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EchoSign 3.0 Released – the Complexity Dilemma

Echosign, the leading Web-based document e-signature / distribution / management provider has just released version 3.0, with major updates.

The UI got significantly revamped, there are new subscription levels to manage up to thousands of documents, new forms were introduced, but the most important change per CEO Jason Lemkin is the introduction of complex workflows – a definite need for large corporations:

Hundreds of new workflow options have been added to EchoSign. The first group has been automatically added to the Account tab for Team and Enterprise customers. Want to sign ‘packs’ of documents? No problem. Routed signed copies of every contract in your company to a global e-mail address? Just tell us where. Collect title, company name? Whatever you want. Select who can — and cannot — sign in your company? Done, with one click.

And for the most complex workflows, EchoSign now offers a novel “Signature Workflow Language” where Enterprise customers can craft their own custom document worfklows. Want (A) your customer to fax sign your contract, (B) auto cc your sales rep, (C) autoroute to legal for electronic counter-signing, (D) but only by certain authorized signers, and then (E) have signed copies automatically sent back to the (F) customer, (G) legal, (H) sales ops, (I) accounting and (J) the sales rep? Now, no problem. Contact your account manager for access here and configuring workflow options beyond those you can set yourself on the Account tab.”

Let’s stop for a minute here: complexity is typically the last thing a software CEO would point out in his announcement, but Jason handles it with class and humor, for good reason. The illustration he picked (how did he find this gem?) shows a decidedly simple “process” made awfully complex by introducing far too many steps and “technology” prone to failure. EchoSign, on the other hand has earned a reputation of simplifying processes originally made complex by people, rules and lack of technology. I trust Jason and team – they will likely manage to reduce complexity, even while embracing it.

By the way, EchoSign is not only for large corporations, it’s for businesses of any size. I’m a one-person shop, and used it a few times. Even now as I type this post in Zoho Writer, I could just click on DigiSign (see highlight below) and have it routed to Jason to sign off. Not that I need to, after all, that would be …complexity. smile_eyeroll

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Get Out of Jail Faster With EchoSign – Ouch:-(

EchoSign’s Favorite Widget of the Month is by Bailgram.com:

Let’s face it, helping a family member make bail is a traumatic experience. What if instead of going down to some sketchy shop near the courthouse — likely in off hours — you could fill out an application in seconds online? Frankly, it’s harder to think of a much better use of the internet.

Well, Jason, I think I can find a lot better uses of the Internet… smile_wink But wait, he goes on, encouraging me to jump right in:

…click here and with the EchoSign widget, you can fill out and sign your application in seconds!

Hm… thanks… I’d rather stay out of jail in the first place. smile_omg

(P.S. I do like EchoSign, it’s a great service, just not planning to get in jail any time soon)

Update (10/23): Hey, $6M covers a lot of bail smile_regular. OK, that’s my way of saying congratulations, Jason and Team!

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Radar Relay – What’s Happening in Office 2.0

I might as well have titled this post Radar Delay – first it was due last Friday, as part of series of reviews leading up to the Under the Radar: Office 2.0 event, but then fellow Enterprise Irregular Rod Boothby posted an “extra” article the same day, so I decided to wait till Tuesday. Yes that was yesterday, the day when Comcast, my ISP ironically responded to my push for On-Demand with a service outage.

smile_sad

But first things first: Web-based products received a surprise promotion from an unexpected source: Microsoft. As Phil Wainewright says on ZDNet:

“It’s astonishing that in the midst of a serious challenge from a new generation of Web-native office suites, Microsoft should give its rivals a helping hand by handicapping its own product so badly that it performs worse than an online product on a slow dial-up line.”

He is referring to the Outlook 2007 meltdown several users experienced:

You’d think I had just sprayed the inside of my poor mega-laptop with saltwater to induce non-stop fritzing. I’ve learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written

You can hardly accuse the above user with anti-Microsoft bias, since he is none other than Mini-Microsoft, who is obsessed with fixing Microsoft, the company. The Guardian, Dennis Howlett, Jason Busch, Tim Anderson, Chris Pirillo, Dan Farber, Phil Wainewright had similar experiences. Phil asks:

“But is it an even better fix to abandon Outlook and Exchange altogether and switch to an on-demand alternative?

