Category Archives: Platform

Any Organization, Any Industry – The Vegas Casino Story

Every industry has it’s own unique issues within their collaboration story. And the story doesn’t end when your organization buys an enterprise collaboration platform like IBM Connections.

Why? Because, no doubt, you use many tools in your work day to organize and share data, keep track of clients and leads, manage issues or a git repository, etc. Think about it – all these tools to get things done and collaborate with data, processes, and people in your organization, and all of it in different systems that don’t talk with each other. Collaboration? Hmm – more like two steps forward, one step backward given all those silo’d systems!

Maybe you have a fragmented email culture as well – which creates churn, politics, and other linear work models and inefficiencies. Perhaps all your silo’d tools prevent cross-enterprise engagement and lead to miscommunications and confusions?

IBM Connections “Integrated” by AppFusions – a platform to bring all your systems together in unlimited contextual communities – is the solution to your problems.  It’s time to stop wasting time, bouncing all over the place! It’s time to work smarter and faster, drive attention to key content in context, and reduce data and process duplication efforts. It’s time to streamline your workflow. Finally, a collaboration solution that “just works” – 24/7 for you.

In the spirit of this month’s IBM InterConnect in Las Vegas (see you there!), let’s think about IBM Connections “Integrated” – in a real-life scenario … Meet Vincent, a Las Vegas native.

Photo: www.westgatedestinations.com
Photo: www.westgatedestinations.com

Hello, I am Vincent.

I run a large Vegas casino hotel with high rotating traffic, which results in a very high volume of documentation – from employee data to guest information to incident reporting to housekeeping management records… yeah, it’s A LOT.

For years, given the diversity of our workforce, data was tracked via our central Facilities office that doubled as HR. They use a number of systems to get their job done. Over time, however, Facilities began to balk at the enormous amount of documentation, the many incident and record tracking systems, and the different levels of expertise required for HR.

HR was spun-out as a separate department, but we decided to move all our data records into Dropbox, categorized by different types. We also deployed JIRA ServiceDesk for incident tracking, and records associated with incidents were attached to the logged incidents. This helped a great deal, but still, it’s a never ending chase.

The HR spin-out was a good thing, but it brought to light other issues, of lacking real-time community communications, relationship development, and ongoing collaboration. While the data tracking and records issues were solved partly, we ended up with more systems and no central place for the many types of communities the casino needed (internally and externally)…

Enter IBM Connections integrated with Dropbox and JIRA ServiceDesk. We are thrilled with the new system since now everyone is looking at other ways to improve our work processes via integrations into the IBM Connections system. The good thing is everyone is aligned, in one home – the silo’d system is gone.  

The journey is just beginning – we hope to also build communities within Connections for our external customers that are regulars. By connecting with those customers closer, we can grow our relationships and they will come back more often. We are also excited about the IBM Connections integration with Salesforce – it’s about time we had access to our CRM within our HR and Account Management communities!

Thanks for reading! Vincent’s Vegas casino story is one of hundreds … unsure how your industry or organization would benefit from IBM Connections “Integrated?” Contact us at info@appfusions.com, and we’ll help you connect the dots!

Related links:

Again, if you like what you find here, please join the conversation through our comment fields!

Rock on,

The AppFusions team

Post by Rosalie Plofchan, Marketing Manager of AppFusions

AppFusions is Fired Up for IBM Connect 2013 – Bring.It.On.AGAIN

It’s been a great last week, as AppFusions has been closing down on many preparations for the imminent IBM Connect 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida from Jan 27 – Jan 31. We are sponsoring an exhibitors booth at the event, and can’t wait – it’s going to be a great event.

Further, last Wednesday we received a mail notifying us that we’d made the cut for a stage demo at the 2nd annual “App Throwdown” event – an open demo/contest for OpenSocial application integrations into IBM platforms.

Here’s a video of last years, where we were sitting in the audience. Now, maybe we’re app integration geeks or something, not sure — but anyways, for us this event got us into quite a bit of an excited tizzy! It screamed “APPFUSIONS!”

After the session we all mutually agreed: “WE need to be on that stage next year!”

And now we will be! Yay!

==

In the last week, our development team has continued working hard at putting in many last minute polishes to show off IBM and Atlassian software, together, for the following integrations:

  • IBM Sametime in Atlassian JIRA, Confluence, Stash, Fisheye, and Bamboo
  • Atlassian JIRA, Confluence, and Stash in IBM Connections

Here’s a preview!

For the IBM Sametime integrations, Atlassian customers running JIRA, Confluence, Stash, FishEye, Bamboo can natively work with an embedded Sametime client available to them in context inside their Atlassian tools.

Wherever a user’s name shows up in the interfaces, presence indicators tell you whether your colleague is available to chat. If green (available), right click on the presence indicator and start a chat on the fly.

Bring in other colleagues for group chat, or if your IBM Sametime subscription allows for video conferences, go ahead — launch into those too — all from right inside your Atlassian tools!

As for the IBM Connections integrations, of course these are a bit different – but also super convenient to bring together platforms, and more, workflows.

Feature highlights include:
  • From IBM Connections, launch the sharebox and log a JIRA issue straight-away from IBM Connections.
  • Atlassian JIRA, Confluence, Stash (and Bamboo, coming) activity is pushed continually in real-time into IBM Connections, with:
    • live contextual / actionable links back to your Atlassian systems – or,
    • you can launch a JIRA embedded experience for commenting or status dispositioning, from IBM Connections.
  • Atlassian Confluence is integrated into IBM Connections as the “wiki of choice”. (From the Apps menu, find Atlassian Confluence wiki at your fingertips.)
Finally, if you are one of those mobile types (aren’t we all?!) — we’ve got you covered there too. Directly within IBM Connections’ mobile application, find native JIRA and Confluence application nodes!

