Outside Looking In: GURUpalooza and Ask The Product Managers

February 4, 2016

Through the wonders of technology, I was able to attend this year’s GURUpalooza and Ask the Product Managers at Connect 2016. I think it was an excellent use of Periscope and it also allowed me to better understand both sessions. After watching both, I have some opinions from this year’s editions.

First, and easiest, Ask The Product Managers.

Unlike earlier conferences, the combining of “Ask the Developers” with “Ask the Project Managers” eliminated the finger pointing between the two groups. That is, you attend either of the sessions only to hear one group say “ask the other group.” It was maddening.

Why is this still a thing?

It is readily apparent that nothing that is said by attendees is written down or “taken back.” This is extremely obvious when David Hablewitz runs down questions from previous year’s sessions (and by “previous years,” I mean several years. David seems to keep a running list.)  Audience members may feel better, after asking their question, but nothing ever gets done. It only gets people upset.

If I’m wrong, please comment where this is not true.

This is only one hour, at the end of the conference. Why is this not an ongoing, continuous feedback loop? There is a place for this, for example IdeaJam, but I believe that while the Developers/Admins/users of IBM products continue to add Ideas, IBM does not give it the attention that it deserves. And, again, there is no closure to the Ideas. Or responses from IBM.

The sheer number of IBMers on the stage is staggering. Taking fifteen minutes to go through introductions is a waste of time. Assuming that IBM has the right people on stage, just start the session and let the appropriate people answer the questions. Prior to answering the question, the individual could introduce themselves.

But, really, why is this session still on the agenda?

GURUpalooza

Many of these people I describe as friend. A lot of these people, I have known for many years. And, those on stage, have known each other for a long time. You immediately get the sense that they are all very comfortable with each other.

Which means that there are, and will probably continue to be, many things said that only those on stage (and a few in the audience) will understand.

As I sat in my chair, 1,000+ miles away watching the Periscope video, I became a bit uneasy with the number of “inside” references bandied about by the group. Why? To those not familiar with the people on stage, it seemed to me to build a small barrier between the guru’s and the audience. This is definitely not the intent, it was the impression that I got. Lord knows, they have sweat and bled to bring you the best technical track in any conference, and, being at the end of the conference, deserve some relief and laughs, However, not at the expense of “alienating” (poor word choice, I am certain) most members of the audience.

The other thing I noticed, because I’ve been around a while, is that basically the same people are the stage. I get it that Connect is the conference for IBM social software and to draw people in you need speakers that have been around for a while, have name recognition, have the power to draw people to the conference. What I am saying is, in a nutshell, are there individuals that are behind the scenes, that are the next generation of speakers? The ones that are going to take up the reins and blaze new trails on the shoulders of the giants? While it can take years to form the name recognition and drawing power of those on the GURUpalooza stage, are there people spending the time to become the new giants? Do we see them or hear them at the user group conferences? Thankfully, there are plenty of places for them to show their stuff.

It’s my opinion that while the administrators keep the lights on and provide a solid foundation for these technologies, it is the developers that actually have the power to show the relevance of that foundation. You have to have both, but the developers will drive demand, provide life to the products, and get others interested in careers using the products. Are there developer proteges out there, waiting for their time in the limelight? A succession plan, if you will.

You could ask me if I am doing the same thing on the Administration side. To that question, I can answer “yes.” As we experienced admins move up in roles and responsibilities, we are bringing in individuals whom we are training in the art of administration, so that they may take the reins in a few years. It only makes good business sense; you have to keep the mail routing and the enterprise social network rocking. Will they speak at conferences? I don’t know; it’s up to them. But they are getting ready to dominate administration tasks and for that, the developers and users should be happy.


IBM ConnectED 2015: A Few Problems

December 12, 2014

Connected2015_logo

After giving this topic some thought, and soliciting some comments, it isn’t news that IBM has a few image problems with ConnectED. One could make the argument that these problems started a couple of years ago. As it is, this being the last (IMHO) conference for this particular IBM software group in Orlando, here are a few problems with ConnectED 2015:

