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Email is like Tetris: you lose eventually

How Social Business is changing Work

One of the things I am trying to train myself to do is to spend less time in email,  and more in IBM Connections.  I've realized that I start my day by checking 1) my calendar (in case a meeting got moved) on my mobile before I leave home and 2) my inbox....and then much later  3) my @mentions and Notifications in IBM Connections (IBM's on premises version) which is where I work with colleagues and 4)  my @mentions and notifications in IBM Connections Cloud,  which is where I work with my clients.

What I really want to do is re-order I do 1) Calendar,  2) IBM Connections Cloud,  3) IBM Connections,  and 4) email.      Right now I have IBM Connections Cloud sending me email about everything.   In fact,  I recently went in and toggled my settings to get notified about every change in communities,  because I missed seeing a question in a forum that I should have replied to immediately.     The good news is that IBM Connections Cloud gives us options on what to get an email about,  and how often.   These are my current settings.  

Image:IBM Connections Cloud -- relying on @mentions and notifications...but still using emali as a backup

My goal is to get to the point that I can choose "No Email" on content I am following,  and  just Daily Newsletters on mentions and responses.    

Beth Benoit | 29 October 2014 01:18:41 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

IBM Connections Cloud makes an assumption that the people who use it will behave in a businesslike manner.   Sometimes that isn't a good assumption, especially in the early stages of adoption.   I once had a client contact me,  quite upset,  wanting to know why IBM had renamed one of her users "Darth Vader".    Of course IBM hadn't done that -- the user had.   He didn't realize anyone would notice!  

Letting users modify their personal information in Profiles is generally a good thing.  When an Administrator provisions a user with their name not quite right -- the user can fix it.     If IT used the HR record as the data source, and provisioned a user as Robert,   he can change it to Bobby without a call to IT.    

This is great, but this week I had a user complaint that the name change wasn't working everywhere.  So I did an experiment.   I changed my first name in Connections Cloud to "Beth Ann"  to see how fast it started showing up.    In some places it happened very quickly -- in Files and Activities, for instance.    The old name persisted in my Community list,  and in my activity stream.     I tried logging in on a different browser -- no luck.      it took almost 24 hours before new postings in my Activity stream started showing up with my new name.    (Old postings won't change to the new name,  as they are historical records.)    

The developer who got my client complaint changed his first name to Elvis as an experiment to see this first hand.   It should be fun to see the ribbing he gets in the 24 hours it takes for Elvis to "leave the building".  
                                                                                     Elvis at Computer  

Beth Benoit | 17 October 2014 04:46:42 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

This week I had an IBM Connections Cloud client ask me a really simple question,  and I am quite embarrassed that I did not know the answer.

My client wanted to use the collaborative editing capabilities of IBM Docs.     The initial question from him late one evening was "I thought if I uploaded a file into a community,  everyone would have access to use Docs to edit it?"    Which sounds pretty darn reasonable -- except he couldn't get it to work.  

We had some back and forth over the next two days, to try to figure this out.   We verified the following:

1)  everybody in the community had a Docs subscription
2)  the maximum number of concurrent editors is ~15,  so he hadn't exceeded a limit on simultaneous editors  
3)  all members of the community were authors (or owners)
4) the file had been directly uploaded into the community -- it wasn't in a user's Files and shared with the community as "reader"
5) The file was a Docs supported file type
6)  the file was not locked  

Finally he had a brainstorm,   and I found the two key sentences in our documentation which confirmed he was right:

After you upload Open Document Format documents or other document file types to your files list, you can import them so that you and others can work with them in web browsers. ...        Click Edit in Docs or View to automatically import the file into Connections Docs format.

In other words,  if you're going to do collaborative editing on a file you've imported into IBM Connections Cloud, YOU have to View or Edit the file in Docs before anyone else can access the file in Docs.    Development tells me that the reason for this is that once you convert to Docs format,  you can't upload another file to replace it -- so the owner has to be the one to acknowledge that future edits will be via Docs.     This may change in future.    

Clearly I need to spend more time using Docs with my co-workers!  

Beth Benoit | 10 October 2014 04:46:34 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

This week I've spent a lot of time explaining to people what a Guest user is in IBM Connections Cloud.    "Guest" is one of those words that everyone THINKS they understand,   but which actually has a very precise meaning.

IBM Connections Cloud gives subscribers the ability to invite non-subscribers to collaborate with them in Connections Cloud.     As many non-subscribers as they want.    The non-subscribers have access to Communities where subscribers have explicitly included them.   The non-subscribers can share  and download files, write blogs,  create bookmarks,  participate in forums, ideation blogs,  surveys and events, and join e-meetings.

