Category Archives: IBM Connections

Roadmap of IBM Connections and IBM Connections Cloud (SmartCloud) Explained


(Note: because the features of IBM Connections is so tightly tied to releases in IBM Connections Cloud, this story applies to both)
On September 24th I published an article analyzing the Gartner report about Social business offerings.  In it I mentioned the lack of a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud (SmartCloud).  The issue keeps resurfacing.  So far it has been met mostly with diversions and redirects:  “Why do we need a roadmap published?” or “We already have webinars and meetings with customers and present the roadmap to them“. I will say Luis Benitez has done a great job of posting information in various external sources like this slideshare or  on his personal blog website (Still not official and only covers the Connections functionality of Connections Cloud and it not a roadmap).  And of course there is the official IBM wiki website with the “What’s New” posting highlighting some features after the update, although not all changes are mentioned here, like the update to the ActiveX control for Internet Explorer which was pushed out without warning last Wednesday, outside the usual maintenance window; and the post contains no history of earlier releases.  All of these are only partial lists of what features are being working on or have been released to the service and they miss some of the key points of a roadmap.  Perhaps the name Roadmap is misleading.  Timeline might be more accurate.  I will take a moment to clarify what exactly I am looking for in a roadmap and why I think it is so important.

A roadmap provides several things:
1.  A general description of each feature that is coming along with a target release date
2.  A detailed description of each feature that has been released along with the exact date
3.  An indication when a feature is cancelled or delayed (optional)
4.  A general vision into the progress of the service past and future that builds confidence and rapport

In detail:
1.  Future
A roadmap does not need to show the next 2 years of features coming. Requirements change too often to be reliable and it would be unwise to tip their hand and show the competition too much about what they are working on.  But it should show the short term list of features that are imminent, within the next 2 to 3 months.  Why is this so important?  Because Cloud is not like software.  First, there are no beta releases for us to play with in advance.  Second, there is no SPR listing for it like there is for software, like Notes/Domino.  Third, customers cannot chose to delay or avoid a release like they can with software updates.  Therefore we need enough advanced notice to prepare for the new features.  This often requires communications to our user communities of the impending changes.  Larger organizations often have a series of reviews that the communications must pass before being sent out. The help desk may need to get special instructions or at least be prepared for the calls that will inevitably be generated.  Administrators may need to request the feature be enabled once it is available, like using federated login method for mobile apps.
2. History
The single most important reason for posting the date a feature was added is for troubleshooting.  In an environment where the customer is controlling the installation of software, they can track when the software was installed or upgraded.  So correlations of when the change was made and when a problem started happening are possible.  This is not the case in a cloud service environment.  Therefore it becomes an essential role of the cloud provider to document and publish the dates that new features are released.  Without it, it can take much more time identifying and resolving issues.

3. Changes
Sometimes plans change. It is better to show the changes than to have them simply disappear. This is not a legal contract, only a guide to help inform the customers. Changes are OK.

4.  Credibility
Trust is essential to getting companies to buy into your solution.  The historical data will provide a track record that demonstrates how much work is continually going into improving the service which will build confidence in both current and potential customers.

For comparison,
Here is the roadmap (effectively) for Notes / Domino
Here is the roadmap of Google Apps for Work
Here is the roadmap for Microsoft Office 365

In other words, a roadmap doesn’t just show you what is coming, it also shows where you’ve been and where you are now.  Just like the GPS in your car shows where you are and the roads around you for safe navigation.  Without the ability to see these things, customers are driving blind.  That is why we need a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud.

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Quick Tip: Using the “like” feature in IBM Connections for more than just liking a file


The Like feature in IBM Connections is a great way to show you “Like” a file that has been posted.  But don’t get caught up in the mindset of Facebook “likes”.  This feature can also be a shortcut for a document review cycle.  Instead of creating todos in an Activity and assigning it to each person, you can just send them all the link and ask them to “Like” it when they finish their review.  Sounds almost too obvious, but I see people overlooking shortcuts like this often.  This applies to the “home” edition of IBM Connections as well as in IBM SmartCloud Connections.

LikeAFile1

LikeAFile2

New easy way to get your IBM software downloads via SmartCloud!


OK, you’ve seen my article giving a detailed review about how bad Passport Advantage website was for many years.  It took awhile to get fixed.  But for the most part, much of that has improved dramatically since – and at least partially because of – that article.  But downloads are still a bit of a pain.  That is, until now!

If you subscribe to SmartCloud Notes, you can get to your downloads in Passport Advantage directly from the Apps – Downloads and Setup menu.  It’s almost as good as the days before IBM, when it was just Lotus.  This feature is exposed only to SmartCloud administrators, as it should be.

There are many more features about to be released, but I was asked not to publish them in social media just yet.  Yeah, right. like giving your teenager the keys to the camaro on a Friday night and telling him to drive slow.  It seems every month there are new features surprising us in SmartCloud.  Cloud is really the wrong word.  It is such a breath of fresh air to see such dynamic, rapid deployment of software.  I have seen so many features that I personally suggested, getting deployed so quickly and frequently, you would think I was the Product Manager.  But why would IBM hire me when I already do the job for free?

