IBM Connections Cloud maintenance screenshot

Giving the wrong impression

IBM Connections Cloud maintenance screenshotLike many long-time IBM Connections Cloud users, my muscle memory was to access the site via the lotuslive.com URL (the longest-lasting of the few brands that service has had over the years).

Sadly IBM has now retired this, and so collabserv.com seems to be the way to go (you may remember that my thoughts on that domain have never been particularly positive).  This is what you get when you arrive there – see the screenshot for full context:

Maintenance Window
In order to continue providing you quality service, we will be performing planned maintenance to the IBM Connections Cloud services on the following schedule

Now I’m not arguing that IBM doesn’t need to tell users (or at least organisation administrators) that there will be potential downtime in the near future, but it seems very curious to make this the ‘front and centre’ experience that all users see when going to the most obvious service URL. It appears to accentuate the fact that this isn’t an ‘always on’ service, and is something that I cannot imagine Google or Microsoft doing on their primary customer-facing home page for a paid service.

IBM Connections Cloud untrustedWhat makes this even more odd is that when the user then clicks on ‘Sign In’ to actually access their Connections Cloud account, they get a pop up that reads as follows (again, see the screenshot for context):

Leaving the IBM Web site
You are now leaving the IBM Web site. IBM makes no representations or warranties about any other Web site which you may access through this one. When you access non-IBM Web sites, even though they might contain the IBM logo and content regarding IBM’s products and services, such Web sites are independent of IBM and IBM has no control over the operation of non-IBM Web sites. In addition, a link to a non-IBM Web site does not mean that IBM endorses that Web site or has any responsibility for the use of such Web site.

Yep, you can’t make this up. This message actually suggests that the login to a customer’s paid Connections Cloud account is in some way untrustworthy. Again, hardly inspiring confidence in the service…

Now, I know there might be a better, more specific URL to use to login (Most likely https://apps.na.collabserv.com/), and some larger customers may have vanity URLs for their own Connections Cloud service. However, for the majority of accounts, including those new to the service, this is not a great customer experience.

Am I missing something? Is there a better route into Connections Cloud for the uninitiated?

Either way, I see no reason why this experience shouldn’t be improved for those that hit that collabserv.com URL themselves.

Speaking at MWLUG 2016: The Anatomy of the Perfect Use Case

I always feel a frisson of excitement when arriving at an airport ready for an international flight, and the anticipation is even more evident when it’s a long haul trip. And so it is today, sat in the BA lounge overlooking the tarmac of Heathrow’s eastern runway and T5 apron.

Heathrow plane watching

On this occasion I am delighted that it is Austin in Texas that’s the destination, and the purpose of the whirlwind 72 hour trip is to attend MWLUG for the first time. I first visited Austin back in 1998 to attend an IBM study tour, truly loved the vibe that the city has, and so I’m delighted to return once again almost two decades later.

MWLUG 2016

So what is MWLUG I hear (some of) you cry? The Mid West Lotus User Group.

Of course, Lotus as a brand is long gone, but the community and culture that surrounds the ICS products and collaborative vision definitely remain. MWLUG is a great example of the role and importance of the user groups in fostering and maintaining the community beyond the efforts of the vendor itself. From afar, I’ve always been left impressed by the efforts of Richard Moy and his team of volunteers in putting on such a professional event, as well as having the drive and determination to continue to look for new venues across the US – the scope has definitely widened far beyond the Mid West at this point!

This is my first user group event since leaving Jive, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with so many long-time friends after a couple of years away.

I’m also delighted to be presenting tomorrow afternoon at 5:45pm in session BP107, entitled ‘The Anatomy of the Perfect Collaboration Use Case’. This is a deck that I presented last Autumn at Social Connections 9 in Germany, but has been significantly enhanced based on the projects I’ve delivered since, as well as refocusing on the options available to IBM customers. Here’s the abstract:

Build it and they will come? By now, surely we should all be aware this is not the case.

