Domino, Notes and videotape
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A real life story that happened to me with two different customers.

Once upon a time there two files. Each file was used in a different organisation. The files were important for the organisations and several people needed access to them as several departments and projects needed to be able access, update and read them.

The Microsoft customer

Office 365 appsIn the first organisation the file was created by a team manager who then uploaded it into a team room in Microsoft Teams. Everybody with access to the team room could now reach the file and work on it. However, they didn’t have version control, nor could they really set different permissions for different users of the team room.

Furthermore, other teams also wanted access to this file. But as long as they weren’t members of that particular team, they couldn’t reach the file. The solution was to upload a copy of each file to the other team rooms in Microsoft Teams. Each team got a different copy. The problem with that solution was everybody was now working on different files. This created a lot of confusion.

Finally they had to sit down and try to merge all the copies into one file, which took a hell of a lot of manual work. When the file was to everybody’s liking, they now uploaded it into Sharepoint. They could now add this Sharepoint file to several team rooms in Teams. They could also set permissions so that some teams could write to the file, while others could only read the file. But they could only set the permissions for the team room as a whole. They also had version control now.

However, the team members had a hard time understanding why the file wasn’t in their Teams files. They had to remember to go to the Sharepoint tab in Teams to get to the file. If they wanted to see the file revision and version control, or wanted to see who had done what to the file, they had to open the Sharepoint app. It was a lot of unnecessary work that made a lot of users rather grumpy and confused.

They also wanted to share the file outside of their organisation with a couple of business partners. This could be achieved via a guest account, but this wasn’t something they wanted to do. Instead they discovered that they could share the file externally via the Offie 365 apps, but only if you changed several permissions in the Sharepoint admin tool first. It was a lot of work and they ended up emailing the files to the external users. They then uploaded the edited file they got in return into Sharepoint, with all the pitfalls that came with such an approach.

What they did love though was the ability to let several people edit a document at the same time in their web browser. This worked beautifully, and they could have an online meeting where everybody was working on the same file, seeing the updates being made live. After saving, all the formatting in Office file was intact.

It was also very easy to access the file via Windows Explorer and to open it up in Office to work with it locally on their computer.

But as the number of Teams grew and people started using more and more of the many apps inside Office 365, it became more and more difficult to have the overview the workers needed to keep up to date. There was no singular newsfeed to keep people updated.

The IBM customer

IBM Connections LogoIn the second organisation the file was created by a team manager who then uploaded the file to his own profile in IBM Connections. He then shared the file with his team via the community the team had in IBM Connections. Now all the members of this community could both work with and read the file. They also had full version control and they could also set different permissions for different  community members.

Other teams also wanted access to this file. This was no problem. Since the original team leader had uploaded the file to his own profile, he could just share the file with any other community or other users directly. Everybody was  now working with the same file without any hazzle.

And even though the file really resided in the original team leaders profile, each community saw the file in the Files view of their community, as if the file was there. There was no need to look for other apps or tabs inside the community. To see who had done what to the file, and to have revision and version control, all they had to do was to to go to the file inside their community. All the details were there.

They also wanted to share the file outside of their organisation with a couple of business partners. This could be achieved via a guest account, but this wasn’t something they wanted to do. And since they didn’t want t to do that, there wasn’t much they could do, without buying a third party app like Box or similar. This was a major grievance for the organisation.

What they also wanted was to be able to let several people edit a document at the same time in their web browser. To be able to to this they had to buy IBM Docs as it doesn’t come out of the box in Connections. But they soon discovered that IBM Docs screwed up the formatting in the Office files, especially in Excel and Powerpoint. For Word documents, they got by.

However, it was very easy to access the file via Windows Explorer and to open it up in Office to work with it locally on their computer, something they were very happy with.

