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Intralinks Case Study

Intralinks Case Study

Executive Summary
Business today is moving at a much more accelerated rate than ever before. Companies need to be able to interact with everyone involved in a project as quickly as possible, while maintaining the highest level of security. Many companies face an additional problem of completing a project with people involved whom are scattered across the globe. A common meeting place or “virtual workstation” is needed to overcome these difficulties that are often wasteful and counter-productive. This is where IntraLinks products come in to assist employees nationwide.

IntraLinks provides a digital workspace, which can be accessed by everyone involved regardless of his or her geographical location. Documents are stored on a server and access is granted to any or all project members. The workspace may also serve as a meeting place online to discuss the project and provide all of the current information. But the real advantage of using IntraLinks software is the time saved in the completion of a transaction, along with providing a piece of mind to the customers. No more waiting for a courier to deliver a package on time, or whether it got there at all. With IntraLinks, all the needed documents can be viewed in a secure, safe manner; almost instantaneously after they are sent. This need for a secure and safe business environment has grown exponentially in a post-September 11th world, where traveling the globe is not only time-consuming and expensive, but now dangerous as well. IntraLinks is rapidly becoming a necessity in today’s fast-paced and tumultuous economy, where companies need to move information quickly and securely. IntraLinks customers pay a fee to use the service, which can be custom-tailored to the user’s needs.

Introduction
This paper will focus on a young, growing company called IntraLinks, who provides secure digital workspace to many diverse organizations. The purpose of this report is to outline the background of the company, give a general overview of the competitive and technological environment, and then to discuss strategies and challenges that this innovative company has encountered.

The Company
Mark Adams, John Muldoon, and Arthur Sculley founded IntraLinks in 1996. All of these men are seasoned financial professionals who wanted to cater directly to the needs of business professionals like themselves . The company headquarters is located in New York City, with additional offices in Boston, San Francisco, and London. The company has approximately 100 employees. IntraLinks serves hundreds of clients throughout the world. Some of their customers are professionals in the finance, legal, insurance, pharmaceutical, and real estate arena, in addition to other corporate and government organizations .
The founders├втВмтДв original goals for IntraLinks were based primarily on assisting other professionals in the finance world. Their goal was to set up secure web sites for managing confidential financial documents for safe online collaboration . Since this original goal, they have now branched out to other non-financial organizations that are also participating in this online collaboration. As the founders set out to launch their new products to potential clients in the financial district, many were leery about the level of security for online collaboration. Currently, with all of the technological breakthroughs, individuals are feeling more confident with the enhanced computer security of firewalls and high-tech encryption. With this added online security and also in the wake of the tragedies surrounding September 11th, people are now more receptive to a digital workspace. Part of this change in people├втВмтДвs attitudes is that digital workspaces eliminate the need to carry hard copies of important documentation, therefore reducing the risk of lost paperwork due to tragedies like 9/11 and other unforeseen delays, such as people being stuck in traffic or delayed flights.

The Products

IntraLinks has designed only one product, which is called digital workspace. It is a non-stop digital environment that allows online collaboration twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All one would need for a meeting in cyberspace is a browser and a password. This type of environment is very appealing to the already over-worked business professionals who would prefer to spend more of their time in their office or even working out of their home at any time of the day or night.

According to Andra Marx, Executive Vice President of IntraLinks, the cost for utilizing IntraLinks varies depending on the number of individuals in a company who will need to subscribe to this service. The cost is solely based on the number of workspaces individuals within a company would need to access. The average cost for a subscription is usually in the six figures. A typical scenario would be that a company signs up for a certain number of workspaces that they would need over a years time and then IntraLinks will bill the company monthly.

IntraLinks is a highly secure meeting place that entails redundancy, which simply means a back-up feature, and is encrypted up to 128 bits, which is the highest level of security. Another security feature is the user privilege. Specifically, the administrator can decide who can view items on the web site and who cannot. The administrator can also set times in which other individuals are allowed to access the proprietary documentation, therefore giving the executives a piece of mind that no one will break into the repository and steal or change information. IntraLinks has cornered the market by creating a “new digital workspace” for clients wishing to conduct all of their business online, in the comfort of their own office.