Social and collaboration platforms need to provide demonstrable value, whether in productivity terms for the individual users, or in business value to the organisations involved. Therefore it is imperative that users know why they and how they should come together to use the platform in a strategic manner, to achieve a defined goal.

Join this session to hear why this means that platform owners and community managers must develop a roadmap of clearly defined and understood ‘use cases’, the factors and challenges that you need to consider, and how best to support the use cases within your deployment and launch strategy.

So if you’re at the event, please join me, or at least make sure you say Hi in the corridors of the Four Seasons, Austin. I always love to meet new community folks, particularly to hear how and why you’re deploying social collaboration technology to aid your business and support new ways of enabling your employees to connect and communicate.

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A compelling new multinational insurance ESN case study

It’s always good to read a successful customer reference story, particularly when the organisation’s culture and productivity has truly been revolutionised by deploying a new internal community. 

UNIQA logoThis is definitely the case with this new case study, featuring UNIQA Insurance Group. Based in Vienna, UNIQA have grown incredibly quickly over the past decade, particularly via a push into Central and Eastern Europe.  This has left them with a number of substantial challenges in terms of communications and alignment across these varied markets and native languages:

Jive Software, Inc. today announced that UNIQA Insurance Group AG (UNIQA Group), a leading European insurance group, launched a new Jive-powered Interactive Intranet to strengthen strategic alignment and employee engagement across its global workforce. With this modern corporate communications solution, the rapidly growing company is cultivating a more transparent, unified culture, while gaining a better understanding of the reach and impact of its internal messages.


UNIQA Insurance Group AG (UNIQA Group), a leading European insurance group, launched a new Jive-powered Interactive Intranet to strengthen strategic alignment and employee engagement across its global workforce

Over the past fifteen years, UNIQA Group acquired several insurance companies during its push into Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The business is now one of the leading insurance groups in its core markets of Austria and CEE, serving more than 10 million customers in 19 countries. UNIQA’s 100 percent subsidiary, UNIQA International, manages 15 markets in the CEE growth region-most of which operate with different languages, cultures and other regional distinctions. The company’s international communications team struggled to efficiently deliver announcements and messages to various countries via email, multiple disconnected static intranets and expensive in-person meetings.

“As we expand, we’re striving to be a different kind of insurer. The cornerstone of our operations is companywide personal contact and direct collaboration amongst all employees throughout our countries and local branches,” said Gabriela Rusu, head of group communication at UNIQA. “Jive will bring us a big step forward in this journey by connecting those offices, and facilitating employee engagement and change management. We made the switch to Jive’s Interactive Intranet because we need a secure, cloud-based solution-with both powerful communications and collaboration functionality that save the organization significant time and money.”  

The interactive intranet-dubbed “UNIQAspace”-launched this summer to facilitate captivating communications that reach thousands of employees across all of the company’s markets. Underpinned by Jive, the solution makes it easy for executives to interact with employees through blogs and videos. People can ask questions, comment, share and discuss-opening up transparent dialogue between executives and country teams that fosters alignment around the company’s vision. UNIQAspace also provides consumer-style mobile apps with easy ways for employees to get company news, stay connected and participate wherever they go.

More >

I had the pleasure of working with UNIQA on the early stages of this project, and it’s been hugely rewarding to hear how well UNIQAspace has been received by their employees, and to see the transformational shift that is taking place in their international communications, knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

UNIQA are a good example of an organisation that has grown quickly, primarily by acquisition then followed by organic growth, where the existing centrally-published intranet and communications methodology simply hadn’t kept up with the demands of a relatively young, multi-national and multi-lingual workforce. Shifting to a open, transparent and collaborative work style via a cloud-based community has empowered employees, created opportunities for cross-team engagement, and ensured that all countries are representated, heard and understood.