What the IBM customers also was very happy with was that no matter how many communities or how much functionality they used, everything was contained within the same user interface, the same program and the same newsfeed. You didn’t need to think about when to use what functions, everything was inside IBM Connections.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s Office 365 has great functionality when it comes to document editing and creating good and useful Office files. It’s also good for smaller collaboration teams. However, there are way too man apps and way too many possibilities, and despite this, it’s still very difficult to share information and files between these apps. Heck, it’s even hard to share information and files between different teams within the same application. For a large organisation, I would definitely think long and hard before I started using a lot of these apps, especially Teams. A Sharepoint site is better, but then you will have a lot of development costs in addition to the license. Unless you find a good Sharepoint template to use.

IBM Connections on the other hand works out of the box. There’s no development needed, unless you want to of course. It’s also very easy to share information and files across the organisation and the various applications inside Connections. The users are thinking of Connections as one app, unlike Office 365 where you have to deal with many apps. This latter so confusing that Microsoft has made an 85 (eighty five!) page manual to tell you when to use what app…

Bot solutions have the ability to create guest accounts so that you can invite external users. But where Connections can’t share files outside the organisation out of the box, Office 365 actually can.

Both solutions makes it seamless to work with files directly from your local PC and from your email.

So both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I find Connections to have the upper hand when it comes to social collaboration and it has a lower learning curve when it comes to working effectively with it as a collaborative tool across the silos of your organisation. Office 365 still encourages silos.

However, if all you want to do is work with files and not much else, Office 365 is the way to go. And: You can actually work with Office 365 files from Connections. Something you cannot do the other way around.

Any thoughts, questions or comments? Use the comment fields below!

 

Some Limitations of IBM Connections

February 7th, 2018 | Posted by elfworld in Connections | IBM - (8 Comments)

As an IBM Champion who is visiting a lot of IBM customers, I often get asked questions about challenges that the users have with some of the products. Very often I can give them the answer. But sometimes I have to go to IBM to ask the product managers for help. And other times I turn to the wonderful IBM Collaboration Solutions community. So, here are my challenges at for the customer I’m working with this week:

  • When you save a file directly from Microsoft Office and up into Files in Connections, you can’t share this file with external users. When you try to share it afterwards, you get a strange error message. This means you have to save the file locally first, and then upload it to Files via the web GUI.
  • When you are in the Windows Explorer plugin, and you drag a file locally from your computer and over to Files, you cannot choose to share the file externally if the Connections solution is running on prem. This actually works in the plugin if the plugin is connected to the cloud version of Connections
  • While you can print a wiki page, you cannot print an entire wiki. Is there a way to do that?
  • Why can’t you print a file from the Files web GUI? You can’t print it in preview mode either. I was expecting to be able to print a file when I opened it in IBM Docs, but no. I can only print it to PDF! Why?
  • I’m not sure I understand the process of adding external users. My customer says that when they add an external user, this user hase to log on at least once before they can start adding this user to communities, or start sharing files with her Is this true?

Any help on these matters will be more than welcome.

Social Connections in Vienna

October 27th, 2017 | Posted by elfworld in IBM | Social Connections - (0 Comments)

Last week I attended the Social Connections conference in Vienna. This conference is put together by a group of users and IBM partners, and they alternate between North-America and Europe. This was the twelfth conference, but it was my first.

Not only did I attend, I also did a presentation myself. Since I’ve become Mr. IBM Connections plugins over the last two years, I naturally gave a presentation on those. Again.

Vienna is a beautiful city, with a huge legacy of culture, architecture and history. I arrived the day before the conference started and therefore took the opportunity to do some sightseeing. There are those who frown upon those “hop on and off” tour buses that you find all over the world now, but I love them. They are perfect for getting around to see the best sites, and not too expensive.

