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External users in IBM Connections

External users in IBM Connections are easy to spot

One of the main reasons for using tools like IBM Connections is that you can share information with a lot of people at the same time, without having to use email. This means that the information is open for everybody who has access to it. This instead of being hidden in someone’s inbox, upon which you have to ask them to forward you a message, a file, a task and so on via an email.

This works very well internally in your organization. It does not help you minimizing email contact with your customers, business partners, suppliers and other people outside your organization. In turn, this often forces you to use email instead of Connections also inside your organization since projects with external partners mostly also involves several internal people.

In IBM Connections 5.0 you can get around this by inviting external users into communities on your IBM Connections server. If you do this, you can share information also with external people, without having to resort to email. Garbriella Davis from The Turtle Partnership gave a very good presentation of this during the ISBG meeting in Larvik.

The first thing on any administrator’s mind is security. What is it that an external user can and cannot do? An external user cannot:

  • See public content
  • Create communities
  • Follow people or add them to their network
  • Search for users
  • See anything under Recommended
  • See the menu selection Profiles
  • See @-mentions
  • See already existing tags (but can add new ones)

An external user can:

  • Only access the community he is invited to
  • Use, edit and share files in the community
  • Post and reply in forums inside the community
  • Comment and like content inside the community
  • Only share files directly with the community, or with users inside the community if he knows the exact email address

Only selected people can create external users and communities for such users. It’s not open for anyone to do this. There are also other issues that must be addressed:

  • How should external users be registered
  • Who should be given the rights to do this
  • What sort of password policy should you enforce
  • Where should the users be registered
    • It’s recommended that you use a separate LDAP-server or a separate branch
  • You should turn off Anonymous user access on all IBM Connections applications
  • Make sure reader is not set to Everyone on any IBM Connections applications
  • Turn off public caching in LotusConnections-config.xml (you should do this anyway!)

You can also set up self registration. This means that you can create a community for external users and then send out invitations to join it. When the external user clicks on the link in the invitation, he’s asked to register. Domino is very good for self registration and there are Xpages based solutions for this.

Other security information:

  • All communities with external users are clearly marked with a huge yellow sign
  • If you share a file with a community with external users via the web version of Connections, you are given a warning
  • If you share a file with a community with external users via one of the plugins you are not given a warning. This means that one should have well established routines around this
  • A community with external users can be converted into an internal community where no external users have access.
  • You cannot take an existing internal community and convert it to an external community, not even if the community is a former external community that was converted to an internal one

Sharing information with external people does have its pitfalls, but I think these pitfalls are far outweighed by all the benefits.

Life of a file

Life of a file

We all deal with files on daily basis. They are everywhere. In emails, on disks, in forums and on Facebook. I’m sure you’ve created at least one file today, or at least this week.

But creating a file should be like planning parenthood. Are you sure you can take care of the file in the matter it should be taken care of? Are you sure it’s a good idea to create a file under the current circumstances?

This was the topic of a session that Omar Davison from IBM gave at ISBG in Larvik last week (read my first posting from ISBG). He pointed out that a file is like a person, with certain uses, certain attributes and with connections to others.

So, let’s look at a file as a child brought into the world. It will, hopefully, serve a purpose and generate value. When it’s born you spread the news and tell others about it.

You can tell about via email, via a forum or in the newsfeed of a social media. You can also find the siblings of a file and put it in a family context.

You put the file into a home in a community. Here it will meet people who will discuss the file and comment on it. Maybe they even will point others to it by sharing a link to it.

The file will then learn and grow. People can edit it and work on it simultaneously. In this way the child is influenced by its surroundings and will grow and change.

You can also choose who you don’t want your file to meet by denying selected people access. Or maybe you are bold and decide to share the file with someone external, outside your community.

As the life of the file progresses it will reach a point where it’s usefulness is reduced. You then retire the file and put it in a folder, or a retirement home if you will.

However, a folder is where files go to die, so don’t do this too soon. Files can have a long lifespan and be useful long after it has stopped growing. Because they will be read for a long time after being finished, they will be commented on, they will be liked and they will be spread.

So if you want to make a file, take care of it, ok?

Related:

The annual spring meeting in the Norwegian IBM User Group (ISBG) took place in Larvik, at Farris Bad, last week. I will in the coming days present my experiences and thoughts about

Hugutette RancHuguette Ranc, Social Business & Smarter Workforce Unit for Europe – IBM, talked about the strategic cooperation that IBM has with Apple, Facebook, SAP, Weather Channel, Twitter and other media outlets. IBM’s part of this is using Watson as a tool for analyzing the data. This is in turn used to create a better experience for the users, as well as gathering data that the companies use to decide on their future strategies with their tools.

Christopher Crummey, Executive Director of Customer Experience and Evangelism – IBM Enterprise Solutions, then took the stage. He has been working at IBM for over 25 years, and he discussed the soChristopher Crummey called New Way of Working.

He gave us some data about IBM:

  • 80% of IBM-ers do not have their own office
  • IBM has done 110 acquisitions in the past deacde
  • All users can bring their own devices to work, no matter what operating systems they are running
  • IBM has their own app-store and apps are pushed down to your device and computer
  • IBM automatically configures their employees phones, with one click and 6,5 minutes of waiting
  • They do not have phone support. All support is gathered in a community in IBM Connections where people can easily gather it

The fact that the users have a huge influence and control over how they want to work, where they want to work and with what tools, had increased user satisfaction.

Christopher admitted that IBM has never been good at design, and that’s why they partnered up with Apple. They’ve already launched a long list of apps for services like the police, health care and others for the Ipad. Here IBM provides the data and everything working in the background, while Apple provides the user interface. He compared this to building a bathroom:

IBM is the plumber and electrician, while Apple is the decorator.

They use Watson to analyse the big data. This can in turn be used to find out about user behaviour. For instance did a huge analysis of customer data for a phone company find out that it was the weather that was the biggest catalyst for whether a customer switched cell phone provider or not.

How could the weather influence such a decision? Further data analysis would be needed, but it could be down to the fact that a storm cut people from a certain provider off, while another provider was still online. The user would then change provider because of this.

This underlines the importance of staying on top of traffic, user habits, purchases and other activities that generate data.

Using this inside your own company is also a good idea. Make it easy for people to start working, to share ideas and to communicate. It’s especially important that the leaders in an organization leads the way here and invite everybody to start communicating. This will fuel engagement and drive innovation for your employees and users.

Then it was lunch time. Stay tuned for more blog postings about ISBG in the coming days. I will also continue my Whither IBM-series.