Document management

Document management in online communities

One of the key differentiators between the community solutions developed by Jive Software and those from IBM and Microsoft (talking Sharepoint rather than Yammer) is the relative lack of focus on the requirement for document management.

Document management

That’s not to say that Jive platforms do not allow the sharing and management of documents – far from it – but that instead, these are simply embedded within the standard content types and information architecture of the platform rather than treated as a specific pillar of the platform itself.

Jive Software logoJust as a user can create a native Jive document or discussion, so they can upload a file (e.g. a Word document) that can be previewed, downloaded, commented on, updated by others and managed from a version perspective. However, these files do not have a hierarchy beyond the place containers they reside within – there’s no concept of folders or libraries for instance. Files are primarily stored within Jive documents (or can be attached to other content types), and are managed using the same tags and categories that apply to all other content.

At the end of the day, in Jive communities, files are just one of the many ways in which users can collaborate. In many situations they are actually discouraged – group and team work can be much more effective when using native content types than when having to deal with the upload/download of sizeable files, the need for compatible editor support and so on.

This differs from IBM Connections in a pretty significant way…

IBM ConnectionsFile sharing was added to the IBM Connections product back the 2.5 release in 2009 alongside Wikis (back when it was still badged as Lotus Connections).

Initially, IBM seemed to envisage this support as being intended for lightweight social file sharing – the file management features were limited, meta data was very simplistic and all files were shared at a single level, relying on tags to provide any structure required. Right from the first implementations of Connections 2.5 it was pretty clear that this was not going to be enough for most IBM customers. Whether because users were typically migrating from Lotus Quickr or Domino Team Rooms, or because Connections customers tended to be large enterprises that had become conditioned to heavy use of document and content management platforms, users were adamant that they needed hierarchical storage architectures, heavy-duty file meta-data, complex library permissions and so on.

IBM responded to these demands by steadily adding more features to the Files feature in subsequent Connections releases. From the Windows Explorer connector to allow direct browsing of files from the desktop, through folder support (firstly for standalone files and then within communities), then the addition of industrial-grade Connections Content Manager (CCM) file libraries (built on IBM FileNet), to document editing and preview in IBM Docs and so on.  Looking at the Connections portfolio from the outside last year, it seemed as if almost every new Connections feature and enhancement was somehow related to the management of files in the platform! (I’m sure that wasn’t the reality, but that was how it read from the press releases and announcement letters.)

Personally, I find this difficult to comprehend (and I’ve had long and passionate discussions with both IBM product managers and IBM partners about this topic). I find files (particularly Microsoft Office documents) to be fine for point-in-time exports of collaborative content, workflows or decisions, but they are not supportive of productive team or community thinking, discussion or working in a general sense.

File formatsThere are, of course, situations where files are necessary – for example a creative team working on an image or video that needs to be shared outside the organisation, or a finance team working on a complex report. However, in the vast majority of situations, my personal belief is that the content should be stored in a native form in the best application to support the act of working together around that information, decision or process.  For most general knowledge work, that should likely be a native document, question or discussion in the collaborative platform, rather than a proprietary file that then needs to be managed as a separate entity. In addition, I continue to propose that folksonomy almost always beats taxonomy when it comes to collaborative use cases, and therefore that tags and categories are more appropriate ways to manage information than hierarchical folders.

HierarchySadly, but probably inevitably, I seem to be in the minority on this discussion. So many people (particularly those in their 30s and 40s) remain so subconsciously wedded to the concept of their knowledge being stored in a collection of files in a hierarchy of folders, all still named with long-unnecessary legacy three-character file extensions. It’s these folks that are demanding that IBM support this out-dated means of working within Connections, and thus it’s perfectly understandable that IBM is responding by supporting this left-over 1980s paradigm within Connections.

Why the difference between IBM and Jive customer demands?

