Thursday, June 2, 2011

$3M Return On A $1.5M Investment

Social Software ROI is a challenge to calculate. I just came across this document from Forrester Research.  It is great because it outlines the financial benefits of using Social Business tools in a large multinational organization.

New product revenues, one of several benefits.  Click link above for full document.

A few points struck me about this analysis...

1. $3M return on a $1.5 investment.  Cool!
2. Very low recurring costs. (unique with IBM's perpetual licenses vs. others' high subscription fees)
3. Return on investment will only grow in the years to come.
4. The firm describes this as a cultural journey it is only now starting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Collaborate Using Connections... Right Inside of Microsoft Outlook

MS Outlook Desktop Reality

In companies running Microsoft Exchange for eMail, I would venture a guess that the Microsoft Outlook eMail client is the one application that most people leave running on their PC all day long, even more than Internet Explorer or MS Word.  This is because in a typical office environment, eMail remains the #1 method people communicate with each another to ask questions, assign work and share information.

As organizations move toward collaboration tools in the workplace, the hope is that eMail use will drop down by 50% to 70% as information is shared through other social tools.  The reality for most organizations is this will not happen overnight... and that old MS Exchange eMail client will be running on everyone's desktop for quite a while.

... another application to log into every day?!

My wife is a manager for a technology team of about 250 people, doing IT work for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here in Atlanta, GA.  She (and everyone she works with) lives in MS Outlook all day as they communicate with their customers and co-workers by eMail.

I asked my wife if her company uses a social collaboration platform, one that uses web 2.0 type tools.  As I discussed the virtues of knowledge sharing, better engagement, transparency, etc.... her first response was literally "Why do I want another application to log into every day?!"

She is spot-on.  For most of us still depending on, and working out of, a MS Outlook in-box every day, the reality is ANY social collaboration web site will ADD to our cluttered desktop and be yet another application I have to swivel chair to and log in to. 

Collaboration Inside of MS Outlook

So... If I want to use cool Web 2.0 collaboration features such as following updates my colleagues post about their daily activities, tracking files they upload, or comments they leave in forums.... and I don't want another application to log into every day.... and I have MS Outlook already open on my desktop... what are my options?

IBM Connections provides a platform for secure, corporate collaboration and is quite often accessed through it's web-site, just like other collaboration tools.  What makes IBM Connections very different is that it's collaboration services can be accessed through many other means, including plug-ins for MS Office, MS Outlook eMail, Lotus Notes, MS SharePoint, Portals, and even four brands of smart phones.

IBM Connections Plug-In for MS Outlook 

The IBM Connections Plug-in for Microsoft Outlook injects powerful enterprise social collaboration capabilities right into the Outlook eMail client.  

In-fact, if you only started MS Outlook on your desktop each morning and ran no other application, you'd be able to keep up with any of the status updates, files, blogs, wikis, bookmarks, forums, comments, and recommendations across your entire network of co-workers by simply viewing their incoming eMails.

Figure 1.  (Click to enlarge) MS Outlook with a social activity stream.
Figure 1 shows Outlook 2007 providing a full view, in the lower right corner, of all of the updates that Heather Reeds has made within IBM Connections... and all I did was open Heather's email.   IBM Connections can provide a full view of all updates my co-workers make made throughout Connections... all done automatically and without me having to log into any other application or web site.  If someone updates IBM Connections through any other means such as an iPhone, Web, or a portal, it all shows up here inside of MS Outlook for me.

Figure 2.  (Click to enlarge) MS Outlook with new menus for Connections

Figure 2 shows a new menu added to MS Outlook providing new options for IBM Connections.  The menu, which is also available by right-clicking on any email, has options to show the IBM Connections Business Card or to copy the email message right into an Activity.

The ability to copy an email into an Activity is extremely useful.  It helps keep emails in context with the overall activity being worked on.  It also has the bonus of sharing the message with the entire team without re-emailing it, and without contributing to the "eMail overload" problem we all experience.

Figure 3. (Click to enlarge) The Business Card pop-up for direct access to IBM Connections Content

Finally, Figure 3 illustrates the IBM Connections pop-up Business Card available for any user.  This appears right inside of the MS Exchange email client.  The pop-up Business Card is another powerful feature and gives you direct access to all of the files, bookmarks, blogs, wikis, forums, and profile information for a co-worker.  The experience is 100% seamless and because I do not have to enter my user name and password each time I click on the business card, I can explore my co-workers' content in IBM Connections in a very fluid and easy-to-use manner through a pop-up web browser.

