Working as a Field Support Engineer, the majority of our service engagements are tailored to the specific needs of a client. One of my favorite types of engagements is delivering deep dive sessions onsite at customers.
I just returned from delivering two customers engagements delivering IBM Sametime 9 enablement onsite to administrators. Sametime is a product that delivers a front end user experience that depends so much on a variety of interacting products which vary greatly from configuration to configuration. The best way to keep the skills fresh and focused is often to do it with an environment review.
I spend most of my time with a select group of products. The exposure allowed by a year of engagements builds an experience rapidly, not to mention the ongoing experience sharing with peers in a similar role, in Support or with Development worldwide. During a customer engagement, I typically discover new opportunities to help on things beyond the intended product training, as the conversation leads sometimes to wishes, odd "esoteric experiences", past issues or just a question that bring to light unmet needs that I can sometime address on the spot. At minimum, the training allows us to focus specifically on the components used, helping the installation overall and the manpower driving it.
Doing such training onsite definitely delivers value more than once.
Accelerated Value Specialist/Field Support Engineer
Based in the United States, Brad Boston has been working in a customer facing role at IBM for the past ten years. In that time the focus has always been not only on problem resolution but on total customer satisfaction. His areas of technical skill include the IBM i platform, Sametime, Traveler and Websphere.
If your an existing IBM Notes/Domino customer, and looking to move your email to SmartCloud Notes or our new IBM Verse technology, you'll need to configure a hybrid environment to move your mailboxes to the Cloud. An hybrid environment provides a number of other important benefits.
If your considering a hybrid configuration, consider deploying the hybrid components and existing Domino applications in SoftLayer. Softlayer provides a number of unique benefits including a competitive monthly or hourly charge rate with no long-term commitments. It also has an wide variety of configurations including virtalized and bare-metal configurations. Customer can get computing images provisioned within hours globally in one of our many Softlayer data centers. With the available firewall options, you can have the environment up and running quickly and securely.
My experience with leveraging SoftLayer as the foundation for Hybrid configurations has been extremely positive. A first plus is the global network of SoftLayer data centers which allows the deployment of hybrid servers in relative proximity to users within an organization and IBM's Connections Cloud Data center's.
SoftLayer can also host your on-premise Domino applications or Sametime services and be a co-location of Security, Hygiene or DLP services.
Delivery Manager and Architect, IBM Software Services, Social Business and Industry Cloud Solutions
Stuart is an experience architect with a concentration in the design of portal and collaborative Lotus technologies. As an IT Architect in the Canadian software group’s Toronto Laboratory, Stuart has 16 years experience in the architecture and design of enterprise solutions for the banking/finance, insurance, government and manufacturing sectors. Stuart is also an active member of the IBM technical community, serving as an elected Canadian member of the ISSC America’s Technology Council, an affiliate member of the IBM Academy of Technology.
What's the Difference Between Search and Expertise Analytics?
During discussions with customers about the advanced capabilities of IBM Software Services' Expertise solutions, I find myself describing the differences between simple searches, enterprise searches, and the expertise analytics that we utilize. This blog summarizes those thoughts and explains why expertise analytics provides much better results than keyword or attribute searches.
Let's build up a series of layers representing different data sets and what results can be made available when trying to find an expert.
Directory - a simple attribute search
The foundation layer is the directory; that simple repository used for authentication and authorization which provides basic information like name, email address, phone number and office location. It provides answers to questions like "What is Scott's phone number". When extended to include job functions and titles, it can be used in a limited sense for expertise location by surfacing results to a search for "Certified Project Manager".
User Profile - aggregating what we know about a person
The next layer up is the user profile; a container into which we can aggregate additional details about a person. Solutions like IBM Connections provide a rich container of structured and unstructured data, aggregating details in three different dimensions
What the organization declares about me - the IBM Connections Profile is initially built from the corporate directory, with all the attributes from the directory layer incorporated into the profile. It is then extended using data integration tools to aggregate additional data elements from enterprise systems like Human Resources, Corporate Training, Skills Certifications, and Patent Databases
What I declare about myself - the IBM Connections Profile contains data elements for me to fill in, including personal background and resume information. I use social tags to stamp my profile with expertise topics, declaring the topics in which I have skills and interests
What my peers declare about me - the IBM Connections Profile then allows others to use social tagging to validate my skill areas. Peers add tags to my profile as I interact with them. The more peers tagging me for a certain skill, the more it becomes an indicator of my expertise.