Interestingly, in my time as a Jive Software strategist, I was rarely asked for similar file management features within Jive-n communities, whereas when working with Connections the requirement came up in virtually every workshop. There seemed to be a general understanding that a change in work culture was required in their organisations, and thus the deployment of a new community was more than simply a new platform, it required users to adopt new practices and work styles.

A second factor that often came into play is that most Jive customers also had another document management solution in place, whether for specific use cases, or for general access across the organisation – usually this was Microsoft Sharepoint. Typically this was universally detested by the users – described as unintuitive, hard to manage and impossible to search – but provided enough functionality that it could be left to handle the specific use cases where large-scale file storage was required.  This is less common in the IBM world where Domino is more common as the legacy team collaboration platform, and where Sharepoint can sometimes be seen as the enemy.  That’s not to say that I would propose anyone deploy Sharepoint specifically for document management (there are better tools out there if that is what is required), but simply that ‘good enough‘ is sometimes all that is needed for specific use cases that cannot be supported yet in the common collaboration platform.

But what if I want document management in my Jive community?

All that said (and I really do hope and believe that file management will no longer be an issue in 5-10 years time), it is good to have options and alternatives – no matter what your community platform of choice.  Therefore I am pleased that there is a new option for Jive customers… fme Document Manager for Jive.

This partner extension for Jive, gives a brand new way to explore your files stored in the community, allowing documents to be found more quickly, files to be uploaded in bulk, inline metadata editing and direct support for almost all office applications (rather than just Microsoft Office). This 10-minute demo video covers it well:

As I made clear above, I would love us to look to transition away from formal file and document management as our primary technique for collaboration. However, if this is still required for your use cases, then do take a look a fme’s product datasheet and contact either myself or fme direct if you need more info or to discuss the options available.

Thinking of launching your own online ESN or external community?

First of all, consider each and every requirement as an individual use case, that requires its own definition, configuration and community management. As part of the definition process, one of the key discussion points is to look at how the business processes and workflows can be best supported in the community – what content types, functionality and user interactions are required.  Only once these aspects are understood then look at what content types and/or files are required…

If formal document management is a necessity, then that ‘s the point at which to start considering whether something integrated like CCM or the fme solution is required, or whether those specific use cases would be better supported on a more formal and structured platform.

How do you approach this topic? Are you an advocate for document management, or do you believe that more open and unstructured collaboration is the correct approach? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Slumped

The real reason for the forty-hour work week

The eight-hour workday developed during the industrial revolution in Britain in the 19th century, as a respite for factory workers who were being exploited with 14- or 16-hour workdays.

As technologies and methods advanced, workers in all industries became able to produce much more value in a shorter amount of time. You’d think this would lead to shorter workdays.

But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

Interesting perspective.

I’m seeing this in my own life. Repeatedly working a strict 8-hour day (plus travel) leaves me tired, time-poor and far too quick to choose to purchase (food, electronics etc.) as a way to make things more ‘easy’ and ‘enjoyable’. Working a more flexible schedule with correctly-set priorities (focusing on my own health, family and community) leads to a much more satisfactory financial and lifestyle balance.

More > (well worth reading in full… h/t to Jon Husband for the link)

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GoPro introduce new backpack and cycle mounts

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how often we’ve used the GoPro Hero cameras that we’ve owned for the past three years, and whilst we’re not that active a family, there’s barely a week that goes by without some opportunity for capturing footage – cycling, hiking, skiing, sailing and the like. There are plans afoot to buy an additional camera or two some time soon in order to offer more options when on the go or during group activities.

As many other GoPro owners have found, there’s an element of addiction involved – the range of GoPro and third-party mounts and attachments available lead the user to think there’s always a better way to capture more compelling shots and viewpoints. Also, as the cameras are often most actively used when already wearing or carrying bulky equipment, new options that make it easier to carry, attach or detach the devices are of interest.