As great as all this is – it’s only the beginning!

AppFusions will be continuing to feature develop these integrations throughout 2013.

We can’t wait to see how they evolve, with the help and great ideas of IBM and Atlassian customers who in our experience, like AppFusions, simply want to “bring it together!”

(Keep in touch, if you would like more info!)


So come visit us at the show. We’ll be at booth B57, right on the way into (or out of) the keynotes!

You won’t be able to miss us — we’ll be the ones with the gigantic Atlassian Experts sign, and bright colored AppFusions sign like the one below!

Note: AppFusions’ Bill Ives will also be covering the event daily on this blog beginning Jan. 28. Hope to see you there!

Get excited – 5 days left!

Look out for our new banner !!

IBM Connections 4.0 Expands Its Social, Integration, and Analytic Capabilities

With the latest release, IBM Connections 4.0 continues its movement from providing a suite of applications to becoming a comprehensive social business platform with tighter integration.

Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager, IBM Social Software

I recently spoke with Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager for Connections on the 4.0 release. I have covered Connections a number of times before (see for example, Review of IBM Connections 3.0 and IBM Connections: Analytics + Social). Suzanne and I discussed several enhanced capabilities within Connections 4.0.

First, IBM expanded Activity Streams to include 3rd party applications and “embedded experiences”, a new OpenSocial API to allow for tight integration with other special purpose business applications.

This feature allows the user to not only receive updates from a variety of enterprise apps through the Connections Activity Stream, but also it allows them to take action (e.g., approvals, changes) on these updates directly without going to the originating app.

The Activity Stream is the event listing (“for example, Bill commented on your request for approval”) and the embedded experience is the mini-view that lets you interact with the app. Both the Activity Stream and the Embedded Apps enable 3rd party integration.

Connections 4.0 aggregates Activity Streams that are customized for your context and you can further enhance this contextualization through following or unfollowing items, groups, people, etc. This filtering allows for more relevant content and reduces the potential for fire hosing the user.

I think this is huge and a potentially transformative step toward better enabling the connected enterprise. Connections can become the hub of this connected enterprise, by not only introducing more social features into enterprise apps, but also by establishing greater integration between the apps, the tasks, and the people within the enterprise.

Suzanne said that this is part of IBM’s goal to transform business processes and I certainly agree with this direction.

This embedded experience feature is built on Open Social, a set of standards that IBM and other firms such as Jive Software, Atlassian, Microsoft, and Google have collaboratively developed or utilized.

IBM has turned its contribution into the Open Social Foundation, allowing third-party vendors to make better use of the embedded feature capabilities within Connections for even more robust integrations.

SugarCRM, the leading open source CRM, is one example of a firm that has taken this step. Suzanne said that we will continue to see even tighter integrations moving forward.

AppFusions is actively working on such integrations with Immersive for Atlassian, for IBM Connections, integrating the “Atlassian Suite” to bring business and engineering users and functional system access together.

In IBM Connections – Coming Q1, 2013 firm.

With a target release at IBM Connect 2013, AppFusions will unveil native integration with Atlassian JIRA (issue tracking), Confluence (enterprise wiki), Fisheye (source code viewer, etc.), Crucible (peer code reviews), Stash (enterprise Git), and Bamboo (continuous integration server).

Suzanne next covered upgrades to email usage within Connections 4.0. Now you can work on your email within Connections, without having to go to the email client. They have this feature for both IBM Domino and MS Exchange (Outlook), hitting the vast majority of business email.

Not only can you respond to emails within Connections, but you can also easily share social content. In addition, access to calendaring is provided. This gives you access to the major collaborative capabilities within one environment.

You can have this email access anywhere within Connections and “click to share” updates within your Activity Stream, including adding hashtags and images with these updates.

You can then look for trending topics within related hashtags to follow the flow of relevant conversations by those people you are interested in.

You can also drill down through filters to see more detail and obtain greater focus.

Connections 4.0 also provides expanded metrics. There are now tools to make use of available analytic data and create custom reports. For example, you can track adoption across the enterprise and create reports on this activity.

There are many use cases for this new capability.You could use Connections to roll out a new HR policy and then track who reads it, who shared it, and what they said about it to get a better picture of how it is being received.

Communities are becoming a major use case for Connections and these analytic capabilities are proving very useful to community managers. They can see the most valued content, the top contributors, and other ways the community is performing. They can make adjustments to the community interface and track responses to these changes.

To further support communities, Connections is making it easier to tie different communities together, even those in separate spaces, or inside and outside the enterprise. This latter feature is important as McKinsey has shown that higher enterprise operating margins correlated with the “a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization.”

Now one central community can be used to track what is going on in several related communities, becoming the hub for connected conversations. Activity Streams with embedded experiences can be used to facilitate these cross-community conversations.

Suzanne said they are also facilitating the use of public domain content within the communities. She gave an example of using a blog post, such as this one, to spark a conversation within a community.

  • The community manager can ask for responses to the post or comments on it from the community.
  • The manager can also use the post content to spark conversations about product improvements or enhancements to customer service.
  • The community’s reaction can then go directly back into the blog as a response to the post.

They are also allowing for other public domain content from such sources as LinkedIn or Quora, as well as other internal communities, to used by the community.

Connections 4.0 also includes mobile support for iOS, Andriod, and Blackberry. It provides devices specific enhancements such as using the browsing capabilities specific to tablets versus smart phones.

In addition, you can add geolocation to your status updates directly from your mobile device and even upload photos for your network or communities to view.