With this rich profile in place I have a strong foundation for a profile search in order to locate experts. I can search for keywords and be presented with the people that have a match on that topic based on profile attributes and tags. The rich social profile is so important that we've developed a solution to rapidly capture information into it. More on IBM Connections Touchpoint in a future blog.
Content Contributions - expertise inference through publication
Any content that is contributed by a person is also a strong indicator of their expertise. IBM Connections have many containers for this purpose in the form of Files, Blogs, Wikis, Forums and Activities. Looking for an expert based on a topic keyword at this layer is similar to an enterprise search. It is very powerful and returns a large results set based on different content types. By focussing on the authors of the content, we can screen the results down to the most likely people having expertise in the needed area, and pivot to their profile to find out how to contact them. However, enterprise search results typically return a large volume of results, causing the searcher to segregate and apply filters to sift down to the real experts.
Recommendations - an application of profile and content analytics
So content and enterprise searches produce a lot of results that might overwhelm a user, and in large systems it is impossible to keep track of new people and new content as it is created. Hence the need for the Recommendations component within IBM Connections. This is an application of profile and content analytics to serve up important people and publications based on your areas of expertise. In this scenario, potential experts are served up for you consideration based on the attributes and actions you share.
The power of IBM Connections searching...
All these layers combine to form the core of IBM Connections, using search and recommendations to locate experts. It is very powerful stuff and many customers are at this part of the journey. They may have just determined a corporate directory strategy, deployed IBM Connections Profiles and begun aggregating additional data sources onto the profile, and started to use some of the content elements to capture the contributions from experts.
These elements form a repository of explicit expertise: we have specific tags, published content, and certification tracking levels stamped on the profile. What else do we have as an implicit indicator of expertise, or ways to make the results set of potential experts better?
...but let's harness the social platform and do more
Since IBM Connections is a rich social platform and we use these additional elements to reach out to more experts and refine the results to present the best experts to meet the need.
Social Validation - increase the expertise ranking based on the reaction of peers. As a content item is Liked, Reshared, and Commented upon
Social Network Analysis - knowing who is connected to whom, refine the results to promote the experts that have the most interactions with me
Engagement Analytics - based on the levels of participation in the system, promote the experts that are the most active and engaged. They are more likely to provide help
Inferred Expertise - Expertise in one area implies possible expertise in related areas. Add inferred experts to the results.
Prospective Experts - Who else has matching characteristics to known experts? It is likely that they have expertise, even if they haven't contributed yet. Seed the results with these prospective experts to get them engaged and active
Workload Balancing - It's not fair to route all inquiries to a single set of experts. Take their workload into account and even out the requests.
By taking these additional factors into account, the results set of experts moves from "Who has the skill?" to a much richer answer of "Who is the best at helping on this topic at this time?"
These additional factors are what IBM Software Services is incorporating in our series of IBM Expertise Solutions. Content within IBM Connections, as well as external content in enterprise systems, is analyzed and indexed according to standard full text practices and the more advanced social factors. We can then incorporate the expertise analytics into a variety of use cases:
IBM Expertise Locator - quickly find the best expert within the with organization on a specific topic and connect with them
We are looking forward to meet you at ConnectED. This year, the AVP Red Carpet Lounge and the Lab Services Zone merged in one room that you don't want to miss: the Expertise Zone.
Discover our innovative solutions to build Organizational Expertise and meet other engaged event participants interested in the same. Our experts have been helping customers worldwide extend the power of Social to accelerate employee engagement and to build greater collective knowledge.
This lead us to extend our portfolio of solutions to help the popular shift to the Cloud and to expand the value of Connections. If you find that expertise sharing is not happening fast enough in your organization, you want to hear about our solutions. We now have social project and innovation management solutions for you. As discussed earlier this week, we will preview Project MUSE, a framework allowing cloud and on-premise customers to be early adopters even with a customized environment. We will present our three tier level of support for cloud customers, maximizing your ROI, providing a higher priority service level and providing expert assistance for the adoption and full benefit of the Cloud. We can help you move to cloud extremely fast and efficiently thanks to SmartCloud Migration Factory and bring your Domino applications along. Last but not least, if you have been busy and missed the upcoming end of service of Notes 8.0, Domino 8.0 and Sametime 8.0, we can help you bridge to a supported release with our Upgrade Bridge offering with an extra!
Lots of action and even more! Drop by the Expertise Zone to meet our hosts. We'll be more than happy to answer your questions and talk about our solutions.