Opportunities
The main problem or issue that IntraLinks has tried to solve is to design an Internet business that allows their customers to collaborate online with the highest level of security. The ability to have this type of security online essentially places the customer├втВмтДвs mind at ease. Security is imperative when online, not only for the avid, everyday user, but more specifically when multimillion/billion dollar mergers and acquisitions are at risk.

Some of the opportunities that IntraLinks takes advantage of is in their ability to shorten lengthy processes that are needed when making business deals. Most, or all of the documentation, is accessible to the individuals involved online, therefore saving precious time. In addition, time and money is no longer wasted on couriers and copy centers. Everything one could possibly need is available at any time.

Therefore, what gives IntraLinks the competitive edge over other companies is the benefit of saving time by using their services and also in the ability to access items whenever the client needs to do so. In the past this required multiple mailings, long distance calls, and time consuming business trips. IntraLinks has provided a more efficient way to do business. They can help reduce calling time, eliminate travel time, and make snail mail almost obsolete.

The Market
The market for IntraLinks and other electronic collaboration software has grown steadily and strongly upward since the launch of the Internet. Quite a few companies have sprung up as a result of this need for alternate business solutions, but very few with the success that IntraLinks has had. They are one of the world leaders in electronic conferencing and commerce, offering their customers a safe and secure “digital workspace” in which to conduct real-time discussions and manage confidential information. More than 100,000 users from 300-plus institutions in over 125 countries have used IntraLinks since the company’s foundation in 1997, completing some 10,000 transactions .

In the past, many companies assumed that while virtual collaboration tools were important and necessary, they were second best to face-to-face meetings. However, this group of product developers from Texas Instruments proved that their products could in fact be better than face-to-face meetings. When the developers held a strategy presentation to employees in Europe, the United States, and Japan, it was held over the Internet using IntraLinks. The meeting was a success, and they found that it was more effective at soliciting feedback from the attendees, who sometimes had trouble with asking questions in English. This is just one more advantage of using IntraLinks, where it crosses the cultural and technical boundaries that sometimes arise when a company is on a global scale.

Competitors
As with any successful company, IntraLinks has many competitors in the market, with each company offering similar software and results. Competition is fierce in this arena, and with technology constantly on the rise, it is only going to get tougher as companies demand more from their software. Many of the other companies have not received the recognition or the awards that IntraLinks has, which explains why they are at the forefront of “digital workspaces”. One of the more successful competitors to IntraLinks is Centra Software. This company, which is based in Boston, offers web-based collaboration and an e-learning platform that is used by more than 1.7 million people . WebEx is another successful competitor that uses an Internet-based virtual meeting platform. Participants are able to provide feedback through an instant-messaging system while a presentation takes place, much like IntraLinks. Some of the other competitors in this fast-growing field are Nextel, Winnov, and Advanced Turnkey Solutions. Others have seen the value of this business process as well, such as Citadon Inc, OnProject, Portera, and Groove Networks . Most of these companies have developed a product that is very similar to IntraLinks, but IntraLinks has had more experience in this field and has won many awards for their achievements. Additionally, IntraLinks was the first company to provide digital workspaces. While these companies might offer excellent teleconferencing capabilities, they do not offer secure documentation management like IntraLinks does, therefore continuing to give them the edge over their competitors.

Customers
IntraLinks has a very diverse group of clients who regularly use their software, including many banks such as PNC Bank, National City Bank, and SunTrust Bank. Banks can appreciate the diversity of using IntraLinks, where more electronic collaboration means less paperwork, which in turn saves money and time. Bankers prefer to use their PC to do their banking as well because of the improved service and quicker transactions. Many pharmaceutical companies also use IntraLinks to keep their affairs in order, like R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP . The benefit of pharmaceutical companies using IntraLinks is that it enables them to talk to their far-reaching customers who are conducting research across the world. It allows primary care physicians, patients, drugstores, and doctors to all be updated immediately on any drug-interactions that might occur, as well as any alternate medications that are available. Manufacturing outfits are also beginning to use this software too, such as Borg Warner Automotive . Their needs lean more towards updating blueprints or techniques in operations, as well as in video conferencing between engineers, CEO’s, and supervisors. Basically, any company that has more than one base of operations has a need for IntraLinks, and they can tailor the software for their individual needs as they see fit.

