Top 5 Reasons Not to Send That Calendar Invite
By Martin Keen, IBM Redbooks Project Leader
We all have the experience of using items in ways for which they were never intended. Sometimes this works great – a paper clip makes a perfect tool for pressing reset switches; a coin can make a handy screwdriver. Other times, it's a recipe for disaster – using my knees to control the steering wheel while unwrapping a drive-through burger. And then on occasion, things seem to be working just fine, but over time unfortunate unintended consequences begin to emerge.
I help run the IBM Redbooks social media presence (Facebook and Twitter). We recently adopted IBM Connections to manage tasks across our team. Before that, we managed our entire team through... calendar invitations. Along with the date and time of the next meeting, each calendar invitation contained meeting minutes, an agenda, and a spreadsheet attachment with important project details (monitoring schedule, IDs and passwords, and so forth).
Now yes, as a social media team, you'd think we'd know better. You'd think we'd recognize the perils of running a social business in a calendar application. But it was easy to adopt, and for a good while it mostly worked just fine. That was until some of those unintended consequences started to creep in.
Here are our Top 5 unintended consequences of running a social business with calendar invitations, and how an IBM Connections community saved us:
Who has that file?: Our trusty calendar invitation contained most of the information we'd need, but it was far from exhaustive. For example, we held a list of subject matter experts who could help get answers to questions from fans. The trouble was, that list was stored in a file on someone's computer. When I couldn't remember who the subject matter expert was for a question about the Emulex 10Gb Virtual Fabric Adapter (and it most certainly wasn't me!), I'd need to ask the person who held that list. With IBM Connections we store all common project information like this within a shared community.
Where did all the data go?: As the project information in the calendar invitation grew, we used the reschedule feature. Rescheduling a meeting invitation preserves all the existing information within it (creating a new meeting does not). One week, I declined the meeting invitation, and the invitation disappeared from my calendar completely! I had no access to all the important project information within it. With IBM Connections, I have access to our project information whenever I have access to a web browser.
Remind me of that URL again?: Social media is a growing domain, and soon a Facebook and Twitter presence were not enough. We added IBM Redbooks pages for LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. And before long I'd forget where everything was. The Bookmarks feature of our IBM Connections community shares these URLs across the entire team.
Have you got the latest copy, or have I?: Putting project information in a spreadsheet attached to a meeting invitation seemed like a good idea at the time – until the spreadsheet needed updating. We included a list of “Question of the Week” ideas in this spreadsheet. If I wanted to suggest a new Question of the Week, I'd need to find out who had the latest copy of the spreadsheet, ask that person to add my idea, and then hope the person remembered to reattach the spreadsheet to the meeting invitation. Using the Activities feature in our IBM Connections community has revolutionized this process. Each member of the community can add new Question of the Week entries to the Activity, see what other members have contributed, and keep track of which ideas have already been posted.
How do we get our new team members up to speed?: Over time, new people joined the team. They'd typically have a lot of questions. Questions that had previously been asked and answered by existing team members. Those conversations typically took place over email, and it was never easy to dig out the answer to a question asked six months ago. “I've got the answer to that in my mail archive... somewhere.” With Forums in our IBM Connections community, new members have access to all previous discussions. A quick read gets them up to speed on all the issues we've already encountered, and provides a valuable skills transfer asset. No more digging in mail archives.
Ultimately, we outgrew the calendar invitation approach. When we started out, this approach seemed fine - our team and scope were small. But we hadn't considered how the project would grow. Using IBM Connections from the start would have allowed us to accommodate this growth.
So that's our Top 5. I'm sure we're not the only ones finding unintended consequences in the way we use our calendar. What's your calendar story?
Martin Keen is an IBM Redbooks Project Leader in Raleigh, NC, USA. He has led the development of over 30 IBM Redbooks on topics including WebSphere, Business Process Management, and enterprise. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRTP.
Martin is an IBM Redbooks thought leader.