My team, part of the Collaboration Services team, brings innovative applications built on the Connections platform to market. Right now we're working with IBM Research, IBM CIO and the Analytics Strategy team to introduce a solution that measures employee social engagement. So, for the past few weeks I've been learning about Engagement Analytics.
Not sure what that term means? Engagement analytics measures levels of participation and the value of contributions to a social environment. At IBM we are strongly encouraged to share information / ideas / files socially in IBM Connections and, as a result, I now spend more of my time working in Connections than I do in email. Our internal engagement analytics dashboard gives me feedback on how I'm doing (pretty well, actually).
The dashboard provides a numerical score on a scale of 1 to 100 for my level of engagement as compared to others in my organization and IBM overall. The overall score has several components including my level of activity (how often I post and share content) and how others react to content I've shared (are they commenting on it or liking it). Eminence measures how often people reach out to me (are they tagging me, mentioning me) and my network score rates the size and diversity of my network. It's fun to see my score climb and it's also fun to compare scores with teammates. Additionally it helps me understand where I can improve.
Engagement analytics goes beyond just providing my personal social dashboard. By compiling the data for business units or organizations, managers can better understand the social health of their teams. This is an emerging area of research with many possibilities that I'm just starting to understand. One thing I know for sure is that when we start talking to customers about this solution we'll get great feedback on how it needs to evolve to better support their needs. Stay tuned for more information on our offerings over the next few weeks.
If you're interested in learning more about this topic, I highly recommend the information Marie Wallace has shared here as well as well as in her blog. Oh, and don't forget her Ted Talk!
Cynthia L. Oehmig
Worldwide Program Manager, ISSC Apps Program
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Cynthia has worked at IBM for almost 20 years. Always focused on collaboration software, she has worked on both services and education teams. One of her favorite things about IBM is meeting and working with people all over the world.
Would you like to hire Watson to be part of your workforce in action? You will be pleased to hear that Watson can now participate in Connections in the same way a human worker can, as an option available through Social Q&A.
Social Q&A is part of the Expertise 360 suite. It enables users to obtain and reuse answers from questions intelligently routed to subject matter experts throughout your organization. Social Q&A leverages smart analytics to route new questions to the appropriate subject matter experts for timely handling and to build a central repository of questions and answers for reuse.
We now have the capability of adding Watson as an expert that can be polled by Social Q&A, allowing Watson, as an expert in your organisation, to support your workforce in unprecedented ways. An employee could post a question, say, related to one of your products requirements, corporate policies, a question regarding local laws, traveling, etc... Watson will apply the extent of his expertise to answer questions with unmatched speed and efficiency.
Find out more about Social Q&A and about hiring Watson to support your workforce by visiting the Expertise Zone set up at Peacock 1. Jason Gary or David Byrd will be pleased to tell you more.
Things are progressing rapidly in the world of IBM Verse, our new intelligent mail assistant, with a neat "Getting Started" wizzard just released and the Android version of Verse Mobile expected this week (the iOS one is already out).
Personally, I am very impressed by the genius behind the important contacts toolbar, highlighted in red in the enclosed picture of the desktop version. I consider it the "dashboard to my mail file". It presents the counts of unread emails, of what I owe others, of what they owe me, along my important contacts. On Mobile, important contacts appear in a full screen, from which you can see a person's mail by selecting their picture.
What is so great about it?
It helps me be more dynamic! Verse scans my inbox and identifies important correspondants based on the moment. I can make a suggestion of important contact stick through a simple drag and drop or work with the dynamic choices identified by Verse's smarts. Prior to using Verse, I did not adjust to my actual workload my list of important contacts. Verse does it for me now. Verse's recommendations on my cyclic important friends is priceless: they help me adapt to the changing demand.
One clic replaces scrolling. Verse saves me from scrolling to attend my mail. While color coding previously helped me spot important mail, now, I am informed of important arrivals without any browsing thanks to visual cues on this dashboard and a single clic. Nothing falls off to screen.
You've got mail! No, Better: You've got important mail! Verse advises me of any new mail from an important person by a red dot. I can't miss it. Dynamic. Visible. Timely. Effective. If I click on the circled icon representing this person, it shows me the mail related to this person. I am no longer in chasing mode through a list of emails: what is important comes to me in a click.
Act on me! Just as brilliant, are the counts of unread mail and follow up emails, now split in two categories: what I owe others and what they owe me. I always found that I did not attend as regularly as I would like to, my follow up folder. Here, the numbers are nagging me for action!
