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september 28, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things ...

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. these are a few of my favourite things."

Connections 4 has been out now since September 7th and since then I've been playing around with it on our own demo environment which we are preparing for our Connections 4 Testdrive on October 4 in Rotterdam. And yes, it has a few of my favourite things... .

Of course there was the already familiar bits announced through webcasts and even from way back Lotusphere in January through slides and demos. Yet, there is nothing like test driving something yourself!

I have even found some little cool things that I did not see in any of the demos I watched. This is not a full list of all new features, and definitely not a full list of everything that's great about IBM Connections. But it is an overview of some great enhancements that allow employees to do their work efficiently.

Most of the improvements in Connections 4 are about context.
This means: getting information presented within the same context without having to move from one page to another or switch applications. The next paragraphs will show what some new features have in common with the concept context.

1.    The embedded experience in the new Activity Stream. For example when a colleague shares a file and I'm seeing this because I follow the colleague (or the community where the content was published) I can take action immediately from the Activity Stream. The possible actions depend on what is posted, but for instance with a shared file I can download the file directly without having to go to the file page first, or view the comments, and even make a new comment myself! The embedded experience saves me time and focus, because I don't have to click through separate windows.

2.    Second is the Mail and Calendar integration. As I mentioned in my blog post earlier, integrated Mail and Calendar allows me to do my work from one entry point for about 90% of my work. No need to switch back and forth between Connections and Mail/Calendar, as I can quickly see new mail arriving within Connections and responding to it without having to leave my browser. Most Mail functionality that I use on a daily basis is available through integrated Mail, and if not, I can easily go to my webmail from there and do more advanced stuff in my Mail or Calendar.

3.    I can Repost a Statusupdate so the information becomes available to my network as well. This is particularly valuable because it broadens the reach of information through networks of networks, as explained in an earlier post about the Strength of weak ties. Being able to repost a message is an easy way of sharing to my network what someone else has said, without having to send links (via email) to colleagues.
4.    Somewhat the same idea is the Share button, that is available always at the top of the screen, no matter what page I am on. When I find interesting information I can share this as a Statusupdate within my network by clicking this Share button.
5.    Fifth is the improvements to Communities which allow me to stay within the context of my community work. To prevent information overload or to focus solely on what's going on in a particular Community I can use the new Recent Updates view in the Community. In one single overview I'm up to speed again with everything that's been going on there.

Of course the possibility to post Statusupdates to a particular Community helps to prevent information overload as well. Instead of posting a Statusupdate to the whole organisation (anyone who is following me), I can direct certain information to a specific target group through posting it to a specific Community.

Events are a great way of making Communities all about work. All the meetings important to Community members can be posted as an event, to which any member can subscribe. Why not just use the Lotus Notes (or Outlook) Calendar scheduling instead? I can give some arguments for working openly through Community events.

·       Because meeting invitations sent to particular people will only attract these people, and nobody else will know about them, eliminating serendipity. It could be someone else in your organisation is interested, or could provide input or help with an event. But they can't if they don't know about the event.
·       Another reason is that when the event is for a large group of invitees, the organiser might not be interested in accept/decline messages. With events, there is no such thing. Members simply add the event to their Calendar through iCal subscription.
·       If the team or department for which the meeting is intended changes members (new employees, employees leaving the organisation) the organiser might forget to alert the new members and they don't get invited. In the case of a Community event, they can simply add the event to their Calendar themselves.

6.    As for the previously mentioned Statusupdates, they offer some more improvements that provide contextual work. Both Statusupdates on the Home page as within a Community allow you to include a file (uploaded or from Files). This way I can post a status message related to a file and give readers the opportunity to access that file right from the embedded experience. No need to copy/paste file url's or refer readers to another location. Again this embedded experience helps employees remain in the same context, not having to switch back and forth to different pages.
7.    And of course there is the hashtag (#). Using hashtags in Statusupdates makes information easier to find. Tagging your Statusupdates keywords with the '#' turns them into tags. And the new search functionality allows me to search through Statusupdates as well. This is bringing Statusupdates information within the context of all content, whereas before the information in Statusupdates sort of got lost because there was no way of searching for it.
8.    To make it easier for people to start using files instead of working locally with My Documents on their computer, the Bulk file upload is a welcome gift. Whether from the Explorer Plugin or from the browser employees can upload multipe files at once, and even add/change tags for multiple files at once. Once employees have their most used files in Connections there will be less chance that they will resort to emailing attachments, and they are more likely to remain working in Connections.