The Technology
IntraLinks’ Application Programming Interface (API) v3.0 is designed to facilitate the posting and extraction of documents between secure environments. Anyone involved in the project can be granted a certain level of admission. A user must be given access to folders and given permission to read or write to a file. Only people granted proper access would be able to alter a document. The workspace audit features will allow all files to be tracked, you can see who utilized what files and when. All workspaces are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week so work can continue around the clock.

The workspaces are written in the programming language Java to accommodate all systems. The IntraLinks API package includes a “jar” file containing the Java Classes and houses the functions that interacts with IntraLinks. To comply with Webservices standards the API also includes The Apache Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) Implementation, which acts as a layer between the two systems.

IntraLinks goes to great lengths to maintain customer satisfaction. They have a specialized team who meets with new customers to develop plans to optimize workspaces according to the company’s values, goals, and challenges. They help to adapt the technology to the company and develop customized rollout strategies. IntraLinks will even place the company’s logo on the workspace to give a more professional appearance.

Support is also an important part of customer service. IntraLinks provides continuous night and day support for their customer. The service representatives are capable of troubleshooting most problems and can also issue new passwords upon user verification.

System Requirements
The IntraLinks workspaces do not require additional equipment for the companies computer system and it also has minimal system requirements. All that is required is an Internet browser running on any operating system. Customer workspaces are saved on IntraLinks’ four servers. They have high-level security facilities in both Annapolis, Maryland and Milpitas, California. By housing servers on both the east and west coast, IntraLinks insures that a local disaster will not disrupt business. IntraLinks’ high-powered servers insure that the response for API commands run on par with user interfaces. Exact times for when this happens are unavailable due to varying document sizes. The only real requirement is that companies provide technical support information in order to collaborate with the IntraLinks Customer Support Team.

Alternate Technologies
IntraLinks was the first company to provide digital workspaces but others have seen the value of this business process. Companies such as Citadon Inc, OnProject, Portera, and Groove Networks have developed a product that is very similar to IntraLinks. But IntraLinks has had more experience in this field and has won many awards for their achievements. IntraLinks was created as an alternate technology to the U.S. Post Office, Fed-Ex, and UPS. They can distribute documents to any part of the word much faster than any other delivery system. Other alternate technologies for IntraLinks include video conferencing and white boards. Though IntraLinks is superior to these products because it can incorporate them into their workspaces. IntraLinks has designed a very versatile product and there are no others that are exactly the same.

Challenges
IntraLinks has overcome many challenges in the past and is now a very successful business. One of the obstacles that IntraLinks has faced is skeptical users. For example in the legal and medical fields there are many lawyers and doctors who believe that the only way to do business is by leaving a long paper trail behind them. This type of paperwork once benefited their business as it always provided concrete documentation about legal and medical proceedings, which are highly sensitive and personal to all individuals involved. Patients and clients are concerned that if their medical and legal information is online that they will then be more vulnerable and may feel that others will erroneously gain access to this private information. Therefore, IntraLinks will have to win the trust of both professionals and their clients alike in order to capture this market.

Furthermore, to continue into the future IntraLinks will need to overcome the additional and possibly even more difficult challenge of remaining on top of the market. They will need to do this by continuing to fine-tune their product. One method would be to introduce new products that would complement their already successful digital workspaces. As they are doing this they will also need to continue to venture out to other businesses across the world, as they have already done so successfully.

Conclusion
IntraLinks has produced a product that is invaluable to many companies. They provide services that help companies realize their full potential. IntraLinks helps to lower opportunity costs, speed up business processes, and allow global meetings without the travel expense. Furthermore, another incentive for companies to use IntraLinks is in having transactions that are executed almost instantaneously, therefore helping to reduce the risk involved with a sometimes-volatile market. Recently, IntraLinks has been venturing more into partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, such as Chiron Corp. This would revolutionalize communication between doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and most importantly patients receiving experimental medication during clinical trials. Their five years of experience has prepared them for many challenges they may face in the future. As a result, IntraLinks has a bright future ahead of them, and their increasing customer base is the proof that their products are here to stay.

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