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IBM Notes and Domino customers who are currently on IBM's Passport Advantage program are usually entitled to a broad range of additional, complementary, components that leverage many of the other aspects of the IBM Collaboration Solutions product range.
1. IBM Connections Profiles and Files
2. IBM Sametime Instant Messaging
While these entitlements are not new, in my experience exposing a customer to the Profiles and Files parts of IBM Connections quickly results in a desire to harness the truly social capabilities of the larger Connections product whilst keeping users firmly routed in the Notes best-of-breed collaboration solution.
So it is, with the advent of Notes 9.0 Social Edition, where the latest features of Connections are strongly connected, such as Embedded Experiences and where the user's mail and calendar are surfaced thanks to Connections Mail, that the curiosity to improve the collective productivity of the users increases.
In this guide I will explore what steps the Notes & Domino customer can take to enhance the collaboration and productivity tools available to them by investing in the full IBM Connections environment.
The good news is that IBM Connections is entirely complementary to the Notes and Domino system you have. Connections can use the Domino Directory as the source of user and password information, can use the Domino server's SMTP service to send and receive mail and, of course, can be the root source of Connections Mail. So, you won't be tearing down your Domino environment.
For the best experience I would recommend upgrading to Notes & Domino 9, Social Edition. Again, if you are on Passport Advantage then you are entitled to use this already. Customers often wait for a "dot zero" release to be updated before deploying a new technology. In fact you needn't do that in this case. For a long period of the testing phase Notes 9.0 was actually called Notes 8.5.4 such is the maturity of the platform and the code.
You may also be aware that the standard Notes install comes with IBM Connections capabilities built into it. You may already have deployed the Activities Sidebar on your installed base already without knowing it. A simple policy update in Domino will enable your users to connect to your IBM Connections server for Activities. Downloading the Connections plugins from IBM's Greenhouse will provide them with further capabilities for managing files and performing status updates.
With the Notes and Domino 9.0 Social Edition launch came Embedded Experiences. This is an extension of the user interface of Connections to allow completely foreign applications with can work with the OpenSocial API to be integrated into Connections and hence Notes.
The upshot of the OpenSocial integration is the decline in the number of doclinks or URLs you'll be receiving in emails. Now, the Embedded Experience will present the user interface of the linked application directly to you in your email, or in your activity stream in Connections. There's no more jumping in and out of different applications simply to complete a business process.
So Notes and Domino 9, more so than ever before, remain the center of your social work life - integrating email, calendaring, activities, embedded experiences and a vast array of other social integrations.
IBM Notes and Domino customers know that their email system is the best in the world. It's reliable, scalable and provides the kind of productivity tools other systems even after 25 years of trying still don't provide.
Moving up to Notes & Domino 9.0 Social Edition further enhances that functionality. As well as a harmonized user interface with Connections, 9 provides a virtually identical web browser (iNotes) experience to that which you get with the Notes client.
This means that you can easily extend the great user experience of Notes 9 to your occasional or more distant users using a web browser. This, combined with the web plugin gives you a very flexible solution for a completely integrated, identical look-and-feel experience for your mail and for your social business platform without forcing users to switch back to the Notes client to access a line of business solution.
You can also make use of Connections Mail. This is a free add-on for Connections which provides direct access to your mail and calendar within Connections itself. New icons appear at the top right of the screen to provide access. They even indicate when there is new mail for you.
Notes Calendaring and Scheduling provides a very wide array of functionality designed to help you manage your appointments and meetings. IBM Connections communities now support a shared calendar which is useful for booking appointments which are appropriate to that community. For example, you might have a project community and post in the community calendar the dates and times of project meetings.
To avoid you having to manually copy these appointments into your Notes calendar, you can simply Subscribe to the community calendar within Notes. For more information about doing this, see this article.
Consider moving TeamRoom and group calendars to the Events function inside Connections Communities as a strong way to integrate the scheduling functions of Connections with your Notes environment.
