Tagged: files

IBM Connections Explained: all about files!

Ok, I admit, this one was a long time in coming but it’s finally here! The next video in my little series on IBM Connections usage questions. This time it’s all about files and especially about the difference between :

  • Attachments vs Files
  • Personal vs Community files

I hope it helps explain a little what the difference is between them and how to use each. Good luck!

 

IBM Connections: Default follow on public files is it logical?

At one of my customers a user complained about the fact that every time he opened a publicly shared file it would automatically ‘follow’ that file. This meant that every subsequent ‘like’, change or comment to that file would show up in his timeline. Of course he could ‘unfollow’ the file but found it irritating that it would follow it at all without him making that conscious decision.

After testing and a little digging by our admins it turns out that indeed this is the default behavior for IBM Connections and can be managed by changing a setting in the files-config.xml:

<emailNotification>
    <addOnMediaDownload enabled="true"/>
</emailNotification>

So no big deal but we did have a bit of a discussion as to why this setting is there in the first place and if it is logical. Yes, there is a case to make for auto-follow as that will ensure you keep track of subsequent changes to that file. After all, a publicly shared file that you don’t follow or isn’t in a community that you follow is sometimes hard to track but at the same time it can be quite annoying. In an environment with thousands of users and where public files are shared and mentioned in other sources like the intranet, auto-following a file simply because you opened it once, can cause lots of updates in your activity stream by other people ‘liking’, commenting or editing the file. Information you might not be interested in at all as you only just wanted to read it that once.

To be honest, I think this is one of those settings that can be interpreted either way. The bigger discussion now is do we disable it? This user clearly finds it annoying but what about all those other users? Do they want to auto-follow or not? The setting is org-wide so any change will influence all. You can’t just change the default behavior of a system used by thousands of users without annoying at least some.  I guess this is something that will have to be decided by the the business.

So what do you think: Is auto-follow indeed the logical behavior or not in a Enterprise Social Network and how does your organization handle it?

Connections Content Manager: Social document management in IBM Connections

One of the more exciting announcements at IBM Connect 2013 to me was, without doubt, the announcement of the enhanced CCM (IBM Connections Content Manager) edition. “Exciting?” you ask? Yes exciting but apparently not to all as I was amazed to find it got quite a lukewarm response from a lot of others around me. Ok, yes, I know, Document Management is my main area of interest so of course it would get me excited but I think a lot of people really didn’t grasp what it meant and what impact it can have and I can’t blame them as it is a difficult topic.

To be honest even I am still struggling to get all the details so to clarify it a bit I made a list of the things I got from all the announcements, sessions and discussions I had in the labs. Hopefully this will help others to better grasp why this is exciting and why it’s worth taking a good look at.

CCM, what is it?

  • CCM integrates Libraries with document management capabilities (Filenet) right into IBM Connections Communities by provisioning them directly from IBM Connections itself;
  • Provisioned libraries don’t have to be pre-created in a separate system but are in fact created right from the community itself when the Community manager (not necessarily an admin!) adds a Library widget, making it as simple as adding a wiki or blog to the community;
  • Security on the library is taken from the community (and updated on change!);
  • Community managers can create not just one but multiple libraries per community;
  • Community managers can set a name and document type to be used for that library (either one specific document type or all available) from the settings section within Connections;
  • Community managers can also set a parallel approval cycle on documents and determine whether users can add approvers to individual documents or not and determine if all or only one needs to approve;
  • Options to edit/add documents on the libraries/folders within the libraries can be restricted (community members will however always have at least read access to released documents);
  • There will be a special licensing model for Connections Content Manager edition (exact numbers haven’t been mentioned yet but indications are that pricing would be comparable to the current IBM Connections + Quickr model)

But what does this mean to the users?

