#Social software lessons from the field: Part 1
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  connections ibm_connections ibm_redbooks_thought_lead... profiles ibm_redbooks hr tags social_software paul_band human_resources
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In this two-part blog post I will share with you some of my experiences and lessons learned during IBM Connections customer deployments. I hope these tips will make your social business journey smoother and help you to realize the returns faster.
Before any servers are commissioned or code is installed, as with any software deployment project, it's important to plan deployment architecture so that it meets the capacity, growth and availability requirements of the service.
My preferred approach is to use a three-tier deployment model, where the system is composed of three distinct server roles.
The benefit of this model is that hardware sizing estimates are generally more accurate because the workload will be more consistent. Also, each tier can be individually tuned to perform the workload it is dedicated to. The result is that you avoid resource contention and thus reduced potential throughput.
Connection deployment option
During the Connections server install you must choose from the small, medium or large deployment options.
The small deployment is typically used for proof of concepts and demonstrations only, so I would avoid it for production systems. The medium deployment groups similar Connections application types together into three clusters. This provides a good balance between scalability and hardware resource requirements. The large deployment deploys each Connections application into a dedicated cluster. While this offers the greatest scope for scalability, it does require a large server (in terms of CPU and memory). My personal experience of customers with between one and ten thousand users suggests that the medium deployment was appropriate.
Furthermore I am told that the intra-JVM (Java Virtual Machine) communication between like components, which occurs in the medium deployment, is more efficient.
When using IBM DB2 for the back-end database store, I always recommend using a separate database instance for each application. Although this is at the cost of a higher demand for memory (RAM), IBM has found this to offer the best performance.
The Profiles application in Connections forms the cornerstone for building your personal network and highlighting your skills and expertise. While your organization's profiles will develop over time, it's important to get off to a strong start.
During the planning phase you will want to design the user interface (UI) and data model of the Connections profile.
Connections ships with some wizards and IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator (TDI) scripts to import profile data from the same Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory that Connections uses for authentication.
Start by exporting a few LDAP records into the LDAP Directory Interchange Format (LDIF). From here you can see what data is available already in the LDAP and identify any gaps. Additional TDI scripts may be required to import data from other sources (such as your Oracle HR system).
A common use case of Connections that I have encountered is the skills matrix, or expertise locator. A combination of profile tags and powerful social analytics can identify experts in a particular field within your organization.
To accelerate profile tagging, create a taxonomy (or tagonomy, if you like) that describes skills, expertise or other recognized classifications in your organization.
Announce (how about a blog!) a forthcoming “Tagging Tuesday” when everyone is encouraged to tag their network. Keep the taxonomy in a wiki that can be updated to keep up with business needs.
Sametime integration, HTTPS and SSL certificates
Authentication inside of Connections will take place in an encrypted browser session using HTTPS. Once a user is logged on, the session usually remains encrypted. If you are a Sametime customer then I strongly recommend integrating the IBM Lotus Sametime Proxy Server with IBM Connections to provide embedded presence awareness and instant messaging.
If you do integrate Sametime with Connections, you will need to ensure that you are using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates issued by a trusted certificate authority on the Sametime Proxy Server. If not, depending on your browser type, either you will get no integration or the user will persistently get certificate errors in the browser.
Social adoption roadmap
Successful introduction of social business tools into an organization necessitates changes in the working practices of the employees. IBM Software Services offers an adoption roadmap solution designed to assist customers who are starting to plan the rollout of IBM Connections to employees.
Part of the roadmap is to establish a pilot, or early adopters, group. The group should consist of a small number of users (20 to 30) who will help establish content and drive usage of the system. They often go on to be “Connections champions” who colleagues can go to for assistance in the early days of adoption.
Some examples of early adopters may be the executive sponsor who is keen to establish a new organizational communication channel, members of the HR team who are looking to build an up-to-date policies and procedures guide, or professional services employees looking to expand their network and establish a thriving pool of intellectual capital.
These are just a portion of my tips on deploying IBM Connections in your organization. Stay tuned for part 2, where I'll cover several more of my lessons learned in the social software field. In the meantime you can find me on Twitter, @therealpaulband.
Paul Band is a technical consultant for IBM Software Services for Collaboration in the UK. Paul specializes in the implementation and administration of collaboration systems. Paul is especially passionate about using social networking to find expertise and widen his network. Paul co-authored a Redbooks wiki publication on Domino administration best practices and enjoys cycling and crazy golf.
Paul is an IBM Redbooks thought leader