ISBG Day 1 : External Users in IBM Connections

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.

ISBG Day 1: The Weather Makes You Change Cell Phone Provider

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.

ISBG Day 2

isbg t-shirt
The ISBG t-shirt, signalling the transition from the old LSBG

I was glad I went to bed early after Day 1. I think I was more ready for this day than certain other people I talked to… On to the sessions:

An Introduction to Working With the Activity Stream
This was one of my favorite sessions. It was presented by Mikkel Flindt Heisterberg from Intravision. However tired we are of the expression “social,” there’s no doubt that people these days expect to have the same social possibilities at work that they have on their computers, mobiles and pads.

We are moving away from emails to activity streams. The latter won’t replace email, but a lot of the unnecessary emails you receive can be replaced with activity streams. However, it’s important to note that the activity stream is not an inbox. As things are pushed down in the stream, they will eventually disappear.

Mikkel talked about how you can use the http protocol and REST APIs to interact with the activity stream in IBM Connections. Http is so much more than people think. You have several components in a URL stream, like POST, GET, PUT and so on.

The session was very technical and while I certainly understand the principles behind this, I will need to start testing this for myself, to see how we can use it in my workplace.

However, it should be used with caution. Spamming people’s news and activity streams is not the way to go. The challenges are therefore not just technical, they are also organizational and ethical.

Planning and Designing For Your First Connections Install
Gabriella Davis from the Turtle Partnership went through all the steps for an installation of IBM Connections. This included planning on how to use IBM Connections within your infrastructure, what servers and software you need to download, where to get the software, what kind of hardware do you need, how do you get it up and running and also how you should prepare and train your users.

For me this was a useful session, because I finally learned exactly what components that makes up an IBM Connections installation. Our site was installed and set up by IBM, and I really had no clue to what the components of the product really were. Now I do.

Gabriella also said that she discouraged installing a subset of Connections. Install everything, and then decide what you want to use. This because quite a lot of the applications depended on each other.

Also: Clean up your LDAP data before you export them into Connections. And make sure that you have all systems that should have single signon on the same domain. This is something that we learned the hard way at my company…

Mastering Eclipse in IBM Notes the Easy Way
Another lecture by Panagenda. The jury is still out on whether it was a good idea to integrate Eclipse into Notes, after all, the Notes client is now more than bloated, consisting of over 20 00 files, spread out over 4000 sub directories.

What the Eclipse platform does, though, is giving you the opportunity to create and distribute plugins. This can be done manually, or via policies on the Domino server. This is however a pain in the ass so Panagenda has developed a tool for making the distribution of such plugins easier and more foolproof.

Effective Flow of Information with IBM Connections and CMS
Another highlight for me. In my company, we are constantly trying to reduce the number of systems we are running, and preferably we want to run as much as possible from within IBM Connections.

This is what Alere, a producer of medical laboratory equipment, does with their content management system for their extranet. By combining they’re Enonic CMS with IBM Connections, they can, with the help of predefined tags, publish files and information straight out onto their extranet, which over 300 distributors are using.

This makes it much easier to publish new information about their products, since the persons responsible for the products can post this directly, without having to go through a workflow involving the web staff.

With the help of Blogs in IBM Connections, Alere could also answer questions, suggestions and feedback from their distributors in a much more effective way than via email. In addition, other distributors could also take part in the discussion, something that wouldn’t be possible if Alere only used email for this.

I was personally very interested in this solution and I’ve requested a demo.

Status for IBM Collaboration in Norway
Morten Meier, Nordic Chief for Partners and Sales, gave us a status about IBM’s results, focus areas and successes within Social Business in Norway.

IBM has 49 000 social business customers globally, and the number of partners and certifications are increasing. IBM is, according to Gartner, the leading social business software house. In addition, over 2000 customers have returned to the IBM Notes/Domino platform.

The reviews for IBM Notes 9 Social Edition have been great, and the media publicity have been very positive. In short: The sun is shining.

When Morten was finished I had to grab my bags and make a run for it, because he was my ride to Oslo.