The conference itself was attended by several IBM-ers, and they started off and ended the conference by talking about the future of collaboration. Over the two days the conference lasted we could learn about:

  • The way your organization changes because of digital transformation
  • Administration of IBM Connections (which can be a bitch on-premise)
  • Various third party apps and solutions for IBM Connections (and that’s growing, something I’m personally very excited about)
  • Integrated workspaces for employees
  • How to boost user engagement and make sure your change to collaborative solutions succeed, and how not to do it
  • The file solution Box which makes it easier to share files from Connections with people outside your organization
  • Livegrid, which is an even easier way to get your data out of Domino, or make it more easily available for other solutions (and for them to write back to Domino)
  • IBM Watson Workspace, IBM’s version of Slack where you can add their Watson technology, which will function as a bot that can answer questions. A lot of banks are using similar solutions these days without their customers even knowing about it
  • IBM Connections plugins for Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office and Windows Explorer, IBM Notes and the MacOS (given by yours truly)
  • Security and hacking. A great lecture was given by my fellow Norwegian Robert Farstad about how they asked professional hackers to hack the IBM Connections solution used by Høyre (the Norwegian political party who currently holds the Prime Minister in Norway)
  • Searching for contents and files
  • Docker
  • IBM Connections Engagement Center and IBM Connections Customizer

Vienna HallwayPhew! Quite a list. But a great conference. If you are interested in learning about any of this stuff, you can find the slides for each session in the agenda. Just click on the More Info button.

I’m interested to see where IBM Connections Pink is going. It seems exciting, but how will customers react to it going from an out-of-the-box-solution to a make-it-into-whatever-you-want-it-to-be solution?

The venue was fantastic. It was like you could hear the ghosts of winter balls past, with the waltz ringing in your ears. Chandeliers, tapestries, long winding staircases, statues, paintings and all other things you think about when you talk about the old Vienna.

Well done to all the organisers! Can’t wait for the next one. Check out my photo gallery from Vienna and the conference.

Here’s my presentation:

Barry RosenThe Norwegian IBM Collaboration Solutions User Group’s (ISBG) spring meeting was held at PwC in Oslo on June 7th and 8th. Around 60 ISBG members, presenters, IBM-partners and people from IBM were there during the course of those two days.

Wednesday started with Roger Johannessen wishing everyone welcome for the very last time as leader of ISBG. From there we moved straight on to Mac Guidera’s keynote. His focus was on how employees today are flooded with too much information. It all just turns into noise. He therefore talked about how IBM’s collaboration solutions can, with the help of cognitive technology, can filter, delegate and prioritise for you.

The systems will lift up what’s important to you, so that you can focus in a much better way. IBM’s solutions will also learn how you work and will help to organize your working day for you.

He talked about IBM Verse, IBM’s web and mobile based mail solution that runs on Domino. You can read his entire presentation here.

What should you choose?

Morten MyrstadMorten Myrstad from The New Company has just become an IBM partner. The first thing he talked about were weather the rumors about the death of the corporate intranet were exaggerated or not.

His point was that the focus should be on people and a change in the company’s culture. You should choose your tools based on this. The keywords are: Management, solutions and learning.

He did a presentation of various solutions for collaboration, like Sharepoint, IBM Connections, @Workplace, Slack, Google Apps, Office, Episerver and some others. It was all a very good walkthrough the various solutions strengths and weaknesses. You can see Morten’s presentation here.

Detective Watson

Oliver BusseBecause of a misunderstanding on part of the soon to be leader of ISBG, Hogne Bø Pettersen, the two next presentations had to switch places. The next presenter was therefore IBM Champion Oliver Busse from We4IT. The techies among the audience loved this presentation and welcomed everything he told about how you can use IBM’s Watson technology in your IBM Notes and web applications with open arms. You can see his presentation here. Demo not included.

The world’s fastest growing IT industry is right now sophisticated attacks on and hacking of companies’ IT systems and infrastructure. Most of the time you get hacked without realizing it until a year or so later. Espen Skjøld from IBM Norway talked about the challenges surrounding  this.

He also spoke of IBM’s service QRadar Advisor, which also uses IBM’s Watson technology to evaluate and validate security measures in a company. This was a very interesting presentation many people liked. You can read it here.

Human Information Processing

Arne NielsenAfter lunch, it was time for Arne Sigurd Rognan Nielsen. He is a former IBM employee. These days he runs his own consultant business called Brainworker. He has worked with a lot of big customers and have helped them to start using collaboration solutions in an effective way. In his session he talked about how he has done this, and via examples from various customers he demonstrated that what’s important is the knowledge and attitude, not the technology. You can read his lecture here.

