Managing collaboration is a daunting aspect of any SharePoint deployment. Microsoft provides a vast array of tools, but some of them are very specialized, or aimed at large projects, or require deep subject matter expertise. I recently spoke with Valentin Smirnov, Business Development Director at Actionspace, to find out how Actionspace works to fill the gaps and help companies manage collaboration across the board.
KF: Can you briefly describe Actionspace?
Valentin Smirnov: Actionspace exists to help companies become more effective. We believe that company effectiveness is all about driving teamwork towards a shared goal. And we believe that teamwork should be simple for employees and visible for managers.
That’s why we created Actionspace, an easy-to-use yet powerful corporate task-management tool, providing teams and companies with a simple way to organize and control their everyday work.
Actionspace significantly increases the productivity of employees and managers while improving control and visibility. It is a powerful, advanced task-management solution, available as a SharePoint add-on, a SharePoint Online app, and a standalone SaaS or on-premises solution.
KF: What is the problem the specific Actionspace product solves?
Valentin Smirnov: Actionspace helps to solve typical problems that all managers, directors, and employees meet in their daily work. It can be said that Actionspace bridges a gap that exists between Outlook and project management tools (Microsoft Project) for managing teamwork, tasks, and various business projects.
Here are some examples of the types of problems we address:
- You and your employees get lost in an endless overflow of emails, tasks, and questions coming into your Inbox during the day.
- Every day you spend a lot of time trying just to identify the highest priority tasks among all that mess of emails, tasks, and questions coming into your Inbox. When several people are involved, you soon become lost in the multitude of threads and “Re: Re: Re: Fw:” emails.
- As a manager, you have difficulty identifying missed deadlines on tasks you have assigned and then taking appropriate action.
- You can’t easily see and track progress on your team tasks or projects.
- You can't track status of assigned tasks, such as determining if the person has taken a project or task and if there are any issues.
Outlook and other email clients are the most widely used tools out there for managing teamwork, tasks, and projects. But there is an obvious lack of visibility and control of the projects and business tasks you assign and manage.
On the other side, you have Microsoft Project and other project management tools. They allow you to plan and schedule projects in great detail, but they are usually too complicated and expensive for everyday use by everyone in the company (especially for projects that are fast changing and not so huge).
KF: Who is your target customer?
Valentin Smirnov: Our target customers are executives, directors, and heads of department who are looking for a simple tool to manage teamwork and collaboration, get visibility and control over all tasks assigned, and manage and track all projects (even the smallest ad hoc projects) to completion.
Actionspace, as a SaaS solution, is a convenient tool for companies and teams of any size. But Actionspace is most beneficial to companies that already use SharePoint and Office 365. They receive seamless integration with corporate content and their SharePoint Portal, SharePoint ECM, Office365. They also get aggregation of tasks from all SharePoint Sites, almost instant installation, and plug-and-play implementation.
An additional bonus that might be significant for some companies is that they can also enhance ROI from investments they’ve already made in their SharePoint infrastructure.
KF: What options do customers have as alternatives to Actionspace? How are people dealing with the situation if they don’t have Actionspace?
Valentin Smirnov: Currently companies that have SharePoint and Office365 use four options to cover the problems mentioned above. First, Outlook (or other email clients) and Microsoft Project (or other project management tools) are the most widely used alternatives people use now. They are great tools. However, as I mentioned above, there is an obvious lack of visibility and control of the projects and business tasks in Outlook, and Microsoft Project is too complicated and expensive for companies to use it every day for most of their employees—especially in fast-changing projects and daily business tasks.
Second, organizations use SharePoint My Tasks, a SharePoint functionality that Microsoft has announced will no longer be developed in the near future.
Third, people use SharePoint and Office365 task management add-ons and apps. Here we have not yet seen direct competitors to Actionspace in terms of similar functionality.
Fourth, people have custom solutions developed by IT or consultants. Such customized software development usually has the drawbacks of long time-to-launch and higher TCO.
KF: What differentiates your solution from others on the market?
Valentin Smirnov: We believe in four main statements: First, effective teamwork is a key to corporate success. Second, a corporate tool has to be integrated with a company’s IT infrastructure by default. Third, current teamwork tools are way too complicated for everyday use by technically unsavvy employees. Fourth, any tool that a company uses has to be fast-to-launch, easy-to-run, and still powerful enough to support the majority of everyday business activities.
These beliefs require us to bring to the client a very powerful and yet easy-to-use off-the-shelf tool, which underlies all teamwork in the organization and is fully synchronized with company’s IT.
KF: What industry research or data should potential customers know about to help them understand your value proposition and/or evaluate their own situation?
Valentin Smirnov: Actionspace uses concepts and techniques described in the renowned “Getting Things Done” methodology by David Allen. But we do not require users to adhere to any given life-management philosophy.
KF: Please point me to customer testimonials and/or case studies that I can direct readers to.
Valentin Smirnov: You can find customer information here: http://actionspace.com/reviews/.