REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 22, 2002 — Jerry Washburn recalls the late November morning he was asked to create a Web site for a fundraiser on behalf of the Sunrise Children’s Village, a home for orphaned children in Cambodia.
The folks who approached him were backed by two well-known actors, Danny Glover and Matt Damon. They gave him four days to have the site up and running, and capable of handling the traffic volume a national television appearance by the two actors could create. The site was to feature a celebrity auction, hawking everything from an autographed boxed DVD set of the film “Lethal Weapon” to a movie poster signed by Whoopi Goldberg.
It was no small task. But Washburn, owner of NetConsult in Burbank, Calif., had help from the Microsoft tools he used to work miracles: The site ( http://www.cambodianheart.org ) went live on the day it was promised.
The money being raised from the cyberauction and site is earmarked for the work of Geraldine Cox, a woman who has set out to inspire and educate disadvantaged children. She began her mission by taking unwanted children in Cambodia and raising them. She hopes to see her charitable efforts and the premise of the Sunrise Children’s Village spread throughout the world. So far, backers say the site has been quite successful, though specific donation figures could not be released.
In addition to people power, making the site possible were Microsoft’s SharePoint Team Services, FrontPage and bCentral Commerce Manager. Washburn used these tools to bring together teams of people in locations as varied as Thailand, Australia, New York City, Cambodia, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
“We needed SharePoint,” Washburn says. “We had people using Macs, people in other countries with weird ISPs that don’t use the same protocols. We were working with different organizations and people with all different levels of computer skills and entertainment people who had no concept of how the Web works. It could’ve been chaos trying to coordinate everything. But it was wonderful. We couldn’t have done it that quickly without SharePoint, without that kind of cooperation.”
Washburn has used FrontPage since the first version, and calls version 2002 “the best ever,” but the Cambodian Heart site marked his first foray into auctions. For this he “loved” bCentral Commerce Manager.
“Once I got the logic of how it worked, it was very simple,” he says. “The look and layout were very professional. I will be using it a lot with my other nonprofit clients.”
Marcus Schmidt, Microsoft’s lead product manager for Commerce Manager, says that Microsoft’s bCentral solutions, including Commerce Manager, were specifically designed to do many of the things that have made the lives of Washburn and other business owners easier.
For instance, business owners don’t need to possess a computer degree or high-tech know-how in order to enable Commerce Manager, which allows users to build a catalog of things they want to sell or auction, and then push the catalog to marketplaces across the Internet, including MSN Marketplace and eBay. It also spares people the hassles of having to compile the necessary e-commerce components individually. Such tasks include getting a shopping cart, locating a place that handles online credit card purchases and finding a host.
“You can get Commerce Manager up and running in the course of an hour,” Schmidt says. “You can build a fairlydetailed, complete catalog in 30 minutes. And if you know how to fill out a form on a Web site, that’s as savvy as you need to be. You don’t have to know anything about databases or XML. You don’t even need to know much about the destination marketplaces.”
David Jaffe, Microsoft’s lead product manager for Office and FrontPage, says the Cambodian orphanage effort is one example of how businesses can employ SharePoint to collaborate and, in this particular case, bring people up to speed on a topic or task very quickly.
“With SharePoint, all you need is a browser, and you’re ready to begin sharing important information,” Jaffe says. “Small businesses, previously restricted to e-mail and newgroups, are able to interact with partners, suppliers and co-workers. They can share contracts, order information or any other type of document and do so without hiring an IT staff.” Teams inside larger organizations can use SharePoint to quickly set up their own intranet site for sharing information internally or across their organization.
“Without the SharePoint Team Site, the entire Cambodian Heart volunteer team would have been in for a confusing exchange of e-mail attachments, document versions and revisions and team announcements,” says Josh Wendroff, president of eNVOLV Solutions, which did promotions and direct e-mail marketing for the benefit project. “With SharePoint, the team had a single encompassing resource for coordination and collaboration.”
While SharePoint makes team collaboration more effective, FrontPage levels the playing field for small businesses against larger competitors by providing powerful tools to build great-looking Web sites, Jaffe says.
“FrontPage is not only relevant for small businesses; it can be used across all levels, from a single user to a Fortune 500 company. Essentially anyone who wants to create a Web site can use it,” Jaffe says. “FrontPage completely allows you to take control of your Web site — how it looks and how it performs. For example, you can change themes, add various Web components to it and easily manage your site with advanced reports. FrontPage is also a great tool for customizing SharePoint Team Services Web sites. Furthermore, with management tools, online marketing tools and e-commerce tools built in, you can take advantage of bCentral’s suite of solutions.”
NetConsult’s Washburn believes the Sunrise Children’s Village site would not have been successful had he and his team not taken advantage of these Microsoft products.
“It would not have happened, or maybe if we managed to pull it together, it would not have gone as smoothly or as quickly,” Washburn says. “Their four-day deadline could’ve been very tricky to meet without Microsoft’s help.”