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A method, system, and model for implementing an annotation-based task-oriented email system to automate action-oriented team collaborations Disclosure Number: IPCOM000177926D
Original Publication Date: 2009-Jan-10
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2009-Jan-10
Document File: 3 page(s) / 36K

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This invention relates to the field of collaborative tools for enhancing team productivity. The invention proposes a method and a tool for enhancing team collaborations and specifically task-oriented collaborations. This invention describes methods and tools for enhancing the collaborative power of email as a productivity tool and extending it to include action-oriented collaborations. In this case, the body of an email message is annotated to carry additional information specifying and managing actions that team members agree upon, accept, and commit to complete. The following scenario example describes a project management example for illustration of the problem solved by the invention. However, the invention idea is more general and is not limited to this type of scenario. The implementation of a project typically involves multiple meetings involving planning, status, implementation issues, etc. Meeting minutes are typically created by the meeting leader [manager, development lead, etc.] and distributed to the team via email. These meeting minutes often include action items and project tasks to be managed. Typically, the project manager uses a software tool like MicroSoft Project to manage the project tasks. Task items in the meeting minutes must be manually transposed into the project management software. Also, the team members that are the implementers of the tasks [task owners] must manage the action items in the meeting minutes on their own. This is typically done in an ad-hoc manner where the task owner manually captures his/her task and the corresponding deadlines. The meeting minutes are typically for information purposes only, and they are not automated with other productivity tools like a calendar scheduler or a notification (alerts) system. Even though meeting minutes may contain action (or actionable) items, they are not clear about ownership, deadlines (schedules), and other aspects of project management. It would be highly beneficial to eliminate the ambiguity that may result in managing the action items (tasks), and to automate the management of the action items. This invention proposes the use of a common task model to represent and manage the action items in the meeting minutes, and to automate the interaction with other productivity tools. Email is a powerful and heavily used collaboration tool. Its power is in its simplicity and ease of use. This invention enhances the collaborative power of email as a productivity tool and extends it to include action/task management while maintaining the simple, natural, and easy to use aspects of email collaborations.

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A method, system, and model for implementing an annotation -based task-oriented email system to automate action-oriented team collaborations

The core idea of the invention involves a novel system and methods to automate email collaborations. For example, a manager writes the meeting minutes for a project status meeting in an email, and the meeting minutes include decisions like "Install fix-pack V5.1.2". With the system and methods of the invention, the manager is able to highlight this text and select to annotate it as a "task-able" item. As part of the annotation, the manager can specify the task name, owner, start date, due date, project number, etc. The annotated email reaches the recipient team member that uses the tool and method of the invention to read the annotated email and either accept, reject, or modify the assigned task. In this manner, a simple email is turned into a powerful tool that defines and manages a clear set of tasks (while the original body of the email maintains project context).

In another example, a business architect can list a set of products in an email where some of these products should be categorized as "recyclable" [that is, a recycling fee will apply to these products]. The architect can annotate the recyclable items in the email which when received by another team member (say a DB Administrator), he/she can validate the item and update the database to reflect fact that these items are recyclable.

The system of the invention performs the following functions:

Allows a user to define and maintain an ontology of actions for the domain of the application.

Allows a user to annotate email text with action items derived from the domain action ontology.

Represents and models the annotated email message in a metadata language [like

RDF (Resource Definition Framework)] that is stored in the metadata header of the email message.

Parses the annotated email and derives the action items.

Publishes the action items derived from the email as standard notifications (using

WS-Notification standards for example). Other applications (like a calendar application, a scheduling application, etc.) subscribing to these notifications can then use and implement the action items


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The following figure illustrates the system of the invention:

The system of the invention is a tool that implement...