OK, so I won’t break my oath to be quiet about the new features.  I will let IBM do that: https://apps.na.collabservtest.lotus.com/help/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.ibm.cloud.whatsnew.doc%2Fll_wn_whats_new.html

IBM Connections in the Cloud New Service Update!


So you aren’t a computer geek, but your job involves collaborating with others.  Do you use email?  Maybe share files and other content with people inside and outside your organization?  Maybe at work you bounce between email, calendar, todos, onenote, Sharepoint, Dropbox, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, AIM, Google Apps, Yammer, SurveyMonkey, Yahoo Groups (or some other discussion forum), Google+,  WordPress, LinkedIn.  Then you use email to tell everyone about things like when a task is due or when you have completed one.

You really NEED IBM Connections.  The only company to provide One Single, Seamless Ecosystem to do it all.  Not a piecemeal collection of disparate products.  Not a collection of products thrown together by company acquisitions and then rebranded as if from one company. Gartner even puts IBM’s social software ecosystem at the top of the class.  IBM SmartCloud for Social Business.
And the best way to do this is with their Cloud version.  ASK YOUR IT DIRECTOR OR CFO ABOUT IBM Connections and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business.

By the way, Connections in the Cloud (IBM SmartCloud for Social Business) is getting an update of features that will be available in the on-premises version later this quarter.  Software releases now follow cloud releases.  This trailer is cool:

Check out the IBM Social Software Product Manager, Luis Benitez’ article   for more details including a link to sign up for the webcast to see what’s new in the May update.
See his slideshare post of the new features too.    (Be aware that the second slide in the deck is a link to the video above. Don’t miss the rest of the slides.)
Visit http://collabserv.com for a free trial account.

Computer gaming companies are choosing IBM over Amazon


A few weeks ago I mentioned on the first day of IBM Connect conference that it is clear now beyond any doubt that computing power is becoming the next utility like electricity, phone, water, and cable TV.  I predict that there will come a day in the very near future when few companies will still have their own physical data center.

This article at thestreet.com is more proof of that as the gaming industry is the first to make this move.  But even more interesting is that IBM, not Amazon, Google or Microsoft, is leading this trend.  This adds even more credibility to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business and why I see it eclipsing Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps in the coming years as businesses of all sizes seek more business-directed solutions than what those consumer-focused, consumer-driven businesses (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft) can provide.

IBM published list of business partners certified in SmartCloud mail onboarding


IBM has published the list of business partners certified in onboarding to IBM  SmartCloud mail.

Our company, Divergent Solutions LLC, is one of only 10 companies currently listed for the entire U.S. that IBM has entrusted to perform such migrations.  So what exactly does that mean?  Well if you are considering a cloud alternative for your company’s email (whether it is currently on Outlook, gmail, or Notes), Divergent Solutions can handle the process from end to end .  Licensing, planning, environment preparation, project management, execution.

Divergent also licenses SmartCloud for Social Business. Social Business software is most effective when combined with a deployment and adoption strategy.  We help with this too.

Check out the Divergent Solutions website or contact me for more info.

Get the most out of your Connections account at IBM Connect 2014 (Connect O’Sphere)


If you’re attending IBM Connect 2014 next week you can get much more out of the experience by taking the time to get set up in the community on the conference Connections community well in advance of arriving in Orlando.  This will give you access to the session information, allow you to create your own schedule, connect with other attendees, and get a more socially interactive experience at the conference.

First, you should have received an email from connect2014@us.ibm.com with your login credentials.  Your credentials for logging in should consist of long numbers.  Secure, but difficult to remember if you’re trying to log into the website.  My advice: don’t.  Instead, go to the app store on your mobile device and download the IBM Connections app.  I actually like using the app better than viewing it in a browser. The website is great, but in the app everything just flows a bit more smoothly.  But best of all, you don’t have to keep logging in.  Enter your credentials once and you’re done.

The details:
1.  Download and install the app on your mobile device.
2.  Launch the app.
3.  Add your account credentials for the Connect 2014 Connections server.  (The app allows configuring for multiple Connections servers)
Enter a title:  Connect 2014
Server URL: https://connections.connect2014.com
Username:  <your user ID from the email>
Password: <your password from the email>

You’re good to go.  Start by entering your profile information so people know more about you.  Be sure to post a photo of yourself (a photo or bitmap of anything other than you is really quite useless.  A simple head shot is perfect.)  Add tags about yourself to indicate your areas of interest.  Next, go into the profiles and search for people you already know and add them to your network.  After you connect, tag them with relevant tags that will help define who they are.  Then go into the schedule area and add the sessions to your schedule so you have a plan.
Unfortunately, the forums do not appear to be available via the app.  This is disappointing given that most people will want to interact on the forums via their mobile device.  Who wants to log into a website to get to the forums, especially with those numeric credentials? Still, I think you will find the app very handy for getting the most out of the conference.

See you at IBM Connect O’Sphere 2014!