Collectively, these enhancements are making Connections into a hub for the connected, social enterprise and should greatly extend its adoption and use.

IBM’s 2012 CEO Survey revealed that 57 percent of CEO’s identified social business as a top priority and more than 73 percent are making significant investments to draw insights into available data. The new capabilities within Connections support both of these findings.

Atlassian Stash Powers Enterprise Application Developers with DVCS Git

Jens Schumacher, Group Product Managerm Atlassian Development Tools

I have written about Atlassian on this blog (see for example: Atlassian Makes Significant Moves into the Enterprise Market). In this post, I focus on Atlassian Stash. It provides Git repository management for Enterprise teams behind the firewall.

I spoke with Jens Schumacher, Atlassian’s Group Product Manager for developer tools. These tools include: Bamboo, Crucible, Fisheye, and Stash. Bamboo provides continuous integration and release management. Crucible supports code review and Fisheye allows you to search out source code artifacts of various source code management flavors and browse commits, files, revisions, or related people. It also integrates seamlessly with JIRA.

Enter Stash! Stash incorporates the latest and greatest technologies in DVCS source code management and Git, allowing you to create and manage repositories, set up fine-grained permissions, and collaborate on code in a secure, fast and enterprise-grade manner.

Jens continued, providing me more background on the development of Stash.

Stash is the latest in Atlassian’s developer tools suite and was released in the Spring of 2012. Atlassian’s existing developer tools are already quite popular in development houses, but still the developers wanted more. They wanted to be able to host code in their own repository behind the firewall.

More – engineers are always pushing the envelope: they wanted Git support, a massively popular and growing DVCS approach used in code development and management these days.

To cleanly meet this need in both a tool and extensibility, Atlassian decided to build Stash from scratch including a ground up extensible API approach, rather than on top of their existing tools.

Stash incorporates code review into the development workflow so the new code gets properly reviewed before it is merged with the existing source code.

To facilitate development, Stash allows developers to set up branches, where code changes can be made in isolation and reviewed before being integrated with the mainline. This separation makes development of new features less complex.

You can easily have new code reviewed while incorporating automated testing tools as well. Stash facilitates the merging of reviewed code into the core source code. This concept of a separate workflow for development is popular with open source efforts and Atlassian has now taken a leading industry position with the Stash offering, enabling this capability inside the firewall.

Integration efforts with Stash are already supported in a number of ways.

  • Per Jens, 80% of the Fortune 500, as well as many many smaller firms, use Atlassian JIRA for issue tracking.Stash is fully integrated with JIRA so you can link code in Stash to a JIRA ticket and track the progress of changes.
  • Stash also natively integrates with enterprise user directory systems, such as Active Directory or LDAP, to make deployment easier within the enterprise.In addition, again, Stash was built with an extensive REST API to make information within Stash easily integrate-able with other tools.

Jens gave me a simple use case. Their customers often want to migrate content from one repository to another or from the cloud to within the firewall. Stash can automate aspects of this common process to simplify the effort.

In the future, Stash will be enhanced with more branch permission capabilities to better ensure that all code gets reviewed before it is merged into the core source code. They are also working hard on scalability requirements to better serve their many large customers. Currently, Stash supports up to 500 user licenses. Finally, they are working on adding enhanced collaboration capabilities for code review.

Jens noted that Atlassian has a massive ecosystem. This is helpful as there already are a number of add-ons for Stash. For example, there is a badge add-on to acknowledge developers’ efforts and skills. Another is a chart add-on to provide statistics. AppFusions built a Stash commenting add-on for Atlassian’s annual CodeGeist competition. Also, add-ons are available to help with different workflows that organizations have in place.

On top of all that, Atlassian’s very popular SourceTree DVCS client further removes DVCS source code tool complexity, and is used to support and guide the process of adding new workflows with proper controls within branching efforts, among other.

Customer response has been very positive since the release of Stash earlier this year. The timing was right for the release, as developers were ready for it.

Jens’ team is now providing new releases every 7 – 9 weeks, with many of the new capabilities coming from customer input.

New needs are always arising in enterprise software development efforts, and many organizations and third party developers want to tackle these needs. Stash provides enhanced support for these efforts.

Alfresco Continues to Enhance Its Content Management Offering, Enabling More Integration Touchpoints

Alfresco provides open source enterprise content management serving a variety of use cases. I covered them earlier in the year (see: Alfresco Brings its Open Source Document Management to the Cloud). Recently I spoke with Jeff Potts, their Chief Community Officer, to get an update and to go into their integration strategy in more depth.

Jeff Potts, Chief Community Officer, Alfresco

As Chief Community Officer, Jeff leads the Alfresco community. This includes partners, employees, developers, customers, and anyone else with an interest in Alfresco.  Indeed this is a large order, with over 200K downloads, and growing, of their content management server software to date – so that’s a large community.

Jeff focuses on the health of the community and makes sure it has the right tools, tutorials, forums, blog aggregation, wikis, and whatever else is useful to support collaboration and continue its growth. He also conducts outreach to other relevant communities to expand its awareness and participation.

The Alfresco open source offering is built on a repository for files of all types: documents, audio, video, images, and other types. Expanded access is made possible through its API using CMIS, an industry standard that is also used by other tools such as SharePoint and Documentum. CMIS uses “Web services and Web 2.0 interfaces to enable information sharing across content management repositories from different vendors.”

There are several applications that Alfresco has added on top of their repository. Share is a main one and it allows for users to share documents, calendars, links to support collaboration. In addition to collaboration and content management, use cases for Alfresco include records management and digital asset management.