  • Created libraries can hold nested folder structures which means we get actual and functional folders (and sub-folders!) with folder security in communities;
  • Meta data on the documents (determined by the document type) is visible and editable through the connections environment;
  • Check-in and Check-out & robust versioning guarantee single point of truth;
  • Better life-cycle management as authors can limit access to draft documents to themselves and any other editors they would like to include while released documents become available to all;
  • Automatic approval cycles on documents with the option of adding more approvers to individual documents on top of the ones set by the community owner;
  • Full social capabilities on the library documents (e.g. Likes, comments, following, download count, etc);
  • Full activity stream integration so updates and approval actions become visible in the streams as well;
  • Full and integrated Text & Meta-data search from within IBM Connections with the option to refine on Document types and meta-data fields across the community.

Ok. Nice… “but what is the difference between this and what was already there with the linked Library option we had for Filenet?

  • The Library components can now be installed right from the Connections Installer (it’s literally an option in the installer app). They can be added to the existing Connections Websphere Cell or to a separate one. Alternatively an existing Filenet environment can be used to provision the new libraries (teamspaces) but in general you don’t need full Filenet knowledge anymore to set it up;
  • Previously used Linked libraries had to be created and set up in Filenet first and required administrative involvement, the new Libraries don’t. Community managers can set them up and manage them independently. the only administration needed is to initially set up the document types to be used;
  • Multiple libraries can now be added to a single community to address different types of documents;
  • Administration of the new library (name, library/folder/document security, approval workflow settings, etc) are all set and managed from a settings configuration within IBM Connections, limiting the administrative load on the library depository side and allowing Community managers to manage their libraries themselves;
  • The documents in the libraries are fully indexed for searching from IBM Connections, including filtering on document types and meta data, making it a seamless integration instead of a separate container;
  • The library documents get the full social components from IBM Connections;
  • Out-of-the-box and seamless activity stream integration is included so reviews and updates appear in the users activity stream.

But what about….

  • IBM Docs, will it work with that? Well they are looking at that;
  • Document types?: You will still have to set them up through the library repository but once you’ve done that you are free to go and reuse those for any community. It’s just a question of really thinking through your file management requirements and setting it up and you’re all set to go;
  • Windows desktop client / browser plug-in / Microsoft Office plugins? Development of these are in a separate track but already underway. No ETA yet on when though;
  • Offline files like the new option for the personal files? ………. (silence there, still waiting for an answer);
  • Quickr? IBM will provide a migration agent to get documents from Quickr into the new libraries, but keep in mind there are some restrictions on this. I’ll try to write another blog on that;
  • Mobile?? Definitely being worked on and expected not too long after the release of IBM Connections 4.5

So all in all I think there is some neat things in there that are going to help a lot of customers who are currently hitting the limitations of file management in IBM Connections and don’t necessarily require full blown and complex workflow and document management. It brings together both the social as well as basic document management requirements a lot of companies have and in that respect is very exciting news.

It will be intriguing to see how additional requirements like complex workflow or specific meta-data requirements will be met in the future. For now those would still require a separate  license and use of for instance Filenet and the Content Navigator interface but as I understand the open social and CMIS standards that are used throughout Filenet and IBM Connections do mean more integration on these areas could be possible too.

So I’m excited! I can’t wait to get my hands on this and love that this is not something that is far away on some road map but will be released with the IBM Connections 4.5 code stream end of Q1. I think it will be a definite enrichment to IBM Connections and would encourage any customer with file management issues to take a good look at this.

 

Document management: the one characteristic all standards have in common… they change

So you think you have your document management and data retention all set. You have a plan, a system and a storage procedure to ensure information is there for when it is needed… Or is it?

I got a powerful reminder of how important it is to not just guard the data but the document management process itself as well the other day. It all started with my step dad having a massive heart attack (his 3rd one in 15 years). Luckily he survived because there were people around that knew what to do and had access to a defibrillator right there and then but it was a close call and it will take him a while to fully recover. It also made both my mum and step dad reevaluate some of the procedures in place for when that fatal moment will come…

“…in a worst case situation it would simply be a case of sending over the list…”

april_2009_019Sixteen years the older than my mum and a lot more organized in administrative processes my step dad has taken great care to make sure that when that inevitable moment comes she will be able to handle the administrative tasks that will need to take place. One of them, to inform the extended group of friends and relatives. Diligent as he is my step dad digitized his whole contact registration about 10 years ago so that in a worst case situation it would simply be a case of sending over the list.  He chose a tool to do that specifically aimed at contact management and selected a product that was highly regarded for it. He then proceeded to back up the contact database on an external hard disk and USB drive and regularly updated it over the years.