  1. If you change the name of something, you will instantly lose a percentage of the customers you had attending. Remember all that goodwill, identity, and buzz you had for Lotusphere? Perhaps even Connect? It’s gone. You blew it all on a name change. “Wait! But we have refocused the conference and it needed a new name!” No, you’ve just destroyed years of goodwill and instant recognition. It’s gone, forever. Was it worth it for a (silly) name change? I could point out that a name change was needed when IBM did away with the Lotus name. Fine. But then two subsequent name changes? Oh, and “Connect” is not a unique conference name. Try Googling it; you best be specific with your search.
  2. Many past attendees have not heard the message that this year will be “more technical” and are assuming the quality and  content will be roughly what it was in years past. But, a lot of them have been disappointed in years past, so they aren’t coming. Just saying it will be doesn’t make it so. Even if you repeat it to yourself hundreds of times. So, I say, prove it to me. Wait, what? There aren’t any “more technical” sessions listed on the website months in advance of the renamed conference? So, I have to take you at your word? How do I create a case to my manager that it is worth (roughly) $3,000US to attend when I have nothing on which to base my claim? Now that the agenda is available, the focus seems to be Connections (no surprise there). However, this could still be a tough sell for those companies that do not run Connections.
  3. Those who are in the know enough to have heard it will be “more technical” are also the ones to realize that IBM often do not deliver what they promise and/or what you expect, so they may not trust IBM that it will be more technical. They don’t trust IBM’s presenters will be subject matter experts. They are skeptical as to whether the technical content will be relevant to them (could be non-ICS content in an attempt to get atendees to use Cognos, or could be ICS products that customers are not using and don’t care about – CCM, anyone?). Remember the past few years? While I certainly see where IBM is heading, there are quite a few companies out there, quite possibly the majority, that see zero value in “social” or cloud.

ConnectED 2015 is less value for the same money, which is very upsetting.  What do I mean? Fewer days, same price. Fewer sessions (because of fewer days), same price. This is very troubling.

In years past, previous attendees would be getting hammered with phone calls and e-mails leading up to the conference. This year? Silence from both mediums. I think that the funny thing about this is that IBM believes that everyone that they need to reach are on Twitter, watch PlanetLotus, are on LinkedIN, etc. That is definitely not the case. E-mail is still, I am guessing, the Number One method of effectively communicating with everyone.

I believe, that of the problems, the money issue and complete lack of messaging and marketing have aided IBM in creating an event for about 1,000-1,500 attendees. Only those “in the know” will be aware of the changes; those that are on Twitter or regularly read PlanetLotus.

In my opinion, this is the last year for the conference in this location at this time. Look for something later in the year, hosted in Las Vegas, as a part of much larger IBM conference. Which should mean “more value for your money” if you are an IBM customer.

By the way, I am planning to be there for the opening weekend. I will not be an attendee.


Connect 2014: Some Additional Highlights

February 14, 2014

Some highlights/announcement from Connect 2014:

IBM will consolidate the collaboration applications under one name, “Connections.” Example, Sametime will be rebranded Connections Chat (the instant messaging portion) and Connections Meetings (the meetings portion). Based on what I heard from the Product Managers in this area during “Ask the Product Managers,” it will be some time before they start using the new branding. It will take you and I much longer.

From PCWorld, comes this:

This means that the Connections bundle will include the Notes/Domino email platform, Docs office productivity apps and Sametime tools for IM, audio/video communications and Web meetings.

As those products get updated this year, they will be rebranded with the Connections name and offered as part that suite, whose core ESN software lets users create employee profiles, blogs, wikis, discussion forums and the like, as well as share, co-edit and comment on files and documents.

“Those products work together today. They’re fully integrated, but now the branding will provide clarity and focus and highlight all these integrated capabilities,” said Kramer Reeves, IBM Messaging and Collaboration Solutions director.

Consolidating these integrated products under a single brand umbrella will help IBM show prospective customers what it has to offer against competing suites like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s Apps, as well as against vendors with narrower offerings, like Box and Dropbox in cloud storage and Jive Software in ESN.

More >

 For Connections, the following were announced:

  • File Sync which lets you synchronize files between your Connections Files repository, your desktop, and your mobile devices. You can pick and choose which files you would like to sync and differential sync is automatic to save bandwidth and time. File Sync with mobile devices is available today in SmartCloud. This is very much needed and will keep users in Connections instead of using competing products. It received a rousing round of approval from the delegates in the OGS.
  • Coming in Connections 4.5 IFR2, Ephox EditLive. A demo can be seen here, along with additional information.
  • Focus on user engagement. You’ll be able to personalize your activity stream and navigation bar and filter for content that is most important to you right now based on what you’re working on.
  • Search your activity stream, set up your real-time notification center and mark favorite content.
  • File galleries in Communities where you can preview files before choosing to download them and where you can manage, organize and share files visually.
  • Community folders which can be shared onto the overview page and browsed
  • @mentions everywhere
  • Secure external file sharing from a single internal instance of Connections installed on premises. External people will see only the information they were given access to, they won’t see public profiles and public communities. (Secure external file sharing is a feature of SmartCloud Connections today)

Coming in Traveler this year:

  • Ability to sync the trash folder with the server
  • Response indicators in inbox (reply and forward icons)
  • Sending S/MIME encrypted mail
  • Sametime awareness in the inbox
  • Integration with Connections services (Files, Communities, Activities)
  • Enhanced Support on Windows Phone for Calendaring, ToDos
  • DLP enhancements
  • Certificate-based authentication
  • New native Notes Traveler for iOS which allows cross-app integration and more features
  • Redesigned Android Traveler app