Alfresco provides an on-premise Enterprise version of their software that is offered with support subscriptions. There is also a free community version available through the LGPLv3 open source license.  This year they have added a multi-tenant SaaS offering. This relieves clients of any hosting responsibilities so they can focus on organizing and using their content, not supporting the backend. Both the on-premise and SaaS version (cloud) have the same software and user interface.

With the cloud version, users can share content within the same domain since it is a multi-tenant offering. The cloud version also has a few less features at the moment, as basic document management is the primary use case. So the calendar, blogs, and wikis are not enabled at the moment. There are plans to make them also available in the cloud version in the future.

Next we discussed the Alfresco’s integration strategy.

Alfresco’s goal is to make Alfresco as open and available as possible. They want any interested developer to be able to work in the tools they are comfortable with to connect to the repository and create integrations. To enable this availability they have built APIs for both the on-premise and cloud versions.  While CMIS covers such functions as create, read, update, delete, Alfresco wanted a richer experience, so they added additional features to the API specific to Alfresco such as rating and comments.

AppFusions has worked with Alfresco to create integrations with Atlassian’s JIRA issues tracking tool and Confluence wiki. Both integrations are plugin and play, and provide seamless integration with Alfresco document management capabilities.

  • Alfresco in JIRA

    The JIRA integration allows Alfresco documents to be accessed, previewed, linked, edited, and downloaded – all from inside JIRA. Here’s a video.

  • The Confluence integration allows users to embed and access Alfresco file lists. Users can also preview, embed, print, download Alfresco files from Confluence.
    Alfresco in Confluence, v3.0 – List Macro

    Finally, when you edit an Alfresco document in Confluence, you are able to edit it in your favorite local Office application (MS Office, Apache Open Office, NeoOffice), and when done – the file is auto-magically saved back to Alfresco. Here’s a video.

AppFusions also has a Alfresco to Crowd authenticator, allowing for SSO (single sign-on) and user management of Atlassian and Alfresco via Crowd.

Collectively, these integrations really bring powerful platforms and brands, together. Best of worlds!

Alfresco has also recently released support for iOS and Andriod to enable developers to build mobile app integrations.  They are also expanding CMIS client-side libraries to better work with what Alfresco offers.

Alfresco has its third annual user conference, DevCon, coming up in November. This year the European version will be in Berlin, November 6 and 7. The US version will be in San Jose November 14-15.

The conferences will include technical workshops by Alfresco engineers and partners, case examples by users, and keynotes by the Alfresco leadership team. Both conferences will be preceded by a day of workshops for those new to Alfresco so they can more thoroughly engage with the event.

Jeff sees the use of the cloud continuing to expand and I would certainly agree. Alfresco will continue to offer more capabilities through the cloud. As CMIS becomes more widely used, they will make more CMIS-related tools available.

Alfresco is certainly moving in the right direction, hitting three of the main themes in the application marketplace with its expanding capabilities in social, mobile, and the cloud.

 

iRise Provides Functional Application Simulations to Accelerate Software Development

Visualizations through iRise give users the ability to create visual, interactive prototypes of new software projects that look and act just like the real thing, before a single line of code is written. This can be a major help in application development. I have written a bit about iRise before (see AppFusions’ Integrations of iRise® Visualization with Atlassian JIRA, Confluence).

Recently, I spoke with Pete Indelicato, Senior Product Manager at iRise, to get a broader overview of their capabilities and an update on their latest moves. Pete primary responsibility is understanding customer needs and defining solutions to meet those needs.  He then works closely with the iRise team of engineers to build out the solutions, as well as marketing for sales enablement.

Pete Indelicato, Sr. Product Manager at iRise

Most recently, Pete has been focused on “platform capabilities” based on APIs that let partners and customers leverage and extend the iRise platform.  He also manages the relationships with their integration partners, like AppFusions.

These extensions, like the Jira and Confluence integrations, allow the iRise platform to better fit into customers’ various processes and ecosystems, and the APIs lets other organizations contribute to and customize the capabilities of the iRise platform. iRise is in the middle of creating a new set of APIs focused on events and analytics.

I asked Pete for a brief overview of their Enterprise offering and how iRise helps their customers.  He began by saying that while communication is key to successful software development, many teams still rely on static documents, pictures and low fidelity click-through prototypes to communicate requirements, interaction design, and more.

For today’s rich, interactive software, these types of communication tools are not enough. The iRise platform allows teams to define and develop software collaboratively while focusing on a high-fidelity iRise simulation as the key communication asset.

These simulations can be constructed in a few minutes by non-technical business analysts or user experience professionals, without writing a single line of code.  You simply have to drag and drop application components to build a simulation. Then you add functionality by drawing lines indicating the course of user interactivity and data flow. In the screenshot, you can see a sample iRise studio screen on a tablet and a smart.

The simulations can then be used to communicate with business and technical stakeholders to make sure the organization is building the right thing.  Then, using other platform capabilities (such as RM integrations and code generation), the latter stages of the software definition and development can benefit from the ultra-realistic iRise simulation.

Pete went over several use cases. First, requirements solicitation can be made more effective. It can be difficult to engage business people who provide requirements when you are limited to offering them a text summary of the design with some static screen shots or a low-fi prototype. With iRise, the designer can show their team how the application looks and, more importantly, works to gather much more effective feedback and reduce the number of iterations and rework.

This same principle operates for interaction designs. Interaction designers can experiment with multiple approaches to solving the same problem while gathering useful feedback from potential users without having to build the software.

Then downstream, communication between designers and implementors is facilitated through the use of simulations of the design that look and act like the designer’s vision. Meanwhile, many related tasks such as documentation and training development, and even selling, can get a critical jump start while the application is still being built based on the iRise simulations.