My answer is a loud YES, and I’m making my point in Desktop Software: A Failed Model. Of course glitches occur in the On-Demand world, too, as we just witnessed Google Apps collapse soon after the announcement. We’re not quite there yet, but I share Rod Boothby’s view that we have passed a tipping point: while 2 years ago the ideal mix would have been desktop computing with additional online access, now I feel as a user I am better off mostly working online, with occasional offline access.

A somewhat doubtful friend, who happens to be the CEO of a cool company making web-based products sent this question:

“Do you really think people will use Word processors (in any significant number) through their web browser? “

Yes, I really do think, but why believe me? Listen to a US Government Agency instead: FAA May Ditch Microsoft’s Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo.

Some of the Under the Radar “Graduate Circle” sponsors posted significant news recently:

Talk about user base, Nielsen/NetRatings issued a press release claiming that Google Docs and Spreadsheets dominate web-based productivity tools since October, with a market share of 92 percent of unique visitors. Ismael Ghalimi did some research and proved them wrong concluding that Google’s market share may be closer to 50%. His take:

It is actually quite amazing that companies like ThinkFree and Zoho, with their ridiculously small marketing budgets, can play in the same league as mighty Google.”

Ismael is the creator of last years successful Office 2.0 Conference, and he is already preparing for Office 2.0 2007. But that’s in September – first we’ll have an exciting full-day conference:

Under the Radar: Why Office 2.0 Matters on March 23rd, in Mountain View, CA. Here’s the updated agenda and a list of presenting companies:

Approver | Blogtronix | Brainkeeper | Cogenz | ConceptShare | ConnectBeam | Diigo | EditGrid | Firestoker | InvisibleCRM | Koral | Longjump | Mashery | My Payment Network | Proto Software | Scrybe | Sitekreator | Slideaware | Smartsheet | Spresent | Stikkit | System One | Terapad | Teqlo | TimeSearch Inc. (Calgoo) | Tungle | Vyew | WorkLight | Wrike | Wufoo | Xcellery

The Conference is put up by DealMaker Media, which was until recently known as IBDNetwork. (Too bad I missed their Launch Party.)

Hope to see you there!

Update (3/09): Passing the baton to Stowe Boyd, here’s his Relay post.

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Blogs and Wikis Are the New Web

Traditional web sites are so 20th Century – Blogs and Wikis bring them to life, and they are easier to set up. Perhaps not surprisingly, a Web 2.0-focused VC, Union Square Ventures was one of the first to replace their entire Web site with a blog – read the rationale of the switch. Corporate web sites soon followed suit, just look at Architel and Return Path as examples. Now, for some shameless self-promotion, my earlier tips on the subject: Blogs To Replace Personal Web sites.

In Wikis are the Instant Intranet I also talked about how companies can set up a living-breathing Intranet, one that people can actually use, not just passively read by deploying a wiki: ” in the large corporate environment a wiki can be a lively collaborative addition to the Intranet (see the wiki effect by Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield), but for smaller, nimble, less hierarchical business a wiki is The Intranet.” (note: I am not just speculating on this: been there, done that in my prior life).

Now Sydney-based Customware raised the bar:

The entire web site (not only the Intranet, but the customer-facing web) is built on a wiki – Confluence by Atlassian. (hat tip: Mike Cannon-Brookes)

Update (9/28): The Atlassian Blog points to several other wiki-powered sites that look-and-feel like traditional websites.

Update (9/22): Just as soon as I posted this article, I saw this pic on Rod Boothby’s blog:

Itensil, short for “Information Utensils” builds “a self-service technology that we’re calling Team Wikiflow that captures collective intelligence and delivers it as reusable team processes.”

I have to admit I haven’t heard of Itensil – it will be exciting to meet them, as well as Atlassian, Socialtext, Zoho, ConnectBeam, EchoSign and many other companies in the collaboration space at the Office 2.0 Conference.

Update (4/12/07): Here’s a list of corporate websites powered by CustomerVision’s BizWiki.


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