Moving a Group Calendar to Connections
You might have been using a Notes mailbox simply to host a calendar which is shared amongst many people, such as a resource or common group calendar. It's easy to make use of the advanced capabilities within IBM Connections and move that calendar into a community which can then be shared as shown above. Follow this general procedure:
1. Create a community in Connection 4.x or higher;
2. Add a Event widget to the community.
3. Create some events in the widget.
4. Click on the Add to Personal Calendar link.
5. Follow the instructions.
BM Connections contains a sophisticated capability called Activities
which significantly expands on the Tasks/To-Do functionality in Notes. As well as giving you the ability to create tasks for yourself and which can be assigned to others, Activities allows you to create more structured task plans which more closely reflect the work you're doing.
For instance, if you use Notes Tasks to manage the actions you have on a project you might create a category for the project tasks and assign each one to that category:
Your tasks are displayed in categories along with all your other tasks. Let's say that you wanted to break down Task number three.You could create more tasks but these would be displayed in the same list and the fact that they were child tasks would not be obvious:
If you would like some more control over these tasks, consider using an Activity in Connections.
Follow this procedure to create the same project outline:
1. In your community select Community Actions, Customize:
2. Click the plus sign next to the Activities box:
3. Activities will now appear in the left hand navigator. Click on it. When you do you'll see a screen like this:
4. Click on Create Your First Activity. When you do this, you'll see the New Activity page:
5. Fill out the form and then click on the Save button. Your new Activity will be created and ready for you:
Contacts in Notes are intended primarily as personal information. Indeed, way back when Contacts, Calendaring and Tasks were added to Notes these were described as "Personal Information Management" tools which were added to email and group databases to provide a Productivity Suite. In this Social age you can of course continue to use Contacts in Notes in the way you always have.
It's important to switch on the ability to synchronize your Contacts with iNotes in case you switch between the Notes client, say at work, and iNotes at home. More information on how to do that can be found here.
IBM Connections does not have the concept of personal contacts in the same sense as Notes. If you want to maintain a personal address book you should continue to use Notes. However, if you collect information about colleagues in your Contacts you commonly work with you should take a close look at the Profiles feature of Connections.
Profiles uses common directory systems found in organizations like Active Directory and Domino to create a set of contact records for everyone who uses Connections. At a basic level the Profile in Connections shows information such as the person's job title, phone number and email address:
The Profile is able to contain a wide array of information not just related to the contact details. You can, using some included scripts integrate photos and data from other systems, such as HR and scheduling solutions, into the information displayed in the Profile and its business card (shown above).
Many organizations use their Domino Directory as their corporate telephone book as it is also a centralized store of information. There are a few problems with this approach:
- It either means that the Domino Administrator needs to control the contents of the information about each contact in the directory or the Domino Administrator needs to allow non-Administrators to edit "Person Documents" in the Directory. This can lead to problems if other unrelated information is changed by accident.
- There are limited options for customizing the information the Person Document can hold and fewer options for integrating non-Domino information into the Domino Person Document.
- Fundamentally it is using the Domino Directory for a purpose it was not necessarily designed for and puts at risk the security of a Connections environment which relies on the internet password in the Person Document providing authentication information for Connections.
In short, Contacts in Notes 9 are still intended to be Personal Contacts - information you don't need to share with others. Profiles in Connections goes a step further than this, and replaces many of the shortcomings of using Domino Directory or other Directory systems as a corporate address book by separating security and content, and also providing a means of integrating data from many other sources to increase the fidelity of the information presented.
The Notes discussion database has been one of the cornerstones of the groupware and collaboration features which the platform has provided in the over 20 years the product has been in existence.
Countless gigabytes of information are probably held in discussion databases on Domino servers all round the world. In Connections, the humble Discussion Database is represented in Forums.