Next one out was Felix Binsack, IBM Champion and owner of the TimeToAct Group, which were gold sponsors. His company has had great success with their product XCC, which they’ve now sold to IBM. It has now changed its name to IBM Connections Engagement Center (ICEC). This product makes it much easier to transition IBM Connections into a well functioning intranet which can also act as a digital workplace for both web, mobile and pads. Unfortunately we never received his presentation.

Future of web and video conferencing

Thomas Sigdestad from Enonic held a fantastic lecture about progressive web apps. The trend is that the number of mobile apps are decreasing, and instead people develop web apps. This means web web solutions that consists of one dynamic web page, which acts like an app, and which also works offline.

In his presentation he showed several examples, and it’s also a great presentation for Star Wars fans. You can download it here.

Bo Holtemann from IBM Denmark was next. He talked about the partnership between IBM and Cisco. This means you can now integrate WebEx with IBM solutions like IBM Connections. A lot of people have wondered whether this means that IBM’s own video conference solution, Sametime, has been abandoned. But this was refuted by IBM.

The partnership means IBM will be selling Cisco’s WebEx solution for video conferencing. IBM will then take their cognitive technology into this platform. This will make it possible to get your own personal assistant and other helpful functionality. You can see all the details here.

Balloon towerAnd then it was time for speed sponsoring where everybody had to visit one of the sponsor stands. The sponsors then had two minutes to present themselves and their products, before you moved on to the next one.

This was followed by the team competition, which included an audio play, questions, bribing the judges and the building of balloon towers. After this it was a short break before the magical dinner with prizes, speeches, thank you gifts for the board members who are now stepping down and not least Rune Carlsen’s incredible magic show.

An old friend

The next day everybody was up and looked fresh and awake(?) to receive some information from the ISBG board before Barry Rosen from IBM gave his keynote about IBM’s plan for the IBM Notes/Domino platform. He talked about the fact that after you have upgraded to version 9.0.1, there will be no other versions. After this, what you will get are feature packs. These will include upgrades, bug fixes and new functionality.

He also presented a string of new functionality that has already arrived for the platform, and what is expected in the near future. He also presented the fact that you now can choose to use IBM Notes, IBM Verse or Microsoft Outlook with Domino. Both on premise and in the cloud.

Uffe Sørensen then took over and he talked about the “bring your own client”-strategy. It all turned into a very passionate discussion about Notes/Domion. It’s obvious that a lot of people still have great love for the platform. Read the presentation here.

Miki BanatwalaIt was then time for another IBM man. This time it was Miki Banatwala. He told us about IBM Connections Pink and what that platform really is. The idea is that after upgrading to IBM Connections 6, there will be no more new versions of IBM Connections. The idea is to do agile developing and push one update at a time. This is just like Facebook does it. This means you can add functionality and upgrade Connections without the need of creating a big project out of it. Read all about it here.

Germans

Andreas Rosen was next up. He talked a little bit about the German user group and what they had done to increase participation from their members. After his he talked about Salesforce, which is a platform a lot of Notes developers have moved to. This is not strange, because a lot of the principles of the two platforms are very similar.

Rosen told how you can integrate Salesforce with Connections, Domino and the OnTime calendar. Read his presentation here.

Peer PrieserThe next German up was Peer Prieser. He talked aobut how We4IT can help you analyse, develop and modernize your Domino applications. He also talked about how you can use Watson here. Download his session here.

Paul-Christian Garpe from Peda, which were this year’s Platinum sponsors, was next. He talked about the new directive for the protection of personal data that the EU will introduce in 2018. Even though Norway isn’t in the EU, we will be affected by this too. He talked about how IBM’s technology can help you in the preparation for this. Download the presentation here.

REST easy

It was now time for a delicious lunch again, before Anton Löwmar from Edgeguide in Sweden told how their technology could be used to develop and modernize your Domino applications. He also talked about how, with the help of their product, you could integrate data from Domino with Sharepoint and other platforms. Read the presentation here.