Without a doubt, the important contacts toolbar is key to my new way to work, a huge time saver and organizer.
With the overall theme of sharing experiences on how to develop a breakthrough idea to take it to fruitition, we warmed up on a few questions regarding developping our personal brand in social medias. We shared thoughts on the importance to establish a niche for oneself. Among the great input being tabled, Dorie Clark shared that it is important in order to establish credibility and that once this is done, you can strategically expand into adjacent areas.
We then discussed the importance for companies to foster a climate for collective innovation rather than expect that all breakthrough ideas should come from the top. Widely accepted concept, some good insight was shared including my favorite, one of Tamara McCleary's contribution stating that "sometimes the people who have the best ideas are the ones who don't think they have the answers". This is so true. Without teaming, some ideas go to waste. Ideas find their place easier and are built on through the diversity and the power of teams. Later in the call, she also shared tips on how to involve people who think they are not creative so they become full contributors.
We discussed many of the conditions required to take great ideas to term in a corporate setting, like the importance of getting honest peer feedback to do the initial idea strenghtening, the importance of networks and sponsorship to expand and so on. We also touched on the topic of protectionism when Mark Babbitt rightfully pointed out that "Protectionism is an Industrial age obstacle, a barrier to success. In the Social Age, we don't own ideas... we create conversations around them". Very well said, I thought.
Through-out the chat, the featured authors and the participants generously shared their experience and observations on the questions asked. We concluded with a discussion around how to combine ideas across fields to support passions. This ability to transpose a working model to a new field to reuse expertise and inspire creativity is a key differentiator of innovators.
If you would like to read the full transcript of this very interesting crowd chat, just click on the picture above.
Diane Morneau, M.Sc.
Manager of Communications, Offerings and Knowledge Development
Based in Canada, Diane has been working in IBM's Collaboration Services division for eighteen years. Her team supports the Social Business Support and Services teams for their Communications, Marketing, Service Offerings, Knowledge Management and Education needs. Her favorite blogging topics are subjects related to creativity and innovation.
Join us as we discuss application assets that our customers are using to drive greater adoption of IBM Connections. We will discuss Touchpoint for guided onboarding of new users, Social Sidebar for lightweight integration with other systems, the User Adoption Toolkit for contextual tutorials of features, and Invite to facilitate collaboration with people outside your organization. In addition, we'll point you to more resources to get the most out of your IBM Connections environment.
The dreaded call spike from a new version of software is the nightmare all Service Desk professionals have experienced. Service Level metrics, staffing and productivity all suffer when we deploy new versions of software, especially when the User interface has changed. Remember “Where is the Print Button?” from the new Office 2007 ribbon? That simple interface change stimulated a 47% rise in Service Desk calls for a 90 day rolling period in countless organizations. Answering ‘spike’ questions disrupts service levels, creates staffing challenges, and causes delays in agents resolving more complex diagnostic issues. By using pre-emptive intervention and a continuous ‘User Adoption Campaign’, Service Desks are able to smooth the implementation change for End Users and minimize the Service Desk metric levels.
Continuous Campaigns is a way to think about the solution from an End Users’ perspective. Like an advertising agency, we need to ‘touch’ the ‘consumer’ 13 times to change behavior. If we are going to do that, we need tools and programs that intersect with the End User (aka Spike Caller!) at every point in the users’ learning progression in the their new application environment. The chart below illustrates some of the resources that can be deployed in concert to minimize disruption and enhance productivity.
User Adoption Tools (UAT) are the key to running Continuous Campaigns that will keep spike calls to a minimum. UAT materials can be as simple as what the Service Desk has always known as a ‘Cheat Sheet’. These 2 page basic How-To guides are essential for Agents, so why not for ‘Consumers’ (aka End Users)? How about a short commercial that gives a preview of the new software? A Tip of the Week email as the product is launched? Or Lunch and Learn Topic slide presentations? Deploying a range of resources that can get in front of questions as they occur or stimulate questions when we are ready to take them is a good thing for both the User and the Service Desk. New user interfaces and changes to software design are as frustrating to End Users productivity as it is the Service Desk efficiency!
Our job is to get IT Users back to work! … and get them up to speed on new software quickly. Think about how you can contribute to Continuous Campaigns and how you might build User Adoption Tools that pre-empt the spike that will occur AGAIN with Windows 10 and Office 2016.
