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Collaboration tools have more value when they allow all users to effectively partner cross-enterprise. They shouldn't be too pricey, either, so adoption isn't hampered.
Philips Medical Systems, an $8 billion unit of Royal Philips Electronics N.V., manufactures x-ray machines, CT scanners and ultrasound machines among its many products. Philips embeds the machines with medical-imaging platform (MIP) software to provide functions such as printing, storage and rendering. Philips' ability to quickly deploy innovations into products is "a key discriminator in terms of which products a hospital chooses to buy," says Jan Broekhuizen, Philips Medical program manager for the medical imaging platform.
About five years ago, engineering teams at Philips Medical facilities worldwide began using a collaborative software development platform from CollabNet Inc. to develop the medical-imaging platform software. To improve its MIP development, the Philips software group subsequently decided it needed more direct involvement from the product groups.
Using CollabNet, Broekhuizen's team works with more than two-dozen software engineering groups across 10 different Philips product groups. The system lets the product teams give the medical-imaging platform group specific feedback about what they want and need. While the product teams don't develop the MIP software, they have a clear and strategic role to play in defining the software's requirements.
Through CollabNet, product groups communicate transparently with the medical-imaging platform teams about the software embedded in their products. Previously, the medical-imaging platform group provided product teams only with so-called software binaries, similar to a packaged software application. Now the Philips Medical product teams have read-only access to all the detailed functions of the MIP software, which helps them decide which functions are most relevant to their products, and how best to exploit them. Third-party engineers also do some of the development work. They access selected portions of the MIP software over the Internet with an official account and designated access rights through a managed environment, but without having to install CollabNet themselves.
CollabNet has also helped Philips bring out new innovations more quickly. "The moment some new functionality is developed for one group, we can quickly bring it to other groups," Broekhuizen says.