9.    Discuss This is a means to bring information that is somewhere on the internet into your organisation to discuss it within the context of an interest group. Any page can be discussed in a Forum. Discuss This takes the information that's outside of the organisation, and makes it into a topic in a Forum of your choice. Without having to copy/paste url's, it simply creates the link. Anything on the internet that you wish to discuss further with a group of people can be drawn in to the Community that it is relevant to.
10. With Related Communities different Connections Communities can be bridged, so that Community members get all relevant information delivered within the same context.
A Related Community shows up on the overview page and pulls in recent activity from one into the other. It could be that you wish to bridge two Communities on the same Connections environment. Maybe because they are covering the same or are somewhat related. It could be a project Community that wants to bridge work done in another project because what happens in one is relevant for the other. Even Communities on different Connections environments can be bridged. Thus allowing to collaborate in two environments without losing oversight. Maybe you have an internal directed Community on one server, and an external directed one on another where you collaborate with clients or partners. From the internal Community you can relate the external Community to it, so you can keep track of what's going on in both all from the same context.

september 12, 2012

Testdrive IBM Connections 4 on October 4

sustainable highway to improve internal collaboration and knowledge

e-office would like to invite you to get acquainted with IBM Connections 4 - the latest version of the collaboration platform from IBM -on October 4.

IBM Connections is social software for the leading collaboration and knowledge sharing easy. The new version makes it possible to no longer work from your inbox. In Connections 4 are all sources of information and actions together. Connections 4 offers can also be integration with SharePoint, making it an integrated workplace for employees arises.

Are you ready for this way of working? Come experience Connections 4 and see for yourself. On October 4, you can use the software hands-on. Even if you do not know IBM Connections this is a great event to start discover the capabilities of the software.

As e-office, we are convinced that our future as effective, sustainable and profitable organizations lies in solutions that are possible with IBM Connections. On October 4, besides a test drive of Connections 4, we offer you an additional testdrive: in an electric car. All participants can drive several electric cars during lunch time. 

Donderdag 4 oktober, 9.30 – 14.00 uur

Elektrisch Vervoer Centrum Rotterdam, Delftseplein 24, Rotterdam

9.30 uur    Reception in Rotterdam
9.45 uur    vision on social business  
                Roland Hameeteman, ceo e-office 
10.00 uur  introducing IBM Connections 
                Luis Benitez, social software product manager IBM
11.00 uur  break
11.15 uur  testdrive Connections 4  
                Sasja Beerendonk, social business strategist & trainer, e-office
12.45 uur  lunch & testdrive e-cars 
14.00 uur  roundup (and return e-cars) 

sign up

You can register via the registration form.

Do you have a preference for a particular electric car? Look here for the list of available vehicles and give your preference to us via the registration form!

Note: for the test drive yYou need a valid drivers license.

september 09, 2012

Change habits with Connections Mail integration

With IBM Connections 4 being released a few days ago the discussion about Mail starts again. As you may know, IBM Connections integrates Mail and Calendar into the browser window. Is integrating Mail into social software a contradiction? Should users not just start using the social software tools instead if e-mail?

Lately I have been talking a lot with customers, thought leaders, colleagues and business partners about IBM Connections Mail (and Calendar). Mail has become something ambiguous these days. There are those, mostly innovators and forerunners, that believe using e-mail is not done, almost something to be ashamed about. They fully embrace social and the new way of communicating and interacting that comes with it. As do I, being an adoption specialist, ofcourse.

I love social and the new way of working (I call this work21) that comes with it. I am a strong believer in IBM Connections for companies to become more agile. I will advocate working openly at any time. In fact I use e-mail less and less in favour of statusupdates, blogs etcetera.

And there are those who are using e-mail all the time as it has been their primary tool for getting work done for about twenty years. And they wholeheartedly believe e-mail is going to stay forever as it is now, and social is not for them, or just a passing phase.

It seems many of the advocates of social are horrified with the idea though that IBM Connections 4 integrates Mail (I never hear them say anything about the Calendar actually). Their point usually being email is a bad way of communicating and should be replaced by Connections social functionality.

But this is, to me, such a harsh stand to make. This will work out fine for 1st wave adopters, but in my opinion is only going to put second wave adopters off. As an adoption specialist I am very much aware of how social software is impacting the way of work. Basically, employees and organisations as a whole need to change their way of working. By now I think it is generally accepted to say that they will not just come if you build it. Adoption is very much necessary, however easy to use a software tool may or may not be.

Adoption is about changing behaviour. The innovators that have long moved to working open and social are amongst the 1st wave adopters. Quite often using new software such as IBM Connections is part of their work. And there's the point I am trying to make: the employees that are now using email as their primary tool for communication and collaboration don't just 'get it'. They need to be taken in to a new way of working, until it becomes natural to them. Unlike 1st wave adopters their work is NOT using new social software. In fact, they might not even enjoy using software at all! Any software to them is just a means to an end. Until the new way of working becomes natural to employees, they will fall back on the tools they know: Email.