Keith Gibson, CEO
Keith is a 15 year veteran of the Service Desk industry where he has focused on the role of Knowledge in the support equation. His experience includes very large as well as startup service desks. He has worked for IBM, KPMG, Sykes Enterprises before founding his own business over 15 years ago. Knowledge Accelerators was founded with the belief that once table driven applications accelerated application deployment, the speed an organization can adapt to changes is then constrained by the speed knowledge can be assimilated by the end ‘consumers’ of the knowledge.
The move to the Cloud does not have to be a lonely journey... in fact it should not be! The move to the Cloud is driven by cost,improved agility and innovation, in order to improve business results. Whether it is a back office application that tracks customer behavior, a self service application that reduces cost and improves sales, or a CRM system, they all have one common denominator, business results. Successfully leveraging Cloud computing requires making sure your organization is properly aligned and all roles and responsibilities accounted for. As we accompany various Corporations through their different stages of maturity with their use of the Cloud, I identified five patterns which I would like to share:
1: IT organizations must adapt
A successful move to the Cloud requires awareness and planning for the new roles and responsibilities that come with the move. Today's organizations are built to accommodate the traditional on premise computing model that has been around for decades. Even if parts are outsourced, the model as well as roles and responsibilities remained the same. The life cycle of on premise is spans the gamut from product/technology evaluation, architecture, deployment, operations and support. The environment is under the control of the CIO and the teams are organized for best results. With move to the Cloud,the environment as well as roles and responsibilities required for success are different
2: Change is constant, get used to it
One often overlooked change in moving to the cloud is what is needed to manage change. With on premise computing, change is a critical part of any organization. I have a long history in the change management discipline. I have sat through weeks or months of planning meetings for new hardware and software. Changes to the environment are painstakingly planned, and tested before deployment. Introducing a change with out due diligence can have catastrophic results, taking down mission critical systems and impacting the business. Cloud is much different. No longer do changes come in waves or "releases", instead there is a constant delivery model where changes are made weekly or even daily. To take the best advantage of Cloud an organization must be constantly informed and updated on new features and functions. Business units need to plan to take advantage of the new features and functions, help desks must be aware in order to support users. Above all the customer IT organization must be well informed and as agile as possible.
3: Opportunities abound, the agile will win
Cloud computing brings with it many great opportunities but to fully exploit them, you need to look at your organization. The constant delivery model necessitates changes to everything from application development to help desk. While we typically think of a deployment phase, now we must think of constant exploitation of what the Cloud has to offer. The organization that can identify the way to best leverage Cloud capabilities and do it quickly and constantly, will succeed. Organizations that do not will find the move challenging and will not optimize their investments.
4: Partnership is required for success
We in the IT community have talked about "partnerships" for decades. With the Cloud it is even more imperative that vendors and customers build strong and true partnerships. With the rate of change and today's highly competitive business environment no one can afford time lost due to finger pointing. Instead, the communication needs to be as partners, not as vendor and customer. This applies not only to any issue encountered during the initial set up or migration, but throughout the complete process. Good communication is the key to success.
5: It's ok to be in the dark
Introduction of new features and products, like many aspects of Cloud computing, is vastly different from the on premise model. Unlike on premise, where upgrade decisions are made based on a new release or version of a product, Cloud leverages "dark launch". New features or upgrades can literally be introduced at any time, with limited access granted by the vendor. Now, instead of a 6 month beta period, customers can involve themselves in programs where they can pick and choose new features they want to try. Instead of a "waterfall" approach, the customer must position themselves to constantly evaluate and take advantage of new features.
To help customers to get the most of the Cloud, we crafted a Premier Support offering that offers a higher level of support and can be personalized to the needs.
Our YouTube channel, ICSSupportVideos, delivers short 5-6 minutes videos on a variety of topics related to our products - best practices, configuration tips, demonstrations and so on. Subscribe and be one of the first advised of new postings!
Here are a few recent submissions:
Connections Touchpoint demo
In this demonstration, Scott Rogers, Collaboration Consultant, shows how a new user can be routed through the Touchpoint application to build their profile and social network.
A brief overview of the Websphere SSL Configuration area as used by the Sametime product family
An overview by Tony Payne, as part of a Sametime Open Mic session titled "SSL and Sametime: POODLE Training 101" delivered in March.
Install and configure IBM Notes client for federated login (SAML) on a PC workstation
In this video, Frank Meng and J Rajendran explain how to install and configure IBM Notes client for federated login (SAML) on a new or an additional PC workstation.