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Email is like Tetris: you lose eventually

How Social Business is changing Work

Because I'm on IBM SmartCloud Notes now,   I was eligible to participate in the IBM Verse beta -- and it was turned on for me last week.      Yesterday folders made their way into the service,  which is the one thing I needed for the beta to be usable for me.  

The first thing I like about IBM Verse is that it is SO EASY to delete email.    There's a list of emails in the left pane.  If I see one I know I do NOT want to read,  I just click the trash can that pops up when I move the mouse over that subject line.    One click, boom, GONE.   I don't even have to look at a preview.     I can clear the cruft out of my inbox in a minute...even with the influx of Christmas  "special offer" emails.  

The second thing I like is the "Important to me" capability.   When I first brought up IBM Verse,  it loaded up bubbles with pictures of the people I interact with most often,  based on an analysis of my email.    It did a pretty darn good first approximation - it missed my new boss,  but I haven't had that many email interactions with him yet.  It was quick and easy to load up my peers and my boss as people important to me,  so that anything new that comes in from them sets a red "pay attention to me" flag over their picture.     When I click on their picture,  it shows me all the email from them,  ordered by when it was, yesterday,  this week...even if I've filed it out of my inbox. Now when I want to find that message my boss sent last week with a click, and there it is.  No need to open a folder (or two or three) and sort by sender.    

The third thing I found that was sweet was a translation capability.    I work with clients and account teams all over the world,  and it's not unusual for me to get forwarded a long thread that has a significant portion in a language I cannot read.   I used to cut and paste chunks of those into IBM's translation service -- but now I don't have to.   I selected the message,  right moused for more options,  chose Translate to English.....and voila....I was still right there in the message,  at the point in the thread where it started to be in Spanish,  but now it was in pretty darn understandable English.     Even though I knew what the client was upset about,  once I read the translation I understood more of the nuances of WHY they were upset.   I can advocate for them more effectively as a result.    Talk about a delighter --in place translation was a benefit I did not expect.  Nice job IBM Verse team!  

Beth Benoit | 19 December 2014 03:04:26 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

 I took a total break from email over an extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  When I got back to work on Tuesday and logged into Notes the first thing I saw was the mail jail warning. .   As I slogged through 300+ unread emails, deleting and archiving like mad, I found a note from the CIO's office (sent after I had stopped reading email the previous Wednesday) that I was going to be migrated to IBM SmartCloud Notes Tuesday evening, December 2nd.    That night!  

This was great news -- I've been asking to be moved to SmartCloud Notes for years.  It's been embarrassing to work with SmartCloud Notes clients and not be on the service myself.   It was also great news because IBM SmartCloud Notes has a MUCH bigger quota than the lousy 400MB I'd been living with on the IBM CIO servers.     I stopped worrying about being in mail jail.  

I expected this move to be a yawner, and it was.  

Wednesday morning I started up my Notes client  30 minutes before my first meeting.   There was the expected Welcome to SmartCloud Notes subject at the top of my Normal Priority email,   pointing me to a URL for instructions on how to re-configure my Notes client and my mobile device.    The instructions were easy to follow.  It only took about 20 minutes to have my Notes client reconfigured for SmartCloud. 

It took a little longer for my Traveler device -- mostly because I tried to follow the Android instructions for an iphone (proving I am a typical user who can't follow instructions),  and also because I entered the Application password into my mobile device with the spaces.   The spaces are displayed for readability when the service gives you the generated Application password,, but they are not part of the password.  Oops! 

I've been on the service for almost a week now, and frankly I can't tell the difference.    Which is a good thing!  

Beth Benoit | 8 December 2014 12:47:15 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

On November 18th,  IBM had a major announcement about email -- and it was NOT a yawner, really!     It's called IBM Verse,  and I've already put in my begging notice to get on the beta ASAP.

IBM Verse brings the power of Analytics (think Watson),  to your inbox and calendar.   It learns what is important to you,  and to keep those projects and people center stage.  I love the tight interface with Connections -- since I now live almost equally in Connections and Email,  I'm looking forward to having all those capabilities on one screen.     If you'd like to see a demo,  there's a 3 minute video up on YouTube:

I also started re-listening to my audiobook of Getting Things Done by David Allen this week.     It really struck me that the core of what he teachers,   of making sure the important stuff gets scheduled and having a trusted store,   is something I could implement right now,  between my Lotus Notes email/calendar  and IBM Connections Cloud activities.    I think IBM Verse will make it even easier -- but my goal is do the due diligence in my inbox and Connections now.  No point putting it off!  

If you want to see the whole announcement about IBM Verse:    that's up on YouTube too:

Beth Benoit | 21 November 2014 11:11:52 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Next week,  on November 18th, IBM is making a big announcement -- about a big leap forward in personal productivity tools -- if you're on Twitter,  you probably have seen the #NewWayToWork hashtag showing up.     Based on everything I've seen (they've given IBMers SOME previews),   I can't wait.     If you use IBM Notes or IBM Connections Cloud,  ask your favorite IBMer what all the buzz is about,  and see if you can't get in, either to the event itself or into the Livestream.  

In the last couple weeks,  in spite of my putting new mail rules in place, being ruthless about filing and deleting,  and using instant messaging or IBM Connections whenever possible instead of email, my inbox  got out of control.   I was missing email messages sent by clients because I wasn't scrolling down far enough to see that I had new messages I hadn't opened yet.    I've been feeling like my job description is "reads and writes in email all day, every day."   It's ridiculous.  

 I am looking forward to seeing the Livestream event,   and hoping that I'll get to experience the new capabilities myself  -- and soon!  

Beth Benoit | 12 November 2014 05:05:46 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Every few years I decide it's time to listen again to Getting Things Done (by David Allen)  on audio.  Like many people,  my time management skills wan over time, and I find a need a refresher.    

I've decided it's time for me to listen again  (as soon as I finish listening to The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden,  by Jonas Jonasson  -- which I'm finding just as delightful as his first novel) -- but this time,  I want to do this a little differently.    I've decided I want to have my "trusted repository" of things to do recorded as "to do's" in IBM Connections Cloud.     Last time I did it using the capabilities of BM Lotus Notes -- using to-do's,  and flags on email.    The flood of email has increased so rapidly,  that it's no longer possible for that to work well.    

First step,  I've created an activity to hold my projects and notes and to-do's.       After this it will be interesting to see how much I remember about implementing GTD!

Image:Getting Things Done with IBM Connections Cloud

Beth Benoit | 6 November 2014 11:11:45 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

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

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