Habits die hard. Once you are familiar with a way of working, you're not likely to change that over night. And this is exactly why I think integrating Mail into IBM Connections is so great. It makes it easier for employees to ease their way in to Connections. It takes the familiar way of working into the new environment. It allows for people to work in a browser with their e-mail and calendar, within the context of social. It takes away having to switch between two environments, therefore improving the chance of staying in Connections. Making it easier to transition to social tooling, because they get familiar with the user interface and might see others working in a social manner which will show them the way.

Luring them in, is wat Mail integration does. And once in they will surely start seeing the benefit of social. Why? Because they start to familiarize themselves and they will see some of their peers using it. Because change is social. Change is a process, not a one-off event and takes time. And change is made real by what people do! Once in Connections employees see what others are doing, and are more likely to try it out themselves given a little time to get more familiar. This is what Mail integration does: give 2nd wave adopters a chance and the time to adapt to social collaboration.

Watch this demo of the IBM Connections 4 homepage to see Mail integration in action (among other things).


impression of UKLUG 2012

Last monday and tuesday I was at UKLUG, the UK Lotus User Group, which this year was being held at Cardiff University. First of all, Cardiff is a beautiful little city, located on the coast and the city centre very pedestrian and cycling friendly, with beautiful shops which unfortunately I didn't have time to visit.

As a speaker I did visit Cardiff Castle. We enjoyed a fun short tour of the castle followed by a dinner at the former servants area. A speakers dinner is a great way to get to know some of the other speakers and organisers. Since I am fairly new at this type of thing it's an excellent way of getting in touch so the first day of the event you feel a little familiar already.

At the first day some of the people had a little trouble finding this particular university building, so we started a little late. The opening presentation was done by Uffe Sorensen, Social Business and Collaboration Director of IBM Software Group, who took us on a tour from the early days of Lotus to the contemporary Notes Social Edition.

Some ofthe highlights of the two-day event for me were Simon Vaughn's and Jon Scott's presentation 'Targeting an Exceptional User experience - Connections in Education'. I loved how Cardiff is looking at 'what student excpect from their IT environment'. After all they are the employees of the future!

During lunch break the first day, Nerd Girls hosted by Gabriella Davies, organised a 'Spark Ideas' session. Kind of like TED talks. A short (5min) freeform talk started at Lotusphere 2012, from anyone who has an inspirational story to share. Really nice to attend. I hope they will be doing this again at Social Connections IV in Amsterdam on 30th of November.

For all the admins and developers there were plenty of technical sessions to attend by some great thought leaders from around the world, such as Paul Withers, John Head, Sharon Bellamy, Gabriella Davies, Paul Moony and many others. There were actually quite a few presentations on XPages, amongst which one of my colleague Frank van der Linden about 'Yellow and Blue stream - Make use of the Activity Stream, oAuth and XPages in your Social Business applications' . Also I enjoyed the two bickering brothers Roy and Tony Holder presenting their great HADSL FirM engine in 'User Management - How to improve service and security while reducing costs'. Ofcourse I won their give away iPad so I will love them forever.

I loved Mat Newman's session 'Lotus Notes, Yeah Baby, Yeah...'. In a very enthusiastic manner he talked about all the cool features of Lotus Notes. One thing struck me most: he said "if your users are not using it, it's your fault!" (receiving a hearhear from Susan Bulloch) Something I recognize very much. Often at user adoption sessions with clients on Lotus Notes I find a lot of the cool stuff not being properly implemented or known by IT. Take the Sidebar for example, which can be used for many great things by adding great widgets. Mat showed us some really nice widgets that can be installed in seconds which make work so much more efficient....and fun!

Mat wore a Yellow&Blue outfit, unknowingly (surely), advocating the e-office Yellow&Blue vision on the new way if working. So thanks for that Mat!
If ever you have time to attend one of her sessions, go see Susan Bulloch! She did two sessions of which I attended 'Troubleshooting C&S in Notes'. She dynamically presented about all the difficulties admins may encounter with Calendar and Scheduling in Lotus Notes. It seemed like the large group of attendees recognized the issues and she gave some great solutions on how to go about it. Allthough being an IBM'er, she wasn't shy to be critical of some things herself, while at the same time showing a deep love of Lotus Notes. I have to figure out how she was doing the remote control presenting from her iPhone!

The two days were so packed with interesting stuff, that it is impossible to mention everything. You really have to come see for yourself! Or go get the slides from the UKLUG website. In the meantime, you may want to attend some IBM sessions on Connections 4: september 19 in Amsterdam and september 25 in Brussels. Or join the Connections 4 testdrive on October 4 in Rotterdam (Netherlands), and ofcourse Social Connections IV on November 30 in Amsterdam! Plenty of events to learn more and meet people!