Pete said that the iRise simulations are the most realistic simulations you can create without writing code and that is one of the reasons they call them “simulations”, not “prototypes”. They not only look accurate (visual fidelity), but act accurate: the user interactions and the data/logic in the simulation are also high-fidelity.  This latter capability is particularly important for efficient software development.

In most cases, the simulations that their customers create are indistinguishable from the production product, developed through code, that comes out months later.

When you think about the level of engagement, quality of communication, and all the parallel activities that iRise simulations bring to the table, the advantage integrations and extensions into a variety of ecosystems becomes clear.

I next asked Pete about their application integration strategies.

He said that very few software engineering / development organizations have identical ecosystems (tools, processes, habits, etc.).  iRise could spend many many thousands of dollars trying to make a complex “one size fits all” product, but instead they are choosing to open their product to integration.  This strategy not only facilitates more efficient internal development of their iRise Connect products, but it allows customers like AT&T and partners like AppFusions to build additional extensions and integrations that help iRise fit in other ecosystems.

iRise Catalog in Confluence. Select Simulation to embed and collaborate around.

The simulations are built on web technologies (HTML, CSS3, etc.). That makes them easily embeddable into other web-based platforms like Confluence and JIRA.  Putting iRise simulations in context of the collaborative environments and other development assets (e.g. story cards) makes that blend of information an ultra-effective communication asset.  Then, when team members not familiar with iRise simulations start to see them embedded in streams and story cards, they will start asking “Where can I get one of those?!”

Pete offered specific use cases for the Confluence and JIRA integrations that AppFusions created. Developers often use the Confluence wiki to create requirements documents. You can embed iRise simulations right in the Confluence-based requirements documents (videolisting). For the JIRA integration,  the issue tracking tool, is often used for more granular requirements or specific issues. (video | listing.)

OCT 8 – 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV

Again, iRise simulations can make the communication and handling of these development related issues much more efficient and effective.

Visualize 2012 is this year’s version of iRise’s annual conference where they gather practitioners, customers, and thought leaders for three days of workshops, presentations and socializing.  The 2012 session will occur in Las Vegas, October 8-10.  Speakers include Graeme Hackland, the Lotus F1 Team’s IT/IS Director responsible for all the Team’s Information Systems and many members of the iRise team, including CEO, Emmet Keeffe. They will also be doing workshops on their iConnect capability covering all the ways to use their APIs.

Live preview of linked iRise Simulation in JIRA.

Pete said they are very excited about the potential of their APIs because every day, it seems, someone has a new, inventive idea about a new integration, report, extension, etc.  Of course, they build the APIs with specific use cases in mind, but without fail someone outside of iRise thinks of a way of using iRise APIs in ways they never thought of.  He added that it is a good day every time that happens!

Pete is thankful that innovative companies like AppFusions and SquareOne Solutions are willing to spend some time exploring the possibilities with them. As iRise moves forward it is continuing to expand the number and type of API calls to support further integrations. They are also making significant infrastructure changes to support their more rapid product development.

The riddle is solved! Plugins 3 Framework for Atlassian On-Premise AND OnDemand

Just received a googlegroup mail that is too good to not share, from Don Brown, Atlassian’s engineer extraordinaire, and in his current incarnation, Atlassian’s “remote app”, eh hem, PLUGINS 3 Framework Design Architect!

He and his team (including Bob, Sam, Yon) finally solved the riddle – the riddle of:

providing a single application development AND deployment framework for both on-premise and OnDemand instantiations of Atlassian’s platforms (i.e., Confluence, JIRA, etc.).

It was a riddle that rattled long and hard in recent months, and really since the release of Atlassian OnDemand (and months before … over a year ago!).

The answer: Introducing Atlassian Plugins 3 Framework!

While I could summarize, sometimes emails are left best in the perfect state that they came in as.

This is one of them.

—-Original Message—–

From: atlassian-remoteapps-dev@googlegroups.com [mailto:atlassian-remoteapps-dev@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Don Brown
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 3:21 PM
To: atlassian-remoteapps-dev@googlegroups.com; atlassian-remoteapps-interest@googlegroups.com
Subject: Remote Apps is now Plugins 3

Over the next few months, the Remote Apps project will be transforming into Plugins 3, which is intended to be a complete replacement for Plugins 2.  The scope of Plugins 3 has expanded past just remotely hosted applications, and now brings its permissions and (now optional) sandboxing capabilities to in-process plugins as well.  We expect to deliver the first developer preview of this technology at AtlasCamp 2012 in September [1].

The backstory here is after our Summit 2012 presentation, we’ve been having a bunch of internal discussions as well as discussions with partners and existing plugin vendors about the capabilities and future of Remote Apps, and two limitations quickly stood out:

  1. Remote Apps isn’t on-premise friendly
  2. The sandboxing was too restrictive for many (most?) existing plugins

The first limitation was really the showstopper – if we encourage plugin vendors to write Remote Apps that can only work for OnDemand, 85% of our current customer base, the on-premise installations, won’t benefit, and worse, it could mean fewer and fewer plugins as developers won’t want to maintain two code bases.  The technical problem with Remote Apps and on-premise is that, since all the code is running on a remote server, it requires the on-premise Atlassian product to be addressable from that remote server, which almost always means the on-premise instance must be open to the Internet.  The only ways to get around this – some sort of reverse HTTP firewall-poking agent or locally installed Remote Apps – are not where we want to go.

Hardest riddle a cat ever had – Rubix!

The second problem of sandboxing is because Remote Apps was an all-or-nothing proposition.  Your app had to exist fully in the UI sandboxes we had in place (IFrames or strict HTML sanitization).  What we wanted instead was to expand the permission system to include permissions that would allow any plugin, in-process or remote, to be written, and therefore, ensure 100% of existing version 2 plugins could migrate.

