EGroupware experiences from Pixelegg

“Like a big Swiss Army knife”

Since the beginnings of EGroupware, Pixelegg has been associated with this solution, first as a user, then as a co-designer and as a sales and support partner. Anyone who knows an application from so many sides naturally also has wishes.

Stefan Reinhardt has a rarity on the shelf: the first manual from EGroupware. For more than ten years now, the Typo3 agency Pixelegg from Viernheim near Mannheim, which he founded and managed, has been using this collaboration solution. At the time, he was actually looking for something else for his company, namely a software for project management and address management – and to his surprise found it in a groupware. “The functionality, it was the community version at the time, we found very good for the time,” recalls Reinhardt. “Aesthetically, that wasn’t so well design’t, but we’ve dealt with it.”

Meanwhile, Pixelegg uses the solution under the Enterprise License (EPL) “more-than-groupware”. It is based on the Linux variant Univention Corporate Server (UCS); LDAP is used for user administration and authentication. It is connected to a MySQL database and the Apache web server.

Pixelegg Informatik & Design GmbH has a double business field. Firstly, it is a Typo3 agency that produces and maintains websites for companies, local authorities and other organisations in the region. On the other hand, it is a Univention partner that sells, sets up and supports EGroupware on a UCS basis for such users and organizes corresponding training courses.

Within the company Pixelegg uses far more than the actual groupware functions. Particularly important are the project manager and the Infolog system, with which various information can be connected in EGroupware. This applies, for example, to a project, from application to implementation and ongoing support:

Pixelegg has created templates for projects of different scope in the EGroupware Projectmanager. These templates already contain the necessary steps, the expected time required and the tasks to be completed, which are already assigned to certain employees. After fine-tuning, the employees only have to tick off what has been done in the info log. At the same time, it would be transparent if things got tight somewhere.

At the same time, a project diary is created by taking over certain information, in which the customer can check how far his order has progressed. This project diary is actually a CRM functionality that includes more than contact data management. Rather, it lists what Pixelegg has done for a customer. “When we do or change something in the project, we write it in the diary open to the customer,” explains Reinhardt. “So the customer is always up to date. That’s cool.”

Pixelegg EGroupware has also adapted other functionalities more precisely to its own requirements. In this way, e-mails can be linked to templates for various document templates, for example for cover letters or offers. There are evaluations and statistics. Two trainees at Pixelegg provide proof of their training via info log using time sheets, which are created as templates.

In addition, Pixelegg employees use EGroupware on their Apple and Android smartphones. “This works perfectly,” reports Reinhardt. “But we use it more for reading or for calendar votes. For other tasks, we usually prefer the desktop.”

This is the result of the diverse functionality of EGroupware. Reinhardt: “This is like a very thick Swiss army knife.” And Pixelegg has dealt more intensively with the problem of how to keep the overview. The people of Viernheim were directly involved to a large extent in the development of the new user interface of EGroupware.

Nevertheless, Pixelegg notices in projects and training courses that the breadth of the functionalities and their linking represent an obstacle for users. “EGroupware is not as simple as Word, but more like Photoshop,” Reinhardt compares. “It is not self-explanatory for end users. You have to get involved, and suddenly there are great things that make the job a lot easier.”

Of course, the end users initially have something like Outlook in mind. “At the latest when your iPhone synchronizes appointments with the documents linked to it, nobody will talk about Outlook any more,” reports Reinhardt. According to his experience, document management is particularly popular with users, especially since many Pixelegg customers work in distributed locations. “When they work on a document together, they used to have a lot of trouble sending things back and forth by e-mail, or synchronization problems. This is over at EGroupware. There are a few bang functions in there that can’t be toped.

From the point of view of administrators, Reinhardt reports on three experiences: First, EGroupware is mature and stable. Second, processes are easy to set up. And thirdly, the maintenance effort is low. For example, a customer recently managed to upgrade to EGroupware 17.1 on a UCS basis “with a few clicks”. “I’ve never seen such a happy admin before.”

Nevertheless, Reinhardt also has wishes for the further development of EGroupware. As a user he misses the possibility of active project management or Scrum in the project manager. “It is enough for a pure project management. It would be great to have a board on which I can move the individual project steps and get a visual representation of the project”.

Based on customer experience, he suggests the option of reducing the user interface. It might be useful to remove unneeded icons without deleting the function hidden behind them. This would initially make it easier for end users to use EGroupware. Later, icons could be restored and additional functions that were needed in the meantime could be opened up.

“Would, would like, could”, says Reinhardt, “I think EGroupware is really round.”