Sure, you've outfitted your staff with BlackBerry devices because of its handy ability to provide push e-mail, instant messaging conversations, and Web access. But did you know that BlackBerry is also becoming a platform for mobile collaboration applications?

Leading technology companies such as IBM, Intuition, and WICKSoft have developed applications for mobile employees to work together on projects in real-time, using their handset, regardless of where they might be on the planet.

Here's how your business can use mobile devices for collaboration.

“BlackBerry is so popular with sales people, traders, and others that need to stay in touch while out of the office that one IT manager told us that he would have to pry the device ‘out of their cold dead fingers,'” says Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-based independent research company covering business and technology.

“That kind of passion raises a different question: What else can we use BlackBerry devices for?” ask Schadler. “The short answer is to use BlackBerry devices as mobile collaboration tool,” says Schadler, who has authored recent reports such as BlackBerry: An Emerging Platform For Mobile Collaboration and Distributed Teams Need Real-Time Collaboration Tools.

Schadler suggests that business users can bring content from Microsoft SharePoint to the BlackBerry with WICKSoft, add required training to it from a company like Intuition, and push instant messaging out to it with Lotus Sametime.

Discovering new applications

“What we do, in short, is give people access to all of the information they would normally use if they were sitting at their desk,” says Will Hickie, founder and CEO of WICKSoft, a two-year-old Ottawa, Ontario-based firm with customers in North America, Europe, and Australia.

“Research in Motion has done a fantastic job at giving people access to their e-mail, no matter where they are -- it’s a secure, reliable, way to keep connected to customers and coworkers. Yet for all of this success, there are still a few things that you can’t do from a ‘vanilla’ BlackBerry, and that’s where WICKSoft comes in,” explains Hickie.

WICKSoft has created a solution to help people stay connected to all of the important things “that live outside of the inbox,” says Hickie, including file servers, Microsoft SharePoint, shared contacts and calendars, and document management systems.

For the uninitiated, Microsoft SharePoint is a popular collaboration tool with more than 100 million users worldwide, offering customers access to documents, contacts, CRM info, wikis, blogs, and other data. Thanks to hosted providers, such as Integrated SharePoint Development, many smaller businesses are finding it easy to work with.

But smartphone integration was not accessible to BlackBerry users until WICKSoft’s technology was introduced, offering true mobile integration with Microsoft SharePoint.

“This means you can access a contact in a SharePoint portal, and then call that person directly from your BlackBerry,” explains Hickie. “Documents stored in SharePoint, like product brochures or presentations, can also be viewed on the phone, or e-mailed out as attachments to prospects and customers,” he adds. “All of the calendars, custom lists, agendas, tasks, everything, is accessible, and in a very mobile friendly way.”

After all, a copy of a report isn’t much good if everyone else is reading the latest version while you’re stuck with something a few days old. “With WICKSoft, everything is done in real-time, so that if someone in the office were to modify a contact or update a PDF, those changes are reflected on the BlackBerry immediately,” adds Hickie. “No matter where you are, you always have access to the most up to date information.”