The solution we decided upon is Plugins 3.  With Plugins 3, you can write a single binary (jar file) and deploy that plugin locally (in-process as you do now) or remotely in a standalone container running on a platform like Heroku.  Within the plugin descriptor itself, there will be information on where the plugin is hosted remotely if that installation method is chosen.  Therefore, the developer experience is like this:

  1. Write a version 3 plugin
  2. Deploy to Heroku (or where ever) to support OnDemand instances using the provided standalone container
  3. Register in the Marketplace as supporting remote and local installations

When an OnDemand administrator clicks ‘Install’, they will have the plugin installed as a remote descriptor pointing at your remotely hosted instance.  When an on-premise administrator clicks ‘Install’, the plugin jar will download and run in-process like before.  In both cases, the same plugin jar that was registered in the Marketplace is used.

Foundational to Plugins 3 is the concept of permissions, where a plugin is required to declare what APIs, code execution privileges, or sandbox breaking capabilities it needs. In addition to the existing Remote Apps permissions, Plugins 3 includes additional ones like ‘execute_java’, ‘use_private_apis’, and ‘generate_any_html’. This provides Atlassian the ability to define which permissions are available to side-loaded plugins in OnDemand, which need curation in the Marketplace, and which are only available for on-premise installations.

In all cases, the OnDemand or on-premise administrator will have to view and explicitly approve the permissions before the installation can take place.  This also means Plugins 3 will be able to support every current version 2 plugin with the quick migration step of adding permission declarations to the plugin descriptor.

However, if the migrated plugin is to be able to be executed by the container, significant effort, if not a complete rewrite, will likely be necessary.

In a nutshell, here is what has changed:

  • New permissions element in plugin-info in atlassian-plugin.xml
  • New plugin module descriptors for each Remote App extension point
  • Ability to use atlassian-plugin.xml instead of a Remote App descriptor, though the Remote App descriptor format is still supported
  • New container for running a version 3 Plugin outside the product
  • “Kits” that allow you to write your plugin in any JVM language you like.  Java, JavaScript, CoffeeScript supported out of the box.
  • Set of services that are implemented in container and local versions

In the next few days, we will be merging this work, currently in the ‘p3’ branch, into master.  I will also soon be publishing a Plugins 3 Tech Spec with a lot more detail than I’ve given here.  I’m excited about this new direction as it will bring the benefits of Remote Apps to all plugins for both OnDemand and on-premise.  Our goals are to make plugins secure, easy to write, and OnDemand-friendly, and the future looks bright.

Comments and feedback welcome!

Don

[1] http://www.atlassian.com/company/about/events/atlascamp/2012

===

Congrats Don and team.. let’s bring it on! 

Thank you for your persistence to the problem — AppFusions can’t wait to get our integrations and applications into the plugin 3 framework — one by one, and more into OnDemand.

The journey continues, for the long haul!

See you at AtlasCamp!

<eom>

Post by Ellen Feaheny, CEO of AppFusions.

Jive’s Platform Enables Comprehensive Enterprise Integration

Creating the connected enterprise is the key to driving business value in today’s economy. When over 84% of the value in S&P 500 firms is derived from intangible assets, the content within employee’s minds, facilitating collaboration across the enterprise in the context of work brings more of those minds to focus on solving meaningful challenges.

It leverages the firm’s most expensive investment, its people, to build revenue. Application integration is a foundation for this collaboration and Jive has certainly recognized this need in their product strategy.

I recently spoke with Mark Weitzel, about their integration strategy. We began with an overview of the Jive social business platform.

Mark Weitzel, Jive’s Director of Platform and Ecosystem

It is built to enable several use cases. One is building internal social intranets, supporting collaboration across the enterprise to break down silos through such features as activity streams and social groups to achieve the value described above.

Another is enabling external support groups. In this case companies set up external customer communities to address questions from other customers. These efforts have shown to both build customer engagement and loyalty and reduce support costs.

Mark said that Jive recognized the need to have integration with a firm’s legacy systems, their custom systems, and their other third party systems to put their own capabilities where work gets done. I could not agree more.

Jive did their research and found that their customers spent 34% less time searching for information and experts, had 28% fewer support calls, a 33% increase in customer satisfaction, and a 34% increase in brand awareness after they implemented Jive.

This supports the value of the use cases described above and is consistent with research by McKinsey on the value of the connected enterprise (see The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday (2010) and How social technologies are extending the organization (2011).

“What Matters” Streams

The key to getting this value was opening up their platform so collaboration could more easily occur across applications. To facilitate meaningful collaboration they provide such capabilities as an activity stream called “What Matters”.

What Matters Jive Screenshot

In this case Jive allowed employees to move away from the fire hose of content provided by many activity streams to focus the content through several means.

Jive’s What Matters stream intelligently provides only the relevant information to the user based on the information that is visible to them and the relationships they have in the system. For example, if you are a member of a group, then you will see all the activity for that group.

In addition, Jive’s activity stream delivers targeted information a user’s social “inbox”. The social inbox is managed by the user and they can choose what information is delivered there.

The user can set up custom activity streams that combine information that is relevant to their specific context. For example, to quickly and easily follow all the activity of a company’s executive staff, a user could simple setup a custom stream and select the relevant e-staff members. In addition, Jive created a recommendation engine that pushes content to you based on your behavior in the system.

Application Integration Strategy

Jive based its application integration strategy on OpenSocial.

