Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Difference Between IBM and Microsoft's Social Systems - An Analogy

We're currently in the process of trying to set up a Microsoft cloud environment. No, we're not giving up on Connections. We're straddling a couple of environments.

The Microsoft experience hasn't been overwhelming so far but that's for another post. Right now, I want to talk about some of the fundamental differences between IBM and Microsoft’s attempts to conquer the social business market.

...and what better way to tell it than an allegorical tale?

Two houses

So let's assume that instead of cloud collaboration platforms, we're talking about “houses”.

Both fulfill the same basic functions; being a "house" for your data and a place where the people that live there (and invited guests) can access that data.

The real difference is in the way that the two companies have gone about preparing their homes.

The Engineer's House

One company, let's call them the engineers, have focused on infrastructure. They've added rooms, strengthened foundations and rewired the building. Sure, not everything works and they're forever fixing things but it's a pretty capable house with lots and lots of rooms.

Unfortunately, while the foundations are excellent, the general look of the house leaves a lot to be desired. It's not comfortable to live in because there's been very little work on the visible parts of the house.

The Designer House

The other house is being built by designers. They've found a nice “square tile” theme to go with and they've been spreading it to every room.

Living in this house is easy and comfortable. Once you get used to the look, it's pretty easy to get around.

Of course, there's not enough bedrooms for everyone and there are plenty of things that look like doors but turn out to be just paintings of doors in places where future rooms might one day be.

Two Different Approaches

These two approaches are both valid in today's software world. After all, nobody can build everything at once.

Modern software operates on the principle of partial deployment followed by constant incremental upgrades (thanks for that Google!!)

It's now considered okay to ship incomplete and/or buggy software and keep patching and upgrading it as you find time to work on it.

The question is, if your software is going to be incomplete, what bits would you prefer to be incomplete (and constantly changing)? The foundations or the user interface?

IT and Shadow IT.

In our house analogy, the IT department are like the surveyors who go into the house and hammer at the walls testing the strength of the house. They also have to test the appliances to determine what works and what doesn't.

Most IT departments are trained to see the big picture, so they'll especially be looking out for stability, versatility, security and recovery. Usability is important too but it's traditionally an area where IT, partly because it's staffed by techies, tends to be less diligent.

Shadow IT are the other departments who want to make IT decisions without involving the proper IT resources.  Shadow IT aren’t qualified and they aren't experienced in these matters. As a result, they are more concerned with appearances and apparent functionality than they are with safety, security and stability.

It's fine to let shadow IT help look for new systems but it's important to make sure that no major business decisions are made without proper qualified IT involvement. The best houses are not always the prettiest ones. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Making IBM Verse Easier to get to...

One of the most frustrating things about the whole IBM Verse experience is the difficulty in getting to the application. If you go through connections, you have to go through normal mail first. This ruins the experience because it isn't “seamless” to the users.

The obvious answer is to bookmark the verse site but there's a few other things that we can do to really  smarten the experience up.

Making Verse the Default

The first thing to do is to make Verse the default mail view. To do this;

  1. Go into Connections.
  2. On the top Right, click your profile picture
  3. In the drop down menu, choose "Mail and Calendar Settings"

  4. On the next screen, click Mail (on the left) - Actually, it should already be selected.
  5. Tick the box marked - [x] Make IBM Verse my default mail experience.
  6. You should see a highlight telling you that your changes were saved. 

Setting up a Decent Shortcut/Favourite Link

So, you could of course, add a favourite to the bookmark bar or drag it out to the desktop. I tend to do that anyway with all the PCs I set up. 

I recently realised that there's a much better way to do things. 

Since Chrome is my default browser, I'll cover it there; 

In Chrome

  1. Go to the IBM Verse Site
  2. Click on the Hamburger Icon (three bars on the top right)
  3. Click More Tools
  4. Click Add to Desktop

  5.  A dialog box will appear. - You Might want to change it from IBM Verse to IBM Verse Email depending upon how your users recognise verse.
  6. Click Add.

That's it.  You should now see a VERSE icon on your desktop.  This is much better than a dragging a shortcut out of the taskbar because you get a proper icon.

Getting Your Desktop Icons into the Start Menu and Taskbar

So now you should have a nice little Verse icon on your desktop. 
To really improve access though, you need to get it into the start menu and onto the taskbar. 

To do this simply;
  1. Right click on the desktop icon.
  2. Choose Pin to taskbar
  3. Right click on the desktop icon again
  4. Choose Pin to Star Menu. 
Here's a shot showing Verse in both those places.

For IE Users

However dirty it makes me feel, I guess I have to at least acknowledge that some people out there are still using Internet Explorer ... so this tip is for them. 

If you want to bookmark using IE, click on the cog in the top right corner and choose Add Site to Start Menu

You'll be prompted with a dialog box... just click Add. 

Once you've got your icon in the start menu, you can right-click on it and choose to pin it to the taskbar. (or you could copy/paste the icon to the desktop). 

One thing that is interesting is that the Chrome Verse icon looks a whole lot better than the IE one. 

Changing the Default Email Links

In order to really sell the Verse experience, you need to make sure that when your users click email links, they open Verse, not Notes.  I've already covered this in an earlier post  (see: here).