In short: The answer to the blog post title is yes. However, HCL is committed to Connections in the cloud as well as on premises. It’s just going to be different. Here’s what we know so far.
In short: The answer to the blog post title is yes. However, HCL is committed to Connections in the cloud as well as on premises. It’s just going to be different. Here’s what we know so far.
UPDATE! Last week a friend of mine asked me if I could try and find out where the IBM Connections plugin for Microsoft Outlook had gone. It was no longer available as a download in the IBM Collaboration Solutions Catalog. Turns out it has been pulled!
Yesterday I upgraded Office 2016 manually on my computer. This because I changed my Office 365 subscription to a payment plan that gives me more apps, like Teams and Skype for Business. This made the IBM Connections plugin for Outlook stop working. But thanks to IBM, I managed to fix it. Here’s how you can do the same.
If you have your files in a cloud solution like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, IBM Connections or Google Drive, you can connect Windows Explorer directly to these services. By doing this, you get direct access to your files from your Explorer window, as if they were stored locally on your computer. You can even access them while offline. Here are all the services I’m connected to:
PS: You can click on any of these images to see them in large versions if you want to see a more detailed view!
If I’m composing a new email in my web browser, like in Office 365, Gmail or IBM Verse, I can easily just take a file from any of these services, and drag them straight from Windows Explorer and into the email. Here I’m dragging a Dropbox file over as an attachment into a new email I’m composing in IBM Verse:
This works just as well in Gmail, Office 365 and most other web based mail services.
However, if I try to do this with a file in IBM Connections, it doesn’t work:
Someone asked me about this a couple of weeks back, and I told him how you can get around this. Yes, you can drag and drop files in IBM Connections from Windows Explorer and straight into the email. To be able to do this, you must add the file to My Drive in Connections. Here’s how you do this:
So you can achieve the same functionality with IBM Connections files, just as you can do with files from other cloud based services.
Note: Mac users will always be able to drag and drop directly into web based email services because they have to add their files to My Drive in order to be able to access them at all.
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.
In 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.
In 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.
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!
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:
Any help on these matters will be more than welcome.
Sorry for being late with following up on the Connect 2017 conference, but the last days in San Francisco just flew by like a whirlwind. And after I got home I was stuck on the couch with flu like symptoms. But now I’m ready to talk to you about the future of IBM Connections, which is pink!
IBM Connections 6.0 is soon ready to be unleashed on the world. And I think it looks very promising. In fact, I was grinning when I was told about some of the new functionality. Here are the highlights from the new stuff that is coming:
The point I really, really liked was the fact that you now can make the area that describes what the community is about as large as you like. AND: You can now just paste whatever HTML code you like into that area! This means that you very easily can create your own social intranet without having to skin Connections to fit your internal design guidelines. This is a very smart move by IBM, and I like it! It’s something my previous employer was desperately hoping for, and was promised was possible, only to find out it wasn’t.
The future for Connections beyond 6.0 is Pink! Now, what does Connections Pink mean? It’s not the next version of Connections, per se. It’s more a new way of developing the platform, developing towards and with the platform, the way it will be updated and a new way to work, not only with Connections but with Watson and the ICS portfolio.
Connections Pink is also a new development platform which makes it easier for people to contribute by creating your own extensions for Connections. It’s a completely open ecosystem which is made for developers, with a new technology stack. This is probably the most exciting new thing coming out of Connect 2017. The plan is to make this available from September 2017. Personally I can’t wait to play around with it.
It will also be amazing to combine this with the development platform for Watson Workspace. Just think of the possibilities you will have to analyse usage, data and a whole lot of other parameters. This is exciting, and I truly hope IBM will communicate this out to its customers. And most important: Use their IBM partners to help people understand what it is and all the possibilities it gives you!
