Tag Archives: Integrations

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!

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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

Why IBM Connections + “Pink” + AppSpokes are perfect for each other

One of the biggest stories at last week’s IBM Connect is IBM Connections Pink. According to its creator at IBM, Pink is not an IBM Connections’ release, but a vision.

There were several sessions on Pink. I went to one led by CTO and Director of IBM Collaborations Solutions Software Development, Jason Gary, and another by Pink’s lead architect and developer, Andre Hagemeier.

Here is why I think Pink and AppSpokes are made for each other. (AppSpokes in AppFusions’ growing family of deep integration solutions for IBM Connections cloud and on-premise systems – PDF brief here).

First of all both emphasize an exceptional user experience as the #1 objective.

People are at the heart of the digital workplace – past, current and future.

IBM Connections “Pink” promises to provide a customizable UI for IBM Connections using “Muse” (another technology built for IBM Connections) for customer experiences, which allows for tenant-specific javascript code to be injected into IBM Connections. UI customization can be added to the App Registry, a central repository for all types of IBM Connections’ platform extensions (including IBM Verse extensions).

AppSpokes’ extensibility solutions, by AppFusions, also have been created with an end-to-end emphasis of the user experience in mind. Though the AppFusions’ team are firm believers of the API economy, we are also pragmatic.

AppFusions’ CEO, Ellen Feaheny, said it very simply: “APIs are not enough!” in her IBM Connect 2017 session, “Confront the Madness! All Your Tools and Systems of Record Integrated Natively in IBM Connections“. AppSpokes integrations provide a natively integrated user experience – and all the underlying integration “connectivity” technology – so everything “Just works!” in cloud or on-premise IBM Connections environments.

IBMConnectionsIntegrated


Second, both the Pink and AppSpokes teams realize that HOW YOU BUILD software is at least as important as WHAT YOU BUILD.
IBMConnectionsPinkTechnologiesAgain, AppSpokes is aligned with Pink: rapid agile development, open source technology, micro-service based architecture, multi-tenant services, single code base for cloud and on-premise environments, and containerized deployments are just a few examples of our shared vision and practices.

If you listened to the Pink sessions and the AppFusions’ sessions at IBM Connect 2017, you will agree that the people behind the visions and the work efforts too are risk-takers that are leading the tribes (as Seth Godin so poignantly describes!)


Last but not least, both Pink and AppSpokes are ultimately about strategy. That is, the customer platform experience strategy, not just IBM’s or AppFusions’ strategy.

PinkHow
Strategy – people first. Build the HOW with the WHO.

Both believe extensibility is a core part of a lasting strategy for digital collaboration in the enterprises. Both embrace open ecosystems with partners in mind.


IBMConnectionsPinkAtAglance
It’s a foundational strategy with “the people’s experience” at the heart.

With the motto of “Everything is an API”, Pink will allow both “Integrate In” and “Integrate Out” between your external applications and your enterprise social network.

The goal of AppSpokes is to power your IBM Connections environment, enabling powerful enterprise collaboration desktop with ready solutions, packaged yet extensible for easy deployments and enablement,UI-rich integrations, SSO, and capabilities through community and profile apps, activity streams, embedded experiences, menu items, macros and much more in IBM Connections (and soon IBM Verse).

AppSpokes implements “integrate in and out” designs – bringing your external applications inside IBM Connections so you can work from one platform, with unlimited contextual communities. For example, in the JIRA in IBM Connections integration, not only can you create, comment, and transition a JIRA issue in-context within your IBM Connections community, you can also link back to IBM Connections from your JIRA issue or task, among other.


At the closing session of IBM Connect 2017, composer Eric Whitacre showed us how the collaboration of thousands of singers across the globe can create the most beautiful music that lifts our spirit, touches our heart, and changes our view.

Like that! Let’s apply that viral tribe building joyful notion to IBM Connections’ extensibility, growth, and delight!

IBM Connect was a fabulous conference – the beginning of a new era – this year. The AppFusions’ team greatly looks forward to our continued work with the IBM Connections’ team, IBM partners, and of course and NOT least: IBM customers, to bring the richest and best experiences – IBM Connections (Pink) “Integrated” – to you!

EricWhitacre
Eric Whitacre conducting his virtual choir – a bold, unique, and beautiful “tribe” that he and his team created.

 

Making Enterprise Collaboration Work

Brad Power recently posted a useful piece on the Harvard Business Review blog, How Collaboration Tools Can Improve Knowledge Work. He began with the statement that “managers are focusing ever more on supporting knowledge workers — which these days is just about everybody.”  The post goes on to offer ways that online collaboration tools can help. They offer faster access to useful content and the ability to generate it in the process of work and share it to the right people, including those who you did know needed it.