Updates for the IBM Connections mobile apps have been released


Great news if you are using the Connections Content Manager (CCM). CCM is the version of FileNet with functionality enhanced by IBM Connections. Nice that in the latest release you can now approve files from the mobile app. Read more at Luis Benitez’ blog.

And if you aren’t already using it, read this article to get the Connections plug-in for IBM Lotus Notes too.

How to download and install the IBM Connections plugin for IBM Lotus Notes


(New versions of these plugins are now available.  Read here.)

Summer vacation is over.  I was deliberately taking a break from my blog to enjoy the fantastic summer and give focus on the business.  While I was quiet on the surface, I’ve been very busy in the background.  More on that later, but for now, some useful content…

IBM Connections with Sametime is amazing.  It’s like a useful combination of features you will find on Linkedin, facebook, WebEx or GotoMeeting, Skype, dropbox, wordpress and IdeaJam  and it’s ideal for any business larger than 1 person.  And it is no more dependent on your email client than any of those apps are.  But if you use IBM Lotus Notes, as many Connections customers do, you will get even more value with your Notes client by using the IBM Connections Plug-ins for IBM Lotus Notes.  There is a version for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  So where do you find this cool plug-in?  How do you install it?  Here are step-by-step instructions.  And while you’re in the application catalog, be sure to look around at the other useful plug-ins, like the IBM Connections Desktop Plug-in for Microsoft Windows, or the IBM Connections Widget interface to LinkedIn.  Have an iPad?  Cool.  Be sure to go to the App store and search for the IBM Connections app.  In some ways I find it even better than the website.  Here is a screen shot of the app.  It will give you an idea of the features in IBM Connections:

IBM Connections app for iPad

IBM Connections app for iPad

Now here are the instructions for getting the IBM Connections plug-in for IBM Lotus Notes:

1.  Click on this link:  http://greenhouse.lotus.com .  The following website will appear:
Greenhouse website

(Addendum: If you don’t already have a Greenhouse account, go ahead and click the Sign Up link now and get the process started.  You will need an account before you can complete the download.  Among other things it will prompt for an IBM contact.  If you don’t have one, mention me and this article.  They use this to validate accounts as real people.)

2.  Click on the link for the IBM Collaboration Solutions Catalog. Info about the catalog will appear:
Greenhouse app catalog

3.  Click on the Launch button.  The Catalog will appear.  At this point you can click on the Most Popular tab and you will probably find the plug-in at the top. (it’s very popular)
Connections Plugin

3a. If you don’t find it at the top of the Most Popular list, you can select IBM Connections in the product list.
Connections Plugin

4.  Click IBM Connections Plug-ins for IBM Notes.  The description page will appear.
Connections Plugin download

5.  Click on Start Download in the top right corner of the page.  The License Agreement will pop up.
EULA

6.  Click I Agree. The download button will now appear in the top right corner.
Connections Plugin download

7.  Click the icon to download.  It will prompt for where to save the file in the usual way depending on your browser. (These screen shots happen to be in Firefox.)  The file is about 80 MB.
save download

8.  Once the .zip file has downloaded, unzip it.  You will find it contains 3 zip files, one for each supported operating system.
Zipped files

9.  Unzip the one you need and run the installer as per your OS.  For Windows it is setup.exe.  When the installer runs, it may prompt to be trusted.  Click Yes.  Then the language option appears.
language selection

10. Choose the language and click OK.  The installer will run.
Installer 1

11. Click Next.  The license agreement will appear.
installer 2

12.  After printing and reading the agreement and getting written approval from your legal department, select to accept the license agreement and click Next.  It will remind you that Notes must be closed before continuing.
installer 3

13.  Close Notes if it is open and then click Next and then click Install.  The installer will take surprisingly long considering how small it is.  Be patient.
installer

14.  Launch Notes.  Pull down File – Preferences.  Click on the Connections section.
ConnectionsPlugin14

15.  Fill in the info for your Connections server.  If you want to test it out on Greenhouse to see everything it can do, enter the server URL of https://greenhouse.lotus.com and use your username and password for your Greenhouse account.  (You should have had to create one before you could download the plug-in. Don’t have one?  Go back to that browser window where you downloaded the plug-in and click Sign Up in the top right corner.)

16.  Click on Status Updates, Files or Activities to expand the section and see content from Connections.  Note that when it is first expanded it may take a bit longer to load the content.  So be patient.
Sidebar widgets and plugins

That’s it.  Be sure to search for me in Greenhouse and connect with me there and I can share some communities and activities I have already made to demonstrate how they work within connections.  And don’t forget to go back and browse all the other cool apps at Greenhouse as well as the iTunes app store for iPhone/iPad apps on Connections, Sametime, and more!

Let me know if this was helpful.  I am considering doing these as a video.  Would you prefer that format over an article?

ADDENDUM: If you get the following error:

AuthenticationError

Then recheck the User Preferences.  Click on the Advanced button and make sure it is using the Java Form with the authentication URL of:
https://greenhouse.lotus.com/activities/j_security_check

ConnectionsAdvancedPreferences

If that doesn’t fix it, there are several knowledgebase articles on the topic.  Search for that error message to find them.

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