Socializing MS Outlook -- A Step In The Right Direction

If you are chained to your MS Outlook eMail and calendar, you can begin to take steps to become a Social Business by using IBM Connections right within your MS Outlook client.  

Because IBM Connections is a true Social Collaboration platform and not just a tool, it can be accessed from a variety of sources including Web, Mobile, Email Clients, and Portals. 

The more you use IBM Connections as an enterprise collaboration platform, by sharing files, interacting in forums, and posting status updates with your co-workers, the more you'll find that your email use in the company will drop.  You too will ultimately reap the rewards of becoming a Social Business by better engaging your staff, being more transparent, and making our organization more nimble.

IBM Connections for social collaboration, right within MS Outlook, is one of the many ways IBM Connections integrates into your company, your workforce, your business processes, and helps you work smarter.  It even has my wife interested in testing out this technology in her company.  

Please contact your IBM Representative for a demonstration this powerful feature.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Got my answer in 30 minutes... with IBM Connections.

How often does this happen to you?  You have a question on how to do something.  It is 5:30 p.m. or perhaps it is Saturday night... and the people in the office you'd normally ask are home or otherwise unavailable and may not be looking at eMail.

Leverage the network for answers.
Sinking feeling, right?

I have a solution that may help you in your moment of need.

It Happened To Me

Recently, I had a question and I was desperate.  My question was technical, and I knew of only one person that could answer my question... George.  It was Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. and I was sure George was not checking his eMail over the weekend.

The Question

What I did next was clever. 

George and I both use IBM Connections.  IBM Connections works somewhat like Facebook in that I invite people into my professional network.  I also can post a question on my profile board that everyone in my network would see.

Looking at Georges profile in IBM Connections, I realized he is professionally networked with many other technical people across the company.  I thought... If I post my question directly on George's profile board, every one of the people in his network will see the question.  Perhaps one of them could help me.

I posted my technical question right on Georges profile board.

I am typing a question directly on George's profile board in IBM Connections.  This question will likely be answered by one of the people in George's network on the right if George is unavailable.
The Solution

Within 30 minutes I got my answer!  One of George's colleagues in France, named Pierre, answered my question by replying to the question I had placed on Georges profile board. 

Key Benefits

  • I was able to leverage the professional network of a colleague to answer a question.
  • I took advantage of people in other time zones.
  • Everyone learns together
  • The information is indexed and searchable by others in the future.
  • No eMails were used in this process!

What is really interesting here is that I was able to leverage George's professional network to get a question answered.  These are people that I may or may not even know.

I love this example of how IBM Connections will help your employees collaborate, be engaged, and ultimately assist the company to be a faster and more nimble organization.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

ATLAS Demo - Connections Enterprise Social Collaboration - Turbocharged

Hundreds of IBM customers have successful enterprise social collaboration platforms using the IBM Connections product.  One of the greatest benefits of Connections is the sophistication of Profiles.  Profiles allow employees to establish sophisticated professional collaborative networks.

Atlas is a very interesting tool which gives IBM Customers a way to better understand the relationships that  evolve in the system.  

Think of the ways this can be used:

  • By individuals seeking an "expert" 
  • As a method to build new teams and understand strengths.
  • As a way to identify weak or isolated teams by their lack of interaction with others.
  • Mapping these social findings against process maps
    • You can likely predict where hand-offs will fail
    • You can likely find where strong processes can be expanded
    • You will likely find training opportunities and team building opportunities!
There so many facets to how the social network information which is gathered in Connections can be used in Operations Research, HR, Training, Process Improvement, etc.

You too can gain all of this insight by following two steps:
  1. Get Social (use IBM Connections in your company)
  2. Do Business (using Connections and Atlas to gain valuable insight)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Get a Greenhouse Account

I wanted to post more information about the basics of Greenhouse.  Last week met with several hundred Higher Education customers and Greenhouse came up as a topic many times.

Greenhouse is a great way to get hands-on experience with IBM Connections.  IBM Connections is the enterprise social collaboration platform that is being used by institutions all over the world.  Organizations using Connections are more engaged, are more transparent in decision making, and are more nimble.