GoPro’s own options tend to be pretty expensive to acquire, but are typically of high quality, and give that reassurance that they’re not going to break whilst in use. There’s no doubt that there is a ‘GoPro tax’ at work (as there is with Apple), but my opinion is that in most cases it is a cost worth paying to acquire equipment offering the most utility and style, with the least risk.

So with that perspective in mind, I’m interested in the announcements that GoPro have made in the past week:

  • The Seeker backpack – a new 16L weather-resistant sportpack, with space for your personal gear plus compartments for up to five GoPro cameras and a pocket that accommodates your own hydration system. Features built-in chest and shoulder mounts which make it easy to attach the GoPro to the pack itself, plus a system of pockets and clips to hold a 3-Way for over-the-shoulder shots.GoPro Seeker backpack
  • The Pro Seat Rail Mount – a new discrete and streamlined mount for rearward-facing cycle shots, with simple one-screen mount for attachment to twin-rail saddles. Great for capturing race footage or for safety purposes on commutes.GoPro Pro Seat Rail mount
  • The new Pro Handlebar / Seatpost / Pole Mount – a super compact (and expensive) aluminum mount designed for serious cyclists and bikers, which rotates 360° and fits 22.2mm to 35mm diameter tubes.GoPro Pro Handlebar/seatpost/pole Mount
  • There is also a new side and rear helmet mount, but I’m personally less-than-keen on any options that compromise helmet safety.

Of the new models, it’s the backpack that tempts me most. Reviews suggest it’s super high-quality, accommodates a 13″ MacBook or iPad Pro, and the mount and hydration options look perfect for the majority of my use cases:

It is $170/£150 so you will be paying a premium for the brand, but the three mount options included are really attractive (plus potentially there is a fourth by attaching a helmet mount to the rear of the pack). Get it from GoPro or from Amazon.

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18 tips for success

  1. Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.
  2. Be visible – get out there and sell yourself.
  3. Choose your name wisely.
  4. You can’t run a business without taking risks.
  5. The first impression is everything. So is the second.
  6. Perfection is unattainable.
  7. The customer is always right, most of the time.
  8. Define your brand.
  9. Explore uncharted territory – lots of things haven’t yet been discovered.
  10. Beware the “us vs. them” environment.
  11. Build a corporate comfort zone – so people can openly express themselves without rigid confines.
  12. Not everyone is suited to be a CEO.
  13. Seek a second opinion. Seek a third.
  14. Cut ties without burning bridges.
  15. Pick up the phone – don’t text or email when you should be calling.
  16. Change shouldn’t be feared, but it should be managed.
  17. When it comes to making mistakes, bounce back, don’t fall down.
  18. Be a leader, not a boss.

– Richard Branson

I was reminded of this list by a friend just this morning, so noting it here. It’s remarkable how consistently accurate and relevant the advice has proven to be over the years. 

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The ‘first-hour rule’

We all have tough projects we’d like to tackle, but we just can’t. It seems so big, we don’t know where to start. We’re full of fear even when we think about starting.
Making things is one big battle with the Pressfieldian Resistance. However, with a little Motivational Judo, you can lay The Resistance flat on its back. I call this move the First-Hour Rule.

With the First-Hour Rule, you commit to working on that tough project for the first hour of each day. When that hour is up, you stop if you want to. If you really want to keep going, you do.

Simple concept, but I find it works well… Tackle that challenge head on, and do battle in the most productive hour of the day.

More >

Slack banner

Calls come to Slack

Typing is great. We love typing. And while there are many fine ways to communicate via typing — messaging in channels, direct messages, and group DMs — today we’re officially adding calls to the mix for everyone.
Slack call feature
After months of beta testing, all Slack users everywhere can now use our calls feature. Huzzah!

Little explanation required. 1:1 calls now included at no cost for all Slack users, with group calls included in paid plans. Just like that, Slack reduces the need for both Skype and phone conference services for many teams.

(On a personal note – if Slack would just properly enable local recording of calls within the app then this would be a great solution for podcasters too)

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