As a subscriber, I think of it as I have a room full of all kinds of tools -- and I can invite someone outside IBM who doesn't have a subscription to come part way inside my room to use the tools to work with me.      There are limitations  -- they can't use instant messaging,  or start meetings,  and they have  smaller quotas on file storage.    Still,  we can collaborate in the room.  

In IBM Connections Cloud,  a user's internet email address is their unique identifier,  and can only be in one organization.     When I invite a non-subscriber to work with me,  behind the scenes an account is created using that person's email identifier in a central organization IBM manages   -- the Guest organization.    This way the non-subscriber  (the Guest) can collaborate with multiple organizations, not just one.  

Now,  if I want to work with someone outside of IBM who has their own room of tools (a Connection Cloud subscription) we can use ALL the tools.   Instead of inviting him to become a Guest,  I invite him to be a Network contact (see previous blog entry).   When he accepts,   I have the same ability to work with him as I do with an IBMer -- in carefully prescribed areas.    

A slight problem comes in when someone who is a non-subscriber, hosted in IBM's Guest organization,  tries to become a subscriber.    Because an email address can only exist in one organization,  that attempt will fail.     This isn't the end of the world -- IBM's Client Services Group has to do a little work, and that Guest can be turned into a full subscriber in their own organization.         It's just a surprise to get an error when the Administrator tries to create a new user --and no one likes surprises.

For reference,  here's a good article that describes what Connections Cloud Guests can do:

Hope that helps someone out!  It is a bit mind bending.  

Beth Benoit | 9 October 2014 03:50:33 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

This week I started working with a new client who is rolling out IBM's Social Business capabilities.     They have a project team located on 3 continents, and the IBM team working with them is in North America on both coasts.  We have time zone challenges!   The first thing we've done is set up a community in IBM Connections Cloud (previously IBM SmartCloud Engage)  to collaborate on the rollout plan.

Image:Using IBM Connections Cloud for extranet collaboration on IBM Connections Cloud 

The second thing I did is invite my new clients to be a network contact with me.     This is really easy to do:

First,  I go into My Contacts in IBM Connections Cloud,  find the big PLUS sign on the upper right, click it, and choose Create Contact

Image:Using IBM Connections Cloud for extranet collaboration on IBM Connections Cloud

I fill in the fields, including the email address and hit save:

Image:Using IBM Connections Cloud for extranet collaboration on IBM Connections Cloud
After it's created, I hover over the contact entry  and am given the option to "Invite to my Network", which I do.  

Image:Using IBM Connections Cloud for extranet collaboration on IBM Connections Cloud
This sends my contact an email,  which gives her the option to become my network contact.     If she accepts my invitation  then several great things happen.
1)  I can add her to my Sametime rich client contacts in the community,  so we can see each other's availability,  and ping to resolve issues and questions quickly.    
2)  I can add her to my IBM Connections Cloud Chat web contact list -- and we can use audio/video chat through the web client.   And finally,
3)  I can add her to Communities which allow members external to IBM.    
4)  we can collaborate in real time on a document using the collaborative editing in IBM Connections Doc.  

Given we are scattered across 12 time zones it is really helpful to be able to set an alert to see when the person you want to talk with has come online.    I also like that no one IBMer is a bottleneck -- our client can ask questions in the Community forum while we're still asleep, and the first IBMer to start work in the morning (usually me) will see the question, and be able to answer it.  My counterpart on the west coast will see the question and my answer when she starts work 3 hours later - and can pipe in with a correction or additional information if necessary.     This is great for vacation coverage too -- any one of us can add a new member to the community if we need someone to cover for us for a bit -- and they've got all the context on our project right there -- instead of locked up in email.  

Easy to master and an extremely powerful tool for an extranet ad-hoc team!  

Beth Benoit | 30 September 2014 03:00:22 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

In my role,  working with IBM SmartCloud Notes clients,   I am frequently toggling between different SmartCloud data centers,  and also logging in under different accounts.   Which means even though I have a dedicated laptop,  I can't allow SmartCloud to "remember me".  

When you login to Smartcloud,  a box pops up like this:  

Image:Forget me, please!    Fixing your browser so IBM SmartCloud will let you switch accounts

Notice that by default, it is set to "Remember me".    More than once,  I have accidentally clicked through this....when I was in a hurry of course.  Once you've done this,  your browser will remember you, and you can't get this screen to come up to "forget me!"      A lot of IBMers use different browsers for different accounts, just to deal with this problem.  