Oh by the way, it was great to see that the Connections sessions were filled up. It’s obvious that a lot of IBM’s customers now are using IBM Connections. Wonderful
I promised a summary of the second part of the Opening General Session. And I will include it here, but this posting is mostly about the future of IBM Notes and Domino. It’s based around four separate sessions and lectures about the strategy around and development on the Notes and Domino platform.
First things first:
For the first time in years IBM Notes and Domiono was, once again, the center of attention during an opening session. A lot of time was spent on it during Ed Brill’s presentation in part 2. He announced three partnerships with the companies Darwino, Aveedo and Sapho. All of them makes it possible to extend and refresh Domino applications. All of these give you the opportunity to stay on Domino, as well as combine your Domino app seamlessly with applications on other platforms without the need for development. I was especially impressed with Sapho.
In the session about the future roadmap for Notes and Domino, IBM also said that Notes and Domino would be updated via Feature Packs from now on (which basically means no Notes 10, folks). These will come out 3-4 times a year, and extend the features of both the Notes client, as well as the Domino server. It will be optional whether you want to install these and whether you want to enable the new functionality that is added in the feature packs. Security upgrades and bug fixes are also a part of the FPs.
As for what is coming for both the Notes client and the Domino server, I will refer you to my blog posting about the very same subject from last year’s Connect. Yup, nothing has happened since then. But this year they actually showed us demos of most of the stuff you can read about it that blog posting. Last year they only talked about it. FP8, which will give you the ability to show email addresses as internet addresses, support Java 8 in the Eclipse framework and include email template upgrades will be released in March.
As you know, I love the IBM Connections plugins for IBM Notes. My 250 page long manual for the plugins will now have to be updated since CCM will get it’s own plugin! Yay! There’s even a plugin for Box, which I haven’t tested yet.
The most exciting thing I saw when it comes to development of Domino based solutions was a product called Sapho. The product delivers a Facebook-like feed of data from your applications, both on Domino and a host of other platforms. I was amazed that every time someone asked the question “what if I need to do…,” Peter Yared, founder and CTO of Sapho, did it live, in the presentation, there and then! The product was incredibly easy to use, and you could fetch data from all kinds of data sources, including Domino. And you could of course write data back to the source as well.
So what does this mean? It means that you don’t need to migrate. You can keep your data on Domino, but at the same time add functionality to a Notes application which will run on web or on a mobile device. Or you could replace an entire Notes application, but still keep the nsf file on Domino. This is the future of Domino development folks! Spending loads of man hours on using the Domino REST API with Swagger, Angular and so on is incredibly complex, time consuming and complex. There are of course instances where you wouldn’t have much choice, but I think in most cases, a product like Sapho will solve your business needs.
I’ll wrap this up now. But you can still keep the Notes client and Domino, get new functionality, keep your applications and at the same time modernise them. In addition, you can give your users a choice when it comes to mail. They can use Notes, they can use iNotes (webmail), they can use Verse or they can use Microsoft Outlook. The mail is still in the same .nsf file on your Domino server.
IBM is opening up more and more to the outside world, and that is the main strategy these days, also in the future for Notes and Domino.
Stay tuned for more blog postings about stuff I’ve learned here at Connect 2017!
IBM Connections is a great tool for collaboration. But there are some very quick and cool things you can do to make it work even more efficient for you. Here are 7 tips:
1) Filter your activity stream
A lot of people find the activity stream (news stream on the IBM Connections front page) to be overwhelming and confusing. Not to worry, you can filter out anything you want. There’s a pull down menu at the top of the activity stream, under the status field, that you can use to choose the specific information you want to se updates from:
Click on it to choose the application you want to see updates from, so that you won’t get drowned in information:
2) Save postings for later
Sometimes you see a posting in the activity stream that you want to either read or follow up on, but you haven’t got time right now. This can simply be solved by saving the posting. Simply click on Save to save it for later:
You will find this posting under Saved in the left menu. Read all about saving and unsaving postings here.
3) Sort a search result by application
Let say you do a search on all contents in Connections:
The search result will look like this:
You can now sort the search result by application by clicking on the application name in the left side menu:
If you want to look only in files, you choose Files. If you want to search only in wikis, you choose Wikis. And so on.
