The right tools for the connected economy

29 Dec 2008

Managing your company’s digital assets and communicating effectively are the essential attributes of how the 21st-century business functions.

In the past, effective workflow usually involved scanning copious quantities of documents and having a matching paper trail to simply keep track of who was doing what.

But if you look around you, businesses managing major changes or trying to streamline communications with everyone in their organisation are adopting tools such as Microsoft SharePoint to migrate all this activity to the internet.

Mindful of this change is Dublin-based pTools, an Irish company that for years has worked to help firms manage their websites as well as internal communications using its content management system (CMS) software.

pTools is a leading developer of enterprise content management (ECM) software and Microsoft Gold Partner with headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Its software is used to develop enterprise content application solutions for the intranet, extranet and internet systems of customers in private and public sectors in Ireland, the UK and internationally.

“We’re seeing a lot of businesses realising that not only is their online content valuable, but actually their online content processes replicate what they do in the physical world, so they’re pushing a lot more internal processes through the internet medium,” explains Tom Skinner, managing director of pTools.

“This is especially true for consumer-facing businesses like insurance companies that are pushing everything from form filling to photographs of incidents online, and at the same time appreciate the productivity benefits of using web browsers to streamline workflow.”

Skinner says his company has seen value in the Microsoft SharePoint document collaboration architecture, which a growing number of Irish businesses and government departments are now adopting.

“We see SharePoint as an architecture that businesses can use along with pTools as an ECM platform that could sit on top of a preferred database. Now the organisation that is using this combination can build out collaboration across the business, as well as manage its digital assets, such as important photography, documents and even videos.”

In recent weeks, pTools forged a strategic partnership with digital asset management (DAM) technology leader Equilibrium. The deal will enable pTools to sell DAM systems alongside its CMS technology, not only in Ireland but in key strategic European markets.

pTools will be able to combine its core technology with SharePoint and Equilibrium’s Media-Rich DAM and offer firms greater control over a diverse array of content.

Equilibrium MediaRich DAM for SharePoint is a robust, high-volume media distribution and repurposing engine, which seamlessly integrates with Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server creating a powerful self-service DAM system. MediaRich allows any organisation to collaborate and manage all of its digital assets and can scale to meet any business’s digital asset needs regardless of the number of users or the original document or image file size or type.

“One of the reasons why SharePoint is seeing such growing adoption in the business world is that it allows firms to bring together other applications around the .Net environment so that it becomes a single platform to drive business services from,” says Skinner

Skinner began working with the SharePoint software family in December 2006, when he realised that from a technical perspective its ability to align technology with business practices was second to none.

Skinner says that several government departments, including county councils and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs are using pTools, and SharePoint to drive internal and citizen-focused services via the browser.

“SharePoint is one of the first ECM platforms to make productivity and collaboration a reality in most firms. It makes it possible to drive information through a business on a level unachievable until now.

“The next big arena will be DAM because almost every form of business will have its own media assets, such as photography, videos and audio.

“There was a time when you filled out an application or a complaint form and it was unheard of to attach a photograph. Now it’s becoming standard practice to attach digital photographs with insurance claim forms, for example. Other aspects will start to become part of these digital documents, such as location-specific information, and firms need to be ready.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Tom Skinner, managing director of pTools

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years