I encourage you to check out the video below, create an account, and navigate to IBM Connections and see how you can help your company.  I'll be posting additional videos with detailed examples of how to use the features in Connections, including integration with MS Outlook Email, MS Office applications, and MS SharePoint.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Experience with Lotus Connections

My reply to David Wharton of Blue Man Group when he asked if anyone has experience with Lotus Connections:

David, hi. I love Blue Man shows! Full disclosure here, I'm an IBM employee. That said, I'm brand new to IBM and I'll give you my impressions as an employee who's been using it for 15 days. I hope my enthusiasm doesn't come across as a sales pitch. It is genuine, I assure you!

In short, its an amazing tool that has given me an Exceptional Work Experience as I've used it to quickly get up to speed working in a world-wide team. It has provided me with a wealth of information, all in context of Activities and Communities that the team has created for specific projects (Activities for projects which sunset, Communities for ongoing work) or in context of Profiles people have established. Not only can I quickly go to a Profile and see the entire collection of what that person has contributed, I can search all of the Blogs, Bookmarks, Wikis, Profile pages, Communities, Activities, Forums and Profile pages of all users, with a single search, and quickly locate information, in Context, and by Contributor. Since my team uses Profile Status Updates daily to share information, solutions, and solicit ideas on problems, I have the benefit of all of that information to search historically, or view in real-time. I can think of several examples where I posted a question on someone's Profile Page, only to have it answered instantly by another co-worker, in another time zone, who I would have never known to ask. New employees coming in behind me will have the benefit of all of this information too.

The most impressive part of Connections (to me) are the Analytic tools. The Analytic tools “Do You Know”, “Things in Common,” and “Who Connects
Us” are widgets that give me insight into others I should be following in the system.

Planning and analysis of the business processes you'd like to improve are important too. For example using IBM Lotus Connections, you could establish an Activity (or even a Template for this Activity if you do it very often) for starting a show in a new venue. This may be a business process you'd wish to examine to understand the "Current State" of how schedules, tasks, and files are managed today. You could then create new "Future state" process flow and give people in the organization training on how to use the new tools to maximize return on effort. For example, instead of emailing the contracts, technical specifications, and graphics, and other items needed for the new show, the staff could now upload and share these files within the Activity. I'm confident just the ability to retain and organize this type of information would be beneficial for the team doing the work as well as teams with follow-on efforts.

I'll stop here and provide you with a couple of links and things to look at.

A reviewer's guide for IBM Lotus Connections 3.0 is located here:

You can "test drive" IBM Lotus Connections in the Greenhouse. This is a demonstration area where IBM has all of its social products fully functional and on display for customers to kick the tires. If you sign-up for an account and log-in, you can navigate straight into a fully functioning Connections 3.0 site by selecting Products -> IBM Connections Home Page from the black menu-bar at the top of the screen. Please see if you can find my profile and "Add me to your network". Another really good person to add to your network is Luis Benitez:

Speaking of Luis, he has a blog. I found a wealth of information related to Connections, Integration with Microsoft desktop tools, and other IBM products by following his blog:

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Lotus Connections 3 Demonstration

This is a great video that demonstrates IBM Lotus Connections 3.0

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Drupal 7 Modules

Anyone who uses Drupal to actually do something useful will end up using a variety of modules.  Modules are used to extend the functionality of a web site any number of ways.  The ones I've tended to use include:

  • auto_nodetitle
  • autoassignrole 
  • captcha 
  • content_complete 
  • content_profile 
  • ctools 
  • devel 
  • masquerade 
  • panels 
  • rules 

So, I thought it would be interesting to go through these at this point and see how many are now Drupal 7 friendly.

  • auto_nodetitle - Alpha
  • autoassignrole - Dev
  • captcha - Alpha
  • content_complete - Dev
  • content_profile - Not available.
  • ctools - Alpha
  • devel - Release 1.0
  • masquerade - rc1
  • panels - Alpha 2
  • rules - Alpha 4

So there you have it.  Many of the modules I depend on are in-fact available but they are in Development or Alpha states.

My advice.  If you are new to Drupal and trying to build a useful web site, for the short term you should remain on Drupal 6.  If you don't and try to use Drupal 7 with common modules, you'll end up pulling your hair out trying to debug modules that work perfectly in Drupal 6 today.