4) Quickly find your most recently updated communities
A very quick way to find your most recently updated communities is to click on the Communities menu at the top. Those communities will be listed at the bottom of the pull down menu:
5) Find the latest post in a forum thread that is sorted as a conversation
In a forum thread, you can choose to sort it either by date (upon which you can choose to show the oldest or newest posting at the top) or by conversation. If it’s sorted by conversation, it can sometimes be hard to know what the newest posting is. Luckily you have a link at the top of the forum thread where you can choose to jump to the latest post:
6) Convert an activity entry into a To do
Sometimes someone will post or share something into an activity that triggers the need for an action. In those cases it’s important to set a due date and assign this task to someone. Thankfully, you can actually convert most activity entries into a To do. Here’s a an ordinary entry. By expanding it and then click on the More pulldown menu, we find the option for converting it into a To do:
After choosing this, you can assign it to someone, as well as set a due date and add tags and more information and attachments. You can even convert emails that have been uploaded to the activity in this way!
7) Quickly search for people and profiles
Under the Profiles menu at the top, you find a menu item called Directory:
After clicking on this you will get a search field where you can simply start typing the name of the profile or person you’re searching for. Connections will suggest profiles for you while typing
I hope these quick tips are useful to you. If so, please leave a comment or share it on social media. If you have anything you want to add or give me feedback, leave comment!
Very often, the start page of a wiki in IBM Connections tends to look like this:
This looks very dull. It’s not very inviting for the users and the need for scrolling will make it harder for the users to find what they are looking for. Yes, you can tell the users to search the wiki, but believe me, they won’t!
I’ll admit it straight away: The wiki pictured above is made by yours truly, and it was made to document how to make wikis (am I meta or what?). The feedback from the users was that while my documentation was really good, it wasn’t very inviting for them to start using it. In this day and age, people want easier access to things. They want pictures and graphics, and their cell phones have spoiled them when it comes to no need for scrolling and having big colorful buttons to push.
A few months later we introduced Skype for Business in our company. And when the time came to create a wiki on how to use Skype for Business, I decided to try and spruce up the documentation a bit more. So this is the start page for the Skype for Business wiki:
This time the feedback was much better:
Both the icons and the text are clickable links (I show you how to make image links in a Connections wiki further down in this posting) and we took this even a step further in our next wiki. I can’t take full credit for what I’m showing you next. It was shown to me by Erik Borse from the company Item, and I rolled with it and expanded upon it.
We created a wiki to document our internal processes. From the wiki start page (which I cannot show you), you can click on an icon for Strategy and management. This is the wiki page you arrive at if you click on that icon:
Each box is clickable, and it gives the user a quick and easy way to click on further down in the wiki structure. In addition, each box has it’s own unique color. If a user clicks on the orange box, all boxes and colors on the underlying pages will be orange. This way the user knows she is still within the same subject and page structure.
The really good part here is that there’s no need for the users to design those graphic buttons in a graphical tool You can create them in Microsoft Powerpoint.
PS! Making buttons like this from Powerpoint only works in Windows, it will not work on a Mac!
What will work on both in Windows, Linux and on a Mac, however, is pasting regular images into the wiki article. And now I’ll show you how to create a link to another wiki-article, so that when a users clicks on an image, that article will load. This method works both for regular images and images created with Powerpoint:
That’s it. Now the image will contain a link that will open the wiki page you linked to. Save the wiki article and test that everything works fine (it should).
I’m not saying this is the perfect way to construct wikis, but in my experience it does make wikis look nice and easier to use. And it’s really easy to learn how to do it, without becoming an HTML expert. Of course, if you do know HTML, you can make some pretty impressive wiki designs, but I wanted to show you an easy trick which is more achievable for everyone.
Did you like this tip? Leave a comment either here or on the social media platform where you found it! And give me a follow!