The seminar was well worth the trip, and it was really nice to meet partners that I’ve only communicated with via email or phone. I will definitely make it to the next one, I might even do a presentation…

 

ISBG Day 1

I attended the ISBG (IBM samhandling brukergruppe), formerly known as the Norwegian Lotus user group, at Farris bad (a spa and hotel) in Larvik on Wednesday and Thursday.  This was the first time I attended the group’s meeting, even if my previous employers have been members.

I didn’t get to see much of Larvik, but the hotel, Farris bad, was a really nice place. My room was directly above the sea, and I fell asleep, and woke up to the sound of waves crashing onto the shore and beach.

From Lotus Notes to IBM’s Platform for Social Busniess – the journey continues

farris bad
Farris bad

Michael Wuerdemann from IBM started his presentation by showing a commercial from IBM about their commitment to social business. When the video ended, the Lotus logo appeared. This took quite a few people by surprise, but that’s when the ball was dropped: The commercial was ten years old.

Michael did this to show that IBM’s commitment to social is not something new, they’ve been focusing on this for a long time. He then showed IBM’s newest commercial. It’s not half as catchy as Microsoft ‘s commercial for Windows 8, but the point is that IBM is thinking social solutions, and not technology and platforms.

He pointed out that users are used to social tools in their private life, and that they expect this at their workplace as well. The problem, he said, is that workers are often ahead of their companies, and they start sharing business sensitive information on Facebook, Yammer and other social networks. IBM’s solutions can meet this problem.

Of course he also mentioned IBM’s cloud business, which also has a center in the EU now. IBM gives you the possibility to either run your own private cloud on your premises, or normal cloud computing.

He then moved on to comparisons between Notes/Domino vs Micosofts’s solutions. IBM has finally coughed up the Domino Migration tool for migrating from Exchange to Domino, but I haven’t heard non biased information about this tool yet. It will also be possible to use REST to access Notes databases. Maybe I misunderstood him on this, and it’s already possible. I haven’t tried it, but if true, it’s certainly a huge leap forward.

Before the break he talked about how Quickr had been an attempt to meet the bad feedback Files got in IBM Connections, something I myself have complained about (look for a future blog posting about this). This had been a mistake, according to Michael, and now that Quickr is shut down, Content Manager for Connections is what IBM will offer Quickr customers.

A Day in the Life of an IBM-er
After the break he showed us how an IBM-er works with Connections, and how Social Mail makes it easy to integrate Notes with Connections. I saw to my great satisfaction that everything he showed us are tools and methods we use at Brunvoll every day.

Teamstudio Unplugged
Arshad Khalid of Teamstudio showed us some very impressive mobile solutions for Notes databases. This is where I want Brunvoll to go. The possibility for working offline, and then synchronize any changes back into production, is something that we are in severe need of. Especially since our offline replication has become very complicated.

As Easy as Lego – Put it All Together Using a Widget Framework on Domino
Henrik Winkel from Opus Neo demonstrated the Neo dashboard, and how you can utilize and construct Widgets from sources like Notes applications, RSS feeds, blogs, video and IBM Connection. This is stuff I know quite a lot about, but it was nice to get a demo of the dashboard product.

Back to the Future: Understand and Optimize Your IBM Notes and Domino Infrastructure
I like Panagenda and their products, and I’m planning to test the Marvel Client in for pushing out Notes clients and policies.

The presentation was solid and about how you should go through your current infrastructure before planning for the future.

ISBG CSI4.0: What now? – Info and Team Activity for Everyone
First we were treated to a slightly confusing horror film about who killed Lotus, something that would have gone well together with my “RIP Lotus” badge. I’m not quite sure what the movie had to do with the assignments we were given.

The assignments were fun, though, and one member of my team surprised me with the facial recognition app on his Iphone. It recognized a young Freddie Mercury based on not much more than Mercury’s right eye. Impressive.

Spa & Relax
We now had two hours where we could enjoy the spa, something I didn’t. I went to the gym and lifted weigts before dinner. Maybe next time.

Dinner
We were treated to a three course dinner that was delicious. The prizes from the competition was handed out, and I just don’t understand how the points were calculated, considering that my team had answered more questions than the three teams that won. I think I’ll have to check the bank statements of that jury…

After several hours of magic tricks, good food and nice company, I threw in the towel around one o’clock. I fell asleep to, and woke up to, the waves hitting the beach. Wonderful.

Here’s my summary of Day 2.