In Notes, Discussion Databases are discrete applications which generally served a specific purpose. They are independent of other applications, such as TeamRooms or Document Libraries. In Connections, Forums can be independent too or combined into Communities (which are more like a collection of a number of different Notes apps).
A typical Forum in Connections looks like the example below:
As you can see in the screen shot below, the Forum supports the multi-level response and response-to-response hierarchy that the Domino Discussion Database supports:
The table below summarizes the functionality in the Domino Discussion Database and compares it to the Forum in Connections:
Domino Discussion Database
IBM Connections Forum
Flag as Question
Like Discussion Databases, Document Libraries in Notes & Domino are discrete applications (NSFs) which perform a collection of functions. The Document Library application provides a place to store files and to perform workflow review cycles and archiving.
The Document Library database also contains some of the functionality found in the Discussion Database - namely responses to documents. Essentially it's a way of uploading documents for posterity and managing the review and approval of them:
IBM Connections has a Files solution too. Files are stored in a user's individual file store or in a Community. Regardless of where they are stored a single copy of the file can be shared with other individuals or Communities as required.
Remember that the Document Library application is a single database which holds the files which are accessed by those users of the database. In Files in Connections you store the Files against your personal account and then contribute them. Here's an example:
In Connections Files lists the files you have in a similar manner to the way that the Document Library in Notes shows it. Files, however, also shows you some additional information such as the number of downloads of that file and its size. An example of this is shown in the red box in the example above.
Clicking on an individual document in the Notes Document Library looks like this:
In Connections the equivalent is this:
This table summarizes the common and new areas in handling Document Libraries between Domino and Connections:
Notes Document Library
IBM Connections Files
Add a Comment
New Response to Response
Add a Comment
About this File
Available with Connections Content Manager
Give to Community
For many people the Notes TeamRoom is one of the main ways they have used Notes in a group collaboration sense. The supplied TeamRoom template provides a rich environment for sharing information amongst a group of people focused on the same topic. It lets you have discussions, review documents and generally work together on a common purpose:
The corresponding part of Connections which does this is the Community. It has virtually all of the same functionality as the TeamRoom but goes a great deal further with its capabilities, introducing many social as well as enhanced collaboration features.
The following table summarizes the functionality of the TeamRoom and how it maps into the functionality of the Community:
Defined in the Libraries
Milestones / Events
Files & Libraries (Shared)
Blog or Status Updates
Blog or Status Updates
Handled by Libraries
The Notebook in Notes has no direct comparison in Connections as it is primarily designed to be a personal repository of information.
The Notebook is also not used (normally) in Notes as a tool for sharing information amongst Notes users. If you need to share information in Connections there are many tools available to you including Wikis, Blogs, Ideation Blogs, Status Updates, etc.
IBM Notes has long been recognized as very easy system to build collaborative applications for any business. IBM Connections continues this tradition by integrating OpenSocial into its feature-set.
OpenSocial is the industry's leading and most mature standards-based component model for cloud based social applications. Using OpenSocial, it's easy to have your application reach users where they get work done; in their activity stream, in content, in email, or even on their mobile device.
If your organisation is considering moving to Connections and a web browser interface as its collaboration platform, but has a large number of custom applications, two options are open to you:
- Add XPages functionality to your Notes applicationss so that they function well in a modern browser.
- Consider upgrading your environment to Notes & Domino 9 and using the web browser plugin for Notes applications. This is software which is activated when a user wants to work with a Notes application from within a browser. It provides a fully functional Notes environment and allows existing Notes applications to run unmodified. Further information can be found here.
, by IBM Premier Business Partner ISW is an excellent example of using IBM Connections as an application platform.
About the author
Alan Hamilton works in the worldwide SWAT team for IBM Collaboration Solutions as a Social Business consultant. He has fifteen years of experience with Notes & Domino including application development and administration. He now helps customers with their social business adoption planning and is focused mainly on the UK and Scandinavia.