They made a significant move to adopt this opne, community driven standard and Mark is now the President of the OpenSocial Foundation. OpenSocial defines a Web based component model for the delivery is cloud applications along with a set of social APIs that allow an application to be easily embedded into a platform and take advantage of its social elements, e.g. the connections between people and their activities.

It gives a clear programming model and an easy way to use APIs. This allows legacy applications to be integrated with today’s leading edge social collaboration platforms. You can give legacy systems a “social life”.  This allows the creation of connections where employees might not have previously used an application.

For example, AppFusions built a JIRA in Jive application that enables this integration on a seamless basis. (Here’s the video.) There are many situations where one employee might not have access to application where much needed content resides. For example, while the IT department might use JIRA for issue tracking, a sales person who does have JIRA might want access to the JIRA status on a customer issue. Now with the JIRA in Jive connector, they can bring JIRA into a Jive conversation and ask about how the issue is progressing.

Embedded Experiences

I asked Mark about their next steps in integration. He showed me an interesting demo where you can have embedded experience form multiple applications in an activity stream. He started a discussion in Jive. Then he referenced an INXPO Social TV event to in the content.

Next, he brought in additional content from Wikipedia, and CrunchBase. Activity around discussions naturally flow into the stream in Jive, and because of this other users were able to gain visibility into this exchange of information.

The technology that these interactions are built with is using OpenSocial’s embedded experiences. Jive calls our realization of that “!App Experiences”.

I asked Mark more about that. He told me Jive’s !App Experiences is an exciting way to embed applications directly into Jive content, e.g. a discussion. Because the application is embedded with the content, the application is available wherever the content is.

Mark then logged in as another person and could access all the content right within the activity stream without having to go to the other applications or have them installed. This provides for a very rich collaborative environment. It allows you to contribute to a conversation where you are working.

Jive’s activity stream (“What Matters”) intelligently determined that this person should see the content that Mark created. When they looked at that activity stream entry, the artifacts that the application embedded in content were clearly indicated as special links.

When the user clicked on an embedded !App Experience, the application opened and the user was able to have a rich interaction right from where they were in Jive (again, in this case, the activity stream).

And here the activity is fully expanded.

And here is the Goshido action opened.

Finally, you can also create action tasks for follow up to the original post in yet another tool, such as Goshido. Now multiple applications are linked around a work activity.Jive is the glue that brings all these application together.

It was very impressive and an excellent demonstration of how the connected enterprise should operate.

AppFusions is also working on !Apps Experience integrations with Atlassian Confluence, JIRA, GreenHopper, Fisheye, Crucible, Bamboo, and Stash (Enterprise Git). AppFusions will be showcasing these integrations at JiveWorld12, in October.

Early demos of these integrations can be scheduled now however, by contacting AppFusions at info@appfusions.com.

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

Atlassian Makes Significant Moves into the Enterprise Market

I have covered Atlassian several times on the AppGap blog (see for example – Atlassian Implementing OpenSocial within Enterprise Applications). Recently I spoke with Atlassian’s Matt Hodges, Confluence Product Marketing Manager, and Bill Arconati, Confluence Product Manager to catch up on their latest moves. We covered several topics, beginning with their increased support for large enterprises.

Matt said that with the release of JIRA 5.0 they have launched a multi-pronged effort to expand their support for the increasing number of enterprises that are adopting Altassian products on a larger scale.  First, there is now a dedicated 24/7 telephone support team to address enterprise issues.

Matt Hodges, Confluence Group Product Marketing Manager, Atlassian

This is a great move that I wish more software providers offered.  Also, included with your Enterprise Atlassian JIRA license, there is free administrator training that focuses on how to handle large instances. An Enterprise-customer-only online-support community is also now in place with quarterly input and support meetings. In addition, there are developers on the Atlassian product teams that focus only on ”Enterprise” issues. They are addressing issues like scalability (for both users and content), as well as performance.

While this increased enterprise effort started with JIRA, plans are in place to also address Enterprise-level issues with Confluence. One move to make Confluence more accessible for enterprise users was the rebuilding of the editor that was launched with Confluence 4.0, making it easier for the non-technical user. There continues to be focused ongoing improvements in this area. I can attest to this as I have been using Confluence a lot recently and I find it quite intuitive.

See screen and explanations below.

Bill pointed out that Confluence has always been aimed at the enterprise and the business user since it first started in 2004. That was one of its distinguishing features versus the open source wikis available at the time.

Bill Arconati, Confluence Group Product Manager, Atlassian

This focus has driven usage by an ever-increasing number of business users in large organizations. Logically, they have now added new layers of support and product development to accommodate them.

We next talked about adoption. Matt said that Atlassian focuses on tools for teams that build products. Its initial clients were in IT and product development groups.  But product development goes beyond IT to such areas as marketing and support, which of course subsequently expose Confluence to larger numbers of users.

Atlassian continues to add features to increase adoption by these newer audiences. The complete rebuilding of the editor is one example. Bill added that they have continued to make the design intuitive and also provide more on-boarding support. Among much others, Atlassian are working on a new solution for providing templates out-of-the-box, including business process ones to help new users see value faster.

I asked about Atlassian’s expanding customer base, as their list is quite impressive. They said from the beginning the business model has been bottoms-up adoption. They have made the product and the price points attractive to teams so that senior executive budget approvals are not required. Then the product spreads through the organizations as people find that it is easy to use and it helps them get their jobs done better.

Atlassian has focused on what their users tell them, rather than what analysts prescribe. This has been very successful. For example, when someone moves to a new role or a new job, they take Confluence with them.

I think this bottoms-up approach to sales is even more relevant today in the world of BYOD and self-provisioning, as users no longer rely completely on IT to furnish apps – users are taking matters into their own hands.