Coming in Sametime (oops, I mean Connections Chat, Connections Meetings):

  • Implementing additional on-premises Sametime 9 functionality in SmartCloud
  • Sharepoint 2013 integration
  • Chat logging for persistent chat rooms
  • More continuous video streams, video recording, optimized Citrix VDI support, content sharing with video, intelligent cascading MCUs
  • Mapping meeting management features to Connections
  • Integration with IBM Docs
  • Mobile API’s
  • Windows phone and tablet support
  • Ability to receive incoming calls via the mobile softphone

Of course, MailNext was announced. Screen shots and my thoughts can be found here.


Connect 2014: Domino Onboarding Manager

February 13, 2014

A feature in an imminent release of Domino was kinda/sorta announced at the Opening General Session. It was at the “What’s New in Domino” session where more information was shared. However, slides are not available for that session on the Connect site. Pity.

Not to worry, dear readers. You download have a rather small PDF of Domino Onboarding Manager right here (see below).

What is Domino OnBoarding Manager?

A tool which can migrate users/groups from Active Directory to Domino and emails/calendars/contacts from Exchange/Outlook to Domino/Notes.

FINALLY . . . we have a tool that will assist in the migration of Exchange/Outlook users to Notes/Domino. Perfect for those organizations that need to migrate recent acquisitions into their Domino environment. Perfect for anyone else that needs to perform a migration. Perfect for allaying the naysayers concerning the future of Notes and Domino.

Enjoy. DominoOnboardingManager presentation


Connect 2014: My Thoughts

February 12, 2014

Connect2014Banner

 

Unlike previous years, it has taken me longer to process what I saw and heard at Connect in order to have an opinion of the conference. Until now, when asked, “How was the conference?” I answered “good.” It was all I had.

Now, I have a better answer.

“Transitional.”

I believe that you have to be in denial to not get the overall direction IBM is taking with this conference and their products. Last year, it was, for the most part, the same as in previous years. It was if IBM was gently placing their toes in the seas of change.

Not so this year.

This year, unless you were “all in” with Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime, there was very little problem scheduling sessions to meet your needs. Oh, there were Notes/Domino/XPages sessions, but the first two were in, IMHO, in short supply. Development (that’s XPages )? Yeah, those were there, but hold no interest for an Administrator like myself. Except in AdminBlast where I learn how to turn off that feature. 🙂

I am very fortunate.

First, I was able to attend Connect with friend and colleague Barb Skedel. Together, we were able to split appropriate sessions, eliminating the whole “which session should I attend at this time” conundrum. Talk about stress relief.

Second, and most importantly, I accepted a full-time position with a company that is installing and implementing Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime. Unlike past years, where I was totally focused on Notes and Domino, this year I transitioned to every appropriate session for those areas. And, if it wasn’t for Barb, I would have been very upset at missing several key sessions. This was for me, a conference exactly like the ones in the past. Full of technical content on software that I use on a daily basis; Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Even as an administrator, you would find me in every “Customizing Connections” session that was available. And I understood exactly what the speakers were presenting and demoing. Isn’t that scary?

That should give you all you need to know about my present and future.

Notes and Domino? Of course, they are my foundation and in my future. However, this conference, in those areas, is no longer the “must attend” event if you’re an administrator. [Author disclaimer: I am not disparaging those attendees or presenters who came to Orlando and spent their time and money on those sessions. Honestly, take a look at the sessions again and tell me that Connect is for you]. Take another look at MailNext. While IBM keeps telling us that it runs on Domino, most, if not all, of the features coming in that product will require a Connections environment in order to take full advantage of those features. And if they don’t with the first iteration, they most certainly will with subsequent releases.

From my standpoint, that is a good thing. I want mail to integrate with Connections. Myself and my teammates have spent a lot of time getting Connections up and running and I want to leverage that investment as much as I can. Because if it integrates with Connections, then everyone will be using Connections, whether they know it or not.

Win-win.

I was not at all disappointed in this conference; Connect hits everything that I am now and will be. If I were a Domino administrator, I don’t think that this conference would be for me. In fact, I would never return. There isn’t enough content to make the conference worth the time or money (seeing my friends, that is another matter entirely. I would still “attend,” I would fly down on Thursday or Friday, stay the weekend, and fly home on Sunday night). Domino development? I really don’t know enough about Domino development to make a judgement.

You can sling all the “IBM says” and “IBM is committed to” statements you want about Notes and Domino. I firmly believe that Notes and Domino are a cash cow for IBM, and is treated as such:

Since the business unit can maintain profits with little maintenance or investment, a cash cow can also be used to describe a profitable but complacent company or business unit.