Ipad winnerKjetil Herpaasen from Item was the last man out. He did a session that especially the developers in the audience were ecstatic about. He gave us an introduction in Swagger, OSGI-plugins and REST-services. Everything done on the Domino platform. Read his presentation here.

It was then time for the annual ISBG meeting where a new board was elected. I now became the leader, after serving as second in command for the past year. It was then time for a Kahoot quiz. Since it was about Star Wars, I won, but I couldn’t get a price since I’m a board member. There was also prize drawings, and when that wrapped, this year’s spring meeting was over.

The evaluation and feedback afterwards have been great. And the message is clear: We should continue with the spring seminar in the future. In what fashion, remains to be seen. The new board will start working this autumn on what we should do to move forward and meet the drop in attendees. But I can assure you we are motivated!

Bob Voith did his own summary of the spring seminar in his blog here

Oliver Busse also did one

And you can see the entire photo album from the spring meeting here:

ISBG Spring Seminar 2017

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:

Whither IBM? Part 1

May 26th, 2015 | Posted by elfworld in Email | IBM | Social Business - (3 Comments)
IBM Verse

IBM Verse

There’s a lot of people in the IBM user/partner community (in the old days lovingly known as the Lotus/Domino community) who have been asking one single question for quite some time now: Where is IBM heading?

The big thing at the last Lotusphere in history, back in Orlando in January, was IBM Verse. The new email solution that would blow all other email solutions out of the water. Then, after a few months, IBM Verse was opened in a beta release. To say we were underwhelmed would be an understatement.

Here’s why:

  • You could not import another email account into IBM Verse, you had to start from scratch with a new IBM Verse address. This makes it much harder to test the analyzer that would help you sort your mail, what is important to you and who you are most in contact with
  • You could not connect IBM Verse to other email and social media solutions to import contacts
  • The main point of IBM Verse is the close integration you will have with IBM Connections (IBM’s collaboration solution for business), IBM Sametime (chat, video and telephony) and between email and calendar. Sadly, since you can’t integrate this IBM Verse beta version with the servers at work you have absolutely no chance of testing this full integration
  • The chat service is only for the beta version of IBM verse, rendering the chat client useless since you don’t have anyone to chat with
  • If you click the calendar icon you are not given a fresh new and modern calendar interface, instead you are taken to the INotes calendar (web-interface for the Domino mail)
  • Some of the icons are incomprehensible until you hover your mouse pointer over it. An umbrella for the “Out of office?” Makes sense if you live here in Molde and tt’s summer, I guess…

Compare this to Microsoft’s new outlook.com solution:

  • A slick, modern and new web interface which is very easy to understand and use
  • You can use an existing email account inside outlook.com with no problem and it will help you to identify important mail and contacts. Personally I tested with my gmail account
  • You can import contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn, flickr, Twitter and a whole lot of other solutions
  • You can chat with and make to with any Skype user
  • You can chat with your Facebook contacts, MSN contacts (yes, really), Google chat contacts and several other chat services
  • Icons, colors and interface makes sense and is easy to understand
Outlook.com

Outlook.com

IBM Verse started out as IBM Notes 10, but the design team decided that improving the good old Notes client, which takes hundreds of gigabytes on your PC, was not the future.

I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. Even if I have to say that Outlook 2016 is a really, really good client (I don’t care what you say, Outlook has never been a good mail client, but the calendar became good in Outlook 2010), there is no point in moving from one dinosaur to another dinosaur. The future of email is, as with most other collaboration solutions, in the web and with mobile apps.

And if IBM want their customers to choose their email solutions and integrate it with their collaboration solutions, they must do something. Fast.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

IBM has launched IBM Connections 4.5.1. To promote how you can work better with the product, they have created a demo which quite brilliantly demonstrates how you can work much more effectively in your organisation instead of relying on just email.

Via blogs, where users can come up with suggestions and ideas that can be voted on, document review processes, chat and status updates, you can work in a way that is much more user friendly, immediate and more meaningful than what you do via other more traditional tools.

Check out the demo in the video below. Note that you can click on the video to watch it in full screen mode. The video is in HD quality, so that you can see all the details.