“…after replacing his laptop a while back he had not been able to reinstall the original software…”

After his hospitalization however and while still awaiting surgery he asked me to see if I could access the database for him. It turned out that after replacing his laptop a while back he had not been able to reinstall the original software and therefore no longer had access to the database or contact list. The software company so highly regarded all those years ago had retracted their product from the consumer market and no longer supported or updated it. The database (which wasn’t a standard database type and had encryption on it) therefore became completely useless.

Luckily the company, although no longer servicing the consumer market, did still sell similar software to corporations and after calling them and explaining the situation they graciously offered to see if they could retrieve the data from the backed up database file. One week later I could reassure my step dad that it was salvaged and send him and my mum an excel extract of 95% of the data.

“…that one week delay in getting access to the data would have made it completely useless…”

What did he do wrong? Well not much really. He choose a respectable product which was regarded as a standard at the time, backed it up and kept it up to date regularly. Still that one week delay in getting access to the data would have made it completely useless for the purpose it was made for if the worst had happened…

Document management is about managing the whole process, not just the content

So how does this relate to business? Well it wasn’t that long ago that WordPerfect was considered the overall standard for Word editing, and Lotus 1-2-3 for spreadsheets. You might even still have some files with an extensions like .wk1, .wk2, .wk3, .wk4, .wp, .wp4, .wp5, .wp6 or .wp7 float about in your document management systems or shared file drive systems. Not much of a problem there probably as there are still viewers and converters available for these that can leverage most if not all of the original document… but for how long? 

More importantly, how many other file types created in long since extinct software formats and so called ‘standard file types’ do you have floating around that might not be accessible with your current hardware/software environment anymore?
Ok, yes. Over time the relevance of these documents often becomes less and retention policies will most likely weed out a lot of them anyway but still… You don’t want to run into a situation where you are caught out having THE file when you absolutely need it, but no way to access it.

So…

  • Be aware of the fact that file formats, even if considered a ‘standard’ now go out of date or get replaced,
  • Keep track of the types of file formats that you store and reevaluate them regularly,
  • Try to keep the number of formats you have to manage down by enforcing certain standards
  • Test and maintain possible viewers and converters and regularly reevaluate them when you buy new software or update your existing packages,
  • Migrate older documents to new standard formats if you find their importance warrants it and other ways of accessing are becoming limited,
  • Maintain a good retention policy so you don’t keep managing file formats that really are no longer relevant
What is considered a standard file format now might be outdated before the retention period on the documents created with it expires. don’t get caught out when the moment is there to produce that information.

IBM Connections 4 gold nugget: Drag and drop file management

Like everyone else I’ve been excited to find out all the little and big new features IBM Connections 4 has to offer and even though I’ve been Beta testing it for months I’m still finding new little gold nuggets of functionality each day. One that I came across while looking at Luis Benitezvideo of new features in IBM Connections 4 is the drag and drop in the files section of the browser to upload new files or versions (at approximately at 2:50). I love it!

It makes it so much easier to upload files as you don’t have to first click a button and navigate to the file location anymore. On drop of the file or files (yes multiple works too!) it will automatically prompt you for tags and sharing options. Giving you the option to share it immediately with individuals or communities. Even better is that it also recognizes files that are already uploaded in your files section, prompting you to save the new version either as a version or with a rename.

This same functionality was already available through the Windows desktop plugin and the Lotus files plug-in that also allows drag & drop and automatic recognition of new versions but lets face it not everyone wants to install plugins and add-ins and sometimes it’s simply not even an option (try installing the Windows desktop plugin on your Mac!). With this you don’t have to, simply open your ‘My Files’ section and drag&drop your file or files in. It works like a charm!

And it turns out this doesn’t just works on Greenhouse or your on premises install of IBM Connections 4 but on Smartcloud as well (thanks to Erik Vos who alerted me to this!). This nifty little functionality is absolutely one of my favorite new functionalities of IBM Connections. What is yours?