The place where IBM wants you to go, is exactly where I am going. And I feel fine.

One of the side benefits to attending Connections/Sametime/WebSphere/Doc sessions is that everyone was a new speaker to me. One of the side benefits of not attending Notes and Domino sessions was that I did not have to see the same speakers I’ve seen at more Lotuspheres/Connects that I care to admit. Oh, there is no doubt that they are very good, excellent, in fact, however I’d like to see some new people present. No, I’ll go even further; I’d like to see all new speakers in every Domino session (administrator and developer). Don’t you think that seeing the same people present at the same conference year in and year out is getting tiresome? Want to not have my thought come as a shock to the system? Try this: co-present with the person that will replace you. Then, the following year, take a seat in the audience while your protégé runs the show.

While I wait for that, I’ll just continue to support the regional User Group conferences to see new speakers and topics.

I’ve transitioned from a Notes/Domino Administrator to a Connections/WebSphere/Sametime/Docs Administrator and quasi-developer (you need to customize Connections, after all). Lotusphere transitioned from Notes and Domino to Connect and Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Connect 2014 was exactly what I expected and wanted from IBM.  Even in the labs, with the exception of the MailNext in theDesign Lab, I spent all of my other time with the Connections, Sametime, and Docs people. I didn’t even stop by the Notes/Domino pedestals. Even in the Product Showcase, most of my time was with vendors who are investing in and developing applications for Connections and Sametime.

Like I said, “transitional.”


Connect 2014: MailNext-Screenshots and Thoughts

February 12, 2014

During the OGS at Connect 2014, IBM demonstrated the next iteration of, what can be described as, the next release of Notes. It’s called “MailNext.” While the OGS gave a fairly good overview of the interface, it was when I took the time to visit the Design Studio UX Lab that I received a much better view of MailNext.

The “home” page:

MailNext1

 

The pictures below the search bar are of people who you are interacting via e-mail. The floating numbers show you the number of messages from that individual. At a glance, you see everything you need for the day.

MailNext4

 

I think that one of the better features is in the lower right. There, it tells you who owes you something. For example, if you assigned a “To Do” or a task. Better, it also shows you that you are waiting for a reply from someone, where you asked for something. I think that this is a great tool for managing your peers and managers.

Looking at the interface, if you click on someone at the top of the screen, it pops up mini menus of things you can do with that person:

MailNext2

 

Some of the little pop up menu items are mail, calendar, chat, share.

MailNext3

As you have selected the individual, you see the interface change to be person (or “context”) sensitive. In the above screen shot, you see that you get a “what’s new” view, where you can view mail, mail threads from that person or that include that person. On the right, is a “team view,” where that person is included in some sort of project with you.

And, in the upper right, you see that you still haven’t read 26 messages in your Inbox.

Finally, in what could be described as your traditional Inbox view, potential enhancements include in-line attachment preview, an option to share content with a Connections Community, and “powerful search.”

MailNext5

 

Initial thoughts: While I spent quite some time with a developer in the lab, I was getting the feeling that this interface isn’t totally fleshed out. IBM has some ideas on what they want it to do, however they were very curious as to what I thought some of the icons should mean/do. For example, if I were to hover over a person’s image, and get the mini menus, I expected that if I click on the envelope, a new message would be created, populated with that person’s e-mail address. Or, see all mail that I received from that person.

There were more questions from the developer along those lines: “What do you think <x> should do?” “What do you think <x> represents?” “What are your expectations of <x>?”

And, I discovered that only certain parts of the interface work. Click on something, like “Compose,” and nothing happens. That’s one way to make sure everyone that demo’s the software, from the OGS demo, to the breakout sessions, to the Design Lab, communicates the same message. It also showed my naivete toward demos; I thought it was a fully functional demo.

Next, I didn’t get the feeling that proposed delivery dates for MailNext will be met. To me, there is still a lot of work to be done. And there wasn’t any mention of what needs to be done to the back-end Domino server (other than upgrading it).

Finally, if most/all of your users are running the IBM Notes client, you better start thinking about the ramifications of most/all of your users running mail in a browser.

What do you think of MailNext and what you saw/heard at Connect (or on one of the streamed videos?)

 


Relive the Connect 2014 OGS . . . In Cleveland!

February 11, 2014

Truthfully, not all of the Connect 2014 Opening General Session. Only the first bit.

Friday, 4 April, you have the opportunity to experience American Authors, at The Grog Shop. Tickets are only $15. With your ticket in hand, you can see something like this:

IMG_4745

And this time, there will be a mosh pit (enter at your own risk).

“It’s gonna be the best day of my life.”

See you there? \m/

If Cleveland is not on your travel plans, you can meet up with American Authors by checking out their tour schedule.

(Doesn’t Andy take some amazing pictures?)