support call and you want to ask the rest of the team in real time. You need communication integrated into the experience. You need to know who is online, and encourage them to quickly respond, so you close the loop.

  1. In the messaging world, you individually have the story, but there is no central story. Not so with Sazneo. You get centralized logging, and you don't miss messages. In fact when you log in, you'll see unread messages. You don't have to be online to be part of the conversation and to understand what's going on. You can get back online and get the entire conversation.
  2. As well, with other real time communication tools, you rely on what client apps and server apps you have in your infrastructure. In some organizations the challenge is there never has been a desktop communication tool outside of email. With Sazneo you have the tool baked into the browser, so if you're on a kiosk you don't have to load any software or go to some other site to communicate with your team. You get on the site and your team is there. Someone is missing, no worries… they'll get the message.
  3. The challenges with teams are things get complicated when the team gets split up. This can be distance, it can be time zones, it can be directories. With Sazneo you don't need to be in the same organization even. Since Sazneo is a cloud based tool you can set up new users outside of the organization and incorporate them in the group conversations. It even works in Office 365, so you can provision vendor or customers depending on your needs. For those on the go there's Sazneo Mobile which doesn't require SharePoint.

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Figure 2: Sazneo Mobile – For Your On-the-Go Real-Time Needs

My Experience with Sazneo

I have to say, at first I was a bit excited to see chat in SharePoint. Then I was like… hey, isn't this really competing with the enterprise Lync or Office Communicator. Then I started realizing that a lot of small and medium businesses don't have Lync. As well, I found that as a result of it being embedded in the site with no real ActiveX requirements or Silverlight requirements, it was very portable and for those times when you just need it to be simple and work. It's right there. There were plenty of scenarios that I found that Sazneo hit, that Lync just wasn't designed to do.

The more I dug in, the more I saw it as a professional tool that really worked around the scenario of the team that needed it. For example in one sales scenario, you've got a rich way of keeping all the sales guys working off the same set of communication. I thought it was really cool that ability to start tagging things by customer. Some color coding features did seem to really set the tool apart from other communication. Being able to flag items and quickly see multiple channels of communication really started to make sense. For support teams, sales teams, anywhere you have a team that's a bunch of people who need to be closely coordinated the scenarios started flowing.

The next way I started looking at it was… Really? Isn't this backward? Shouldn't we be pulling in microblogging? Why are we pulling in an interface that looks like IRC chat? To my surprise they had thought about Twitter and actually had a way for bringing in Twitter feeds based on search terms. It gives the team the ability to quickly respond and flag and work on who is going to handle the response. That scenario really started to pop for me for a marketing, brand or social team. Imagine the amount of chaos when everyone has their own Twitter client and that all important tweet that needs to respond to goes into an email. That's definitely not efficient. Nor is sending it as a DM to someone else, where it ends up in an inbox.

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Figure 3: Sazneo Channels Using Twitter & RSS

The set-up is quite easy and you can actually set it up yourself for free. Why Not? Check out "3 steps to real time decisions based on twitter activity."

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So what's the downside?

Well there's cost. Whilst there is a free version you can try, you have to know how you're going to use it before you start digging in on cost. Guess you'll have that with most products. I find the sweet spot for this tool is actually the team or group that will use it. . You would probably begin your Sazneo roll out in one team or department, e.g. Development, Helpdesk or Sales, where you are managing projects where time is of the essence and then grow Sazneo out from there. You are probably not going to give it to everyone immediately.

It is not microblogging, but then again, it isn't designed that way. I actually think there's something to be said of taking the old IRC principles and bringing them up to today's world of browsers, mobile, and iPads. People are on the go. That's just the reality. The online group chat is just another sweet spot for this tool.

I think those that fail in using this tool don't understand the scenarios well enough. It's not for everyone. If you get where it fits and understand why you're deploying it, you'll likely get good use out of it. This isn't next generation twitter for the enterprise, but like I mentioned before… It just might be that tool that you use to monitor the tweets. Maybe this is the enterprise social tool for marketing management. This is real time messaging and group chat with channels built around processes. It could be the missing link in your processes where you've been resorting to email, and real time communication is a better fit.

Conclusion

There is no reason that your business should not be experimenting with this. It's free for 5 users up to 25MB of storage, with 1 group channel with no monthly fees. The Sazneo pricing scale graduates from there 10 users for $5/month per user, on up to 100 users at $8 per user, and enterprise… give them a call. In any case you get a 30 day free trial for all pricing plans. I think the key thing is to understand your business processes and requirements first, then look at how this tool can embed into your SharePoint site, hit various desktop and mobile users to hit the needs of the team or group where ever they are. Interested, confused or have feedback? Sazneo is listening. Ping them on Twitter which pulls right into their social dashboard @sazneo.

 
Joel Oleson
Author: Joel OlesonWebsite: http://www.sharepointjoel.com
Joel was the first dedicated SharePoint Administrator ever. He's been working with SharePoint nearly 11 years and worked at Microsoft in both IT and the product teams including architecting the first roll-out of Microsoft's own global intranet.

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