The way you make it "forget" you,  is to open up your browser, then find and delete the cookie named "fiidpendpoint" under    

Beth Benoit | 22 September 2014 01:47:26 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

When I've got an in-person meeting,  I tend to forget about time zones.    We'll all be in one place, after all.    Mistake!

Last month I visited a client in another time zone with a group of IBMers.    To block everyone's time and to remind them to make travel arrangements,   I had sent out a meeting invitation to all the attendees.  

The night before the meeting,  an IBMer asked me to confirm the start time for the meeting -- and I said "10 am,  as usual".    I was told "well, it says 9 am on my calendar".     For a moment I was puzzled, and then it hit me.    Yes, the meeting was starting at 10 eastern time,  but WE were all in the Central time zone.    Which meant our client had already planned for the meeting to start at 9 am, since they live in the Central time zone.  

I had a bit of a flurry chasing down all the Eastern Time zone IBMers and telling them the meeting was starting an hour earlier than expected.     We got there on time,   and all went well...but whew!   How can I forget about time zones?  

Beth Benoit | 5 September 2014 02:14:13 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Our family joined a new club last week -- the club of families who have delivered a young adult to a college campus for the first time, and gone home to a much quieter house.     Everywhere I go,    I'm running into parents who have children the same age as our oldest son.   Last year we were comparing notes on the college application process.   This year, we are comparing notes on the countdown and launch to campus.      Usually I get asked,   "have you heard from him?"

Thanks to technology,  yes.    We've seen a few facebook posts and messages,  just enough to know he is alive and well, and happy.     I'm sure his brother has probably gotten text messages that he isn't sharing,  and probably he's tracking his brother's posts on reddit too.    

We did get a phone call because he needed a credit card number.    "Call your mother"  is still good advice -- though you can space those calls out if you throw her a few bones via facebook...hint, hint.  

One thing we have definitely NOT gotten is email...and I doubt we will!

Beth Benoit | 27 August 2014 04:59:58 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Last week we had a poster session at the IBM Littleton lab, where our summer interns set up posters to show off their work and explain what they'd done.  

One of the projects surprised me.   A team of interns had been examining which parts of IBM's cloud collaboration services were getting the most use by our clients.     They focused on one of our data centers that does NOT contain IBMers,  which was a good move,  as I admit IBMer's aren't typical.    They had our collaboration services broken down into categories such as Profiles,   Files,  Activities,  email,  Instant Messaging (Sametime),  mobile, meetings, wik,  blog, etc....  

The biggest category, by far -- Instant Messaging.

The second biggest -- mobile.      

I probably should have asked more questions about exactly what they measured.  Instant messaging does have to do a lot of sampling for "awareness" (who is online,  what's their status),  so that might have pumped the numbers if they didn't screen that out.    I know instant messaging is a key tool in my corporate inbox, and one I would not want to lose (I'd choose instant messaging over email any day) -- so I shouldn't be surprised that other people outside of IBM use it extensively too!  

Beth Benoit | 14 August 2014 09:56:21 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

The big family calendar I've kept for years by the phone is getting a lot of blanks on it,  and not just because it's summer,  or because our oldest is off to college in 2 weeks. It's blank because last summer when we got the Smartphones we created a google calendar in order to coordinate everyone's schedules.  In a year we've reached the tipping point where the online family calendar is now THE only definitive reference.    Now we have discussions about HOW to enter events in the calendar ("Mom,  do NOT add travel time to Doctor's appointments -- I do that myself, so I showed up an hour early today")   and WHAT goes on the family calendar ("when is that concert you just bought a ticket for?  I don't want to schedule a trip on top of that.")    

I haven't played around with to see the full extent of what I could do.    For instance,  I'm sure there's probably a way for me to see all the family calendar in my Notes client.   I don't think I'll bother figuring that out though -- my smartphone calendar app is connected to both my work Calendar (through IBM Traveler),   and the family google calendar -- so that's my On the Glass integration,  where I can see everything at once.    I still have to do some double entry,  because unlike the rest of the family I have to block out my work calendar so people can't schedule work meetings on top of family  events -- and I have to block the travel time too.  

I guess this means next year I can put up a calendar with pretty pictures by the land line phone,   instead of the plain ones with huge blocks to write in.     I know, I kids will say I don't need a calendar there at all -- some habits die hard!  

Beth Benoit | 4 August 2014 01:07:21 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

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