One important move for Atlassian in this direction was the release of their software as a service (SaaS) offering – an on-demand version of Confluence. Users can more easily self-provision and you can also start with a 30-day free trial of the on-demand version.

This combination of On-Demand and instant trials has significantly increased the number of trials to more than 50 a day and has lead to many new users. It has also increased the sales of the on-premise version, or still opt that direction.

We next covered their enterprise integration strategy. I think this is key since without integration across other apps that customers use daily, more silos are created and proper workflow does not occur. Matt said that they have built a platform in all their products that accepts add-on integrations and opening the door to third-party developers, like AppFusions among others, to build integrated  solutions.

The recent released of the Atlassian Marketplace at the end of May 2012 was a major move in this direction. Third-party developers can place their add-ons in the marketplace and Atlassian handles all the business issues, including payments. This is a win for all parties as customers only have to deal with one source at the procurement level: Atlassian vs. third-party developer “shops” spread across the globe. Some third-party developers report that their evaluations have more than tripled.

Bill pointed out that the integration requirements are not limited to legacy Enterprise apps. They are getting demand for integration add-ons for other cloud-based tools like Google Docs, Box and Dropbox, all of which are being met in the Marketplace.

He added that plug-ins go well-beyond simple connectivity integration issues, including also allowing for increased functionality. And these cloud-tools are not just used by consumers or SMBs these days. More and more large customers are starting to also adopt these tools, for both cost advantages and IT convenience.

I like the flexibility of their business model and the creation of the marketplace where everyone wins.

All of the moves to support the enterprise that we discussed make a lot of sense and I can see why sales have grown significantly. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

We closed with the idea of covering the release of Confluence 4.3 in early September that will have major new capabilities. You can try it now though; the early access release is available now.

==

Updated 8/17/2012: Just released Open Webinar on JIRA Enterprise offering (and mentions abt upcoming Confluence Enterprise). Another valuable presentation: JIRA State of the Union, Atlassian Summit 2012

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

UserVoice Enables Customer Engagement through Online Support and Feedback

UserVoice provides software to support help desks and engage customers in providing useful feedback. I recently spoke with CEO, Richard White, who said that their goal is to help Web-based companies better understand their online customers in the context of providing them with help.

They do not want to simply provide help desk support but also increase customer engagement. This is a wise move as it can only also increase customer loyalty and revenue.

Richard White, CEO, UserVoice

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that operate exclusively online. The relative low cost of doing virtual business is enabling smaller companies to get into the market.

The issues facing this new breed of companies are very different than traditional brick and mortar firms that set up a Web presence. UserVoice is designed to address the needs of this new breed of companies.

Richard made the very important point that companies that are exclusively online have few ways to interact directly with their customers except in help situations. Without a feedback system such as UserVoice, the only remaining form of feedback is revenue swings and companies need to stay ahead of this curve if the potential direction is downward.

These companies also face the need to support large numbers of customers with small staffs. UserVoice allows them to operate at scale with small support staffs. It offers two interrelated solutions: UserVoice Helpdesk™ and UserVoice Feedback™ .

UserVoice Helpdesk™ provides a simple, easy to use platform for customer support. Their target population for this offering is support teams ranging from 3 to 15 members so it is not overburdened with unnecessary features for this population. It is actually available for free for only one agent seat. Here is a sample support queue screen.

UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen
UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen

Some companies operate with one person or a rotating team of people and make full use of this free version. Others use the single seat to test it out before obtaining licenses for additional seats.

The HelpDesk is for support tickets to track customer requests. Instant Answers™ (see below) reduces the need to answer the same question over and over as it provides customers with relevant answers while they’re submitting a support request. Customers can give support staff kudos at any point in the support process which further encourages proactive customer service.

UserVoice Instant Answers
UserVoice Instant Answers

Here is a kudos screen.

UserVoice Leaderboard Screen
UserVoice Leaderboard Screen

UserVoice’s other offering, UserVoice Feedback™ makes it easy to collect feedback from customers — prioritized by votes — via a simple feedback forum. It is their more unique offering.

UserrVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen
UserVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen

Many large companies that already have entrenched and complex help desk systems still make use of UserVoice Feedback to collect customer input and increase engagement – both inside their organization’s firewall, as well as from external customers. Customers can easily submit and discuss ideas without having to sign up for a new account. Their voting system also prevents fraud and vocal minorities from distorting the true voice of the customer. Here is a partial sample voting screen.

Richard described how the Feedback management system interacts with other tools.  For example, AppFusions has built a connector with Atlassian JIRA, the widely adopted issue tracking tool (i.e., UserVoice to JIRA integration).

This allows companies to act on the feedback. Once the proper actions have occurred inside product management or engineering, then the results are passed back from JIRA to UserVoice Feedback to alert the customers of the result of their input. Here is an email notification of an update.

UserVoice Status Update
UserVoice Status Update

Richard said that this integration is key, as UserVoice does not want to be a point solution but part of an integrated customer response system. He mentioned that while most applications have APIs for connecting, it is not always easy. Having a ready-made integration tool through AppFusions makes this essential connection easy.

Putting customer input into JIRA also has the added benefit of letting engineers and product development people see what customers really want. Those responsible for product upgrades can see the actual numbers connected with requests to help guide their decisions.

Many studies have shown that customer involvement in product development increases the possibility of product success. This has also always been my personal experience too.

Understanding the voice of the customer has become an increased market need in the past few years. UserVoice addresses this need for online companies, providing a means for ongoing customer engagement at both the daily service level and for product improvement.

If you have additional questions on UserVoice or the JIRA integration, please do not hesitate to contact AppFusions at info@appfusions.com and we’ll help you – or get you going on a trial asap!

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.