As Brad wrote, the tools also open up communication up and down the different levels of the organization. This cross level communication was often consciously blocked by middle managers or just got lost in the chain of command. Now company conversations can be out in the open for anyone to take them in and join. Collaboration tools can turn Taylorism on its head so learning goes up and down the enterprise and the whole structure is flatted (image of Taylor from Wikipedia). I would certainly agree with Brad’s views here. However, precisely because of this transformative change in communication it takes a cultural change to work, as Brad notes.

Brad offers the positive example of Nationwide Insurance where online collaboration became embedded in the workplace, with the resulting increase engagement by workers. In their system, “Anyone can ask online questions, post comments, make announcements, recognize a peer, or search the network to find answers.”

Leaders are now putting communications into the open tool rather than doing massive email distributions. Ironically this gives them more control over their messages as they remain in the open and are not subject to private filtering and positioning through email.

Nationwide is not alone and as we wrote, McKinsey Projects Business Value of Social Business at a Trillion Annually. McKinsey  has already found quantified significant benefits from establishing greater connections within the enterprise. In 2010 they reported, Enterprise 2.0 finds Its Payday. Similar results were found in 2011. In both cases, they found significant quantified benefits from the business use of social media. Now they offer new research, The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies. They found, “that social technologies, when used within and across enterprises, have the potential to raise the productivity of the high-skill knowledge workers that are critical to performance and growth in the 21st century by 20 to 25 percent.”

So why have many companies not turned to online collaboration tools in the face of these intuitive benefits and positive returns? This is a question that Brad asks. He offers some success factors from Nationwide: senior leadership engagement, clear policies on compliance and governance, and the message that is was okay to be open and try new ideas.

In addition to addressing the people issues (so they are open to connecting and willing to step out of organizational silos), there are some essential technology ones, it is also necessary to get the applications connected so conversation do not occur in technical silos. As I wrote in Putting Social Media to Work, to be effective these systems that support interactions have to be integrated with the systems of record that support transactions. The social tools also need to be integrated with each other or companies are simply creating more silos of disconnection and benefits are not realized.

Application connectors are a major key realizing the business benefits of online collaboration tools and off-the-shelf plug-ins can allow for a major breakthrough in establishing these connections quickly and efficiently. For example, why not have your issue-tracking tool integrated with your collaboration tool?  This is one of the main focuses of AppFusions and we offer integrations between Atlassian’s issue tracking tool, JIRA, and a number of collaboration tools such as IBM Connections.

Rising Business Complexity Underscores the Need for the Connected Enterprise

Last week I wrote about the potential positive benefits of the connected Enterprise and social business. McKinsey found quantified benefits from the connected enterprise in both 2010 and 2011. Now they have doubled down on their forecasts for the business value of connectivity. See my post, McKinsey Projects Business Value of Social Business at a Trillion Annually, for a look at the bright side potential of the connected enterprise.

There is also a dark side potential for the disconnected enterprise. Forbes provides a number of recent examples in its article by Ron Ashkenas on, Wanted: Chief Complexity Reduction Officer. It notes how there is increasing complexity in the business world and documents how a number of formerly “best in class” companies such as Toyota, BP, and Johnson & Johnson took “huge hits to their reputations (and balance sheets) in ways that no one could have predicted.” This was largely because their dysfunctional internal communication failed to warn of early danger signs and ailed to provide an adequate way to respond to these crises.

For example, “Toyota found that its highly centralized, engineering-centric communication structure slowed down its ability to understand early warning signals about quality.” They added that, “Similarly, BP‘s response to the massive Gulf oil spill was clearly slowed down by its inability to easily coordinate the different businesses and functions involved in the crisis. You could also argue that J&J’s manufacturing problems can be traced partially to a fragmented organizational structure with diffuse accountability for quality and customer communication.” I also know that BP was one of the pioneers in knowledge management in the 90s, achieving significant success through shared learning. I stopped hearing about these efforts in the 2000s as management apparently went a different direction.

The Forbes article notes that a recent IBM study found that: “standout” companies (those who consistently improve operating margins) seem to be those that build “operating dexterity” and “reinvent customer relationships” without waiting for a crisis.” A cornerstone of this dexterity is the connectivity that McKinsey extols. It allows organizations to first learn about risks before they become disasters and to then provide a more coordinated response to reduce these risks.

Looking closely at the technical infrastructure required to support dexterity, we believe that application integration is one of the cornerstones of the connected enterprise. For example, is your issue tracking tool integrated with your collaboration tools to better monitor, manage, and mitigate potential risks?

This is why Appfusions has created plug-in connectors for Atlassian’s JIRA, the issue tracking tool used by 85% of the Fortune 100, to such collaboration and content management tools as IBM ConnectionsIBM Sametime, JiveBoxAlfresco, and Google Docs. We are continuing to build more plug-in application integrations to support the connected enterprise and help